STL as a Standard File Format

A Stereo Lithography (STL) file is a standard file format created by 3D Systems, USA. It also goes by other nick names of Standard Triangle Language, or similarly Standard Tessellation Language. It is a very popular file format related to additive manufacturing, or 3D scanning and/or printing as it may be more commonly known.

Unlike the ISO 10303 standard STEP (STP) file, in CATIA V5 and 3DEXPERIENCE the STL file format is not very user friendly or easy to open/import. As industries accelerate the adoption of additive manufacturing techniques, users are becoming more and more frustrated as to why they cannot open or use STL files in CATIA… but you can!

Formats in CATIA

Although there is an extensive list of files for import, STL will not appear in it. The following list of available file formats are from the File > Open and + > Import from CATIA V5 and CATIA/ 3DEXPERIENCE respectively.





Using STL Files in CATIA

Required Licence

In order to open/import a STL file in CATIA V5, users must have available a STL module included in their license or a configuration which contains the STL module. For the PLM Express configuration, this would be the Reverse Engineering (REE) package. The REE package also gives you access to additional features which certainly are useful with managing STL files in CATIA, such as QSR which allows users to reconstruct the STL model to a useable CAD model.

Importing the STL File Format

Again, having the license available will not make .STL available in the comprehensive list; this must be imported using an import utility in one of the following workbenches:

In CATIA/ 3DEXPERIENCE, users will need available at minimum the STL license which gives users access to the 3D Printing apps:

which are part of the Design and Engineering Role:

Once again, just as CATIA V5, STL file extension will not appear in the extensive list previously shown in the + > Import menu. Only when users are either of the above two apps will the STL import options be available:

Once the file has been successfully imported, the user will be left with a tessellated representation on the screen (also known as the Mesh) and a node in the specification tree to represent the Mesh:

NOTE: The following screen grab is taking from CATIA/ 3DEXPERIENCE and will differ slightly to CATIA V5.