Three Reasons for Using SLDPRT Files Instead of STL for 3D Printing

When you first put an STL file next to an SLDPRT file in GrabCAD Print, you might have noticed it can be difficult to tell them apart. However, looks can be deceiving, and the native SOLIDWORKS SLDPRT file format packs a surprising amount of functionality into a 3D model. In this blog post, we are going to dive into the three primary reasons you should be using SLDPRT files instead of STL for 3D printing.

Importing Faces and Curves

An STL file is composed of a series of points that are used to create triangular faces. These faces mesh together to make a 3D model which historically has been very difficult to modify. When you import an STL file into SOLIDWORKS, you can see the triangular mesh lacks any real addressable surfaces or curves.

Importing Faces and Curves

Importing Faces and Curves

Unlike an SLDPRT file, it’s not possible to select a surface or curve on this model in GrabCAD Print. This makes adjusting infill and wall thickness a less granular setting. When importing an SLDPRT file into GrabCAD Print, each individual face and curve can be individually addressed to selectively add infill and wall thickness for complex parts.

Importing Color Information

Color can be a critical part of the design communication process. The ability to add color in SOLIDWORKS to a solid model makes this process simple without requiring any third-party modeling programs. Simply applying a color to a face in SOLIDWORKS and saving the file are the only steps required to export a model with color. When imported into GrabCAD Print, the SLDPRT file will automatically have the color mapped to each face and can be printed in full color using Stratasys Polyjet 3D Printing technology.

Applying colors

Applying colors

Simplifying Version Control

If you’ve used a 3D printer before, you probably have a folder filled with STL files labeled “Part_Final.STL”, “Part_Final_Fixed.STL”, “Part_Final_Fixed_MK2.STL”, etc. These outdated STL files can cause serious confusion when finalizing a part for manufacturing. Reducing the size of this folder can increase efficiency.

Printing the part from GrabCAD

Printing the part from GrabCAD

By using the SLDPRT file format, simply saving the file will automatically update the current model, so you can create multiple configurations for testing without having to save multiple models. Simply activating the configuration and dragging it into GrabCAD Print will load the latest model allowing you to do A/B testing without requiring exporting multiple files.