SOLIDWORKS STL Import Settings Overview

Article by Blaze Johnson on Mar 14, 2023

When importing STL files into SOLIDWORKS, checking the import settings you are using can avoid issues when editing the files, taking measurements, and inserting them into Assemblies. To access the import settings, go into the SOLIDWORKS System Options > Import, and adjust the dropdown to STL/OBJ/OFF/PLY/PLY2. 

This article provides an overview of the different STL import options in SOLIDWORKS including: 

  • Solid and Surface Body
  • Mesh Body 
  • Graphics Body
  • Units

SOLIDWORKS STL Import Settings Overview

Solid and Surface Body

When going to import an STL file as a Solid/Surface body, SOLIDWORKS will attempt to bring it in as such. If the file is too large, SOLIDWORKS will recommend importing the file as a Mesh Body or Graphics Body instead. When importing the file as Solid/Surface body with Mesh Body options selected, you can choose each individual face, edge, vertex, and midpoint. If the body can’t be fully imported as a Solid Body, SOLIDWORKS will bring it in as a mix of Surface and Solid Bodies. (Figure 1)

SOLIDWORKS Solid and Surface Body STL Import Options

Figure 1: Solid Body import

Mesh Body 

Mesh Body options are only available when importing a body as a Solid or Surface Body and largely affect how you can select faces, edges, and vertices. When the option to “Create mesh bodies bounded by single faces” is active during import when you select the part, it will highlight the entire model and you will need to utilize different filter options to select the edges and vertices.  

With the second option, “Group Facets into Faces”, during import, SOLIDWORKS will attempt to group the faces together using its best estimate based on the facets. Figure 2 below shows how differently the model looks when these options are selected. Having both options active can also change how many Solid Bodies and Surface Bodies are created based on the groupings. 

SOLIDWORKS STL Mesh Body Import Options

Figure 2: Solid Body import with Mesh Body options active

Graphics Body

Loading an STL as a Graphics Body is fast because it is not yet converting the graphics data into model data. Depending on the size of the STL file, SOLIDWORKS will trigger this mode automatically. When importing the file as a Graphics Body, it will look similar to the Solid and Surface Body imports but will have a Graphics Body icon in the FeatureManager Design Tree folder. (Figure 3) 

With Graphics Body, the main difference is that you can begin to decimate the mesh and lower the facet count before converting the Mesh Body into a solid. 

SOLIDWORKS STL Graphics Body Import

Figure 3: Graphics Body import


The last STL import option is Units. To import properly, this option must match the setting used to create the STL. Incorrect Units can lead to large size differences in the scale of the part (e.g., a 1mmx1mmx1mm measuring as 1inx1inx1in or greater), resulting in manual adjustment later. 

Units SOLIDWORKS STL Import Settings

Figure 4: Units location

I hope this information discussing the different import options for STL’s in SOLIDWORKS has been helpful. 

Working with mesh models? Check out the YouTube videos below.

GoEngineer YouTube Video Do You Mesh Well with Others? Using Mesh Data in SOLIDWORKS Do You Mesh Well with Others? Using Mesh Data in SOLIDWORKS

GoEngineer YouTube Video Working with Mesh Files in SOLIDWORKS Working with Mesh Files in SOLIDWORKS

More SOLIDWORKS Tutorials

How to Save a SOLIDWORKS Assembly as an STL File

Insights of SOLIDWORKS Surfacing: Tips & Tricks

How to Create an Extrude-Cut on a Curved Surface in SOLIDWORKS

Solving Mesh Failures in SOLIDWORKS Simulation with Mesh Controls

SOLIDWORKS: Splitting a Body into Multiple Parts



About Blaze Johnson

Blaze Johnson is a SOLIDWORKS Support Engineer at GoEngineer

View all posts by Blaze Johnson