Today, there are thousands of different file formats, and you probably use tens of them on a day-to-day basis. For 3D printing, S TL is king, and if you want to print a model, you’ll need the design in the STL format.
But what’s that? The design you really, really, really want to print doesn’t come in the STL format? No worries, because we can convert it!
STL file converters make it easy to turn a downloaded model into the STL format, so you can load it into your slicer and print it away. But what program should you use?
AnyConv is my personal favorite because it’s completely free, can handle large and complex 3D model data, and is web-based. But I also really like the built-in file conversion tool on Fusion 360 because I can design models and convert them instantaneously. But, if you want the easiest experience, then definitely give TinkerCAD a look as it simplifies the whole conversion process.
Table of Contents
- What is an STL File Converter?
- Best STL File Converters
- Why Are STL File Converters Useful?
- Considerations When Looking for an STL File Converter:
What is an STL File Converter?
An STL file converter is a program that converts a file of a different format, such as OBJ or STEP, to the STL format. STL file converter tools can also work the other way and turn STL files into other 3D model formats like those we mentioned.
If you’re not familiar with how file formats work, essentially, each format can hold a certain type of data in a certain way; no two formats are the exact same. The STL format holds surface 3D model data through triangulation.
By nature, STL file converters can only convert other 3D model file formats to the STL format, but this still is super useful, as we’ll continue to explain throughout this article.
Best STL File Converters
Need an STL file converter? There are many options, but below, I’ve only reviewed the best of best conversion tools for you!
1. AnyConv (Best Overall)
AnyConv is easily my, along with thousands of others, favorite STL file conversion tool. The interface isn’t the most visually appealing, but it’s simplistic and super easy to use. Just click “Upload”, and choose your desired low-key.
Moreover, AnyConv is browser-based, so you don’t have to download anything (just go to the website)!
As for compatibility, AnyConv offers a decently-wide array of file types (formats) that you can convert to the STL format. It also works the other way, and you can convert an STL file into nine different formats.
2. 3D-Convert (Best Online)
3D-Convert is another powerful online STL file conversion tool, and it’s regarded as the best online option. The tool supports over 50 different 3D model formats, including the STL, and it’s got a very nice user interface. You don’t even need to make an account or put in any information (besides your desired file) to make a conversion.
3. Fusion 360 (Best Offline)
Fusion 360 is one of the most popular CAD (3D modeling) programs for makers in the 3D printing industry. On top of 3D modeling tools, the platform offers tons of different features like G-code slicing, image editing, and even file conversion.
But unlike the other conversion tools I mentioned, Fusion 360 isn’t web-based, so you have to download the software. While this sounds like a hassle, having an offline file conversion tool can be super useful because it’s always readily available, even if you don’t have an internet connection.
As for the actual conversion tool within Fusion 360, it’s pretty powerful, and you can convert an STL file format to the tens of different 3D model formats supported by the platform. Sadly, conversions are known for being a little slower than online platforms, with certain format-to-format conversions taking a few minutes. But this shouldn’t be a big deal, and it certainly doesn’t make Fusion 360 a bad option.
4. CAD Exchanger (Best Premium)
CAD Exchanger is the software to get if you’re an engineer who uses multiple CAD software programs on a day-to-day basis. CAD Exchanger is a downloadable software whose sole purpose is to make converting formats a breeze.
The platform supports hundreds of different 3D CAD-related file formats, and you can use this tool to convert to or from the STL format. On top of file conversion, you can also view 3D models and analyze the data within formats on CAD Exchanger.
Sadly, for software this powerful, there’s a price ($$$). But it might be worth it for you if you’re committed to integrating your design process.
5. TinkerCAD (Best for Beginners)
TinkerCAD is another CAD platform developed by the same company that made Fusion 360. But, unlike Fusion 360, TinkerCAD is meant specifically for beginners, and the platform is web-based, features a very simplistic interface, and doesn’t have any scary advanced designing tools.
You can design or upload 3D models into TinkerCAD and convert them to or from the STL format. As you might expect, TinkerCAD doesn’t offer as many compatible formats as Fusion 360, but you still have a few options like STL and OBJ.
Blender is not a CAD program but more of an all-in-one design software popular among graphic designers and animators. Because Blender caters to a wide variety of designers, it supports a ton of different file formats, naturally making it a powerful STL file conversion tool.
Like Fusion 360, Blender is downloadable, and its interface isn’t exactly low-key, but I had no problem navigating the interface and finding how to convert files. Just save them in whatever supported format you want!
Why Are STL File Converters Useful?
STL file converters are super useful because you need to slice a 3D model before you can print it, and 3D slicer programs mainly support the STL format. While some slicers support other 3D model formats, basically, the only file format that’s guaranteed to be compatible with whatever 3D slicer you’re using is the STL.
But outside of the scope of 3D printing, STL file converters are also super useful for CAD. While the STL format isn’t great for pure CAD work (unless you’re planning on 3D printing the model), you can use an STL file conversion tool to turn a downloaded STL model into your desired 3D model format.
Considerations When Looking for an STL File Converter:
When looking for an STL file converter, there are a few important characteristics of the platform to consider, which I’ve gone over below.
Online or Offline
The first consideration is whether the conversion tool is offline or online. An online conversion tool is web-based and costs you no space on your device. But you might want an offline conversion tool because they typically are more versatile programs (e.g. have 3D modeling tools) and also can work without an internet connection.
Personally, I have a go-to online conversion tool (AnyConv) as well as a go-to offline conversion tool (Fusion 360).
Convertible File Formats
The convertible file formats are also super important for a conversion tool. The more file formats that a tool can convert to or from (the STL format), the more versatile the program.
Maximum File Size
Some conversion tools, especially online options, have a maximum file size that you’re allowed to upload. Obviously, the higher the file size limit, the better because you can upload more files or larger files.
Lastly, the user interface (UI) is also key to a good STL file conversion tool, or really any digital platform. A good interface isn’t all-in-your-face and features the tools in an easy-to-use manner. There’s no one way to measure the quality of a user interface, but just make sure that the platform you’re using has a UI that you like.
STL file conversion tools are a great tool to have, or at least know about, in case you ever need to convert a file to the STL format so you can 3D print it later.
All of the STL file conversion tools I reviewed on this list are top-notch. But if I had to choose one, it would be AnyConv because it’s so easy to use and supports a fair amount of formats.
Now, if you want a downloadable file conversion tool, you’ll love the built-in one on Fusion 360, which supports tens of different formats.
And finally, if you want the most powerful and versatile file conversion tool in the land, choose CAD Exchanger. It supports the most file formats, offers the most file conversion tools (e.g. viewing), and is specifically catered toward professional and advanced users.