Last modified on 20 August 2013, at 18:48

OpenSCAD User Manual/STL Import and Export

Import and ExportEdit

A prime ingredient of any 3D design flow is the ability to import from and export to other tools. The STL file format is currently the most common format used.

0% developed  as of November 17, 2009 ImportEdit


Imports a file for use in the current OpenSCAD model


A string containing the path to the STL or DXF file.

Usage examples:


Notes: In the latest version of OpenSCAD, import() is now used for importing both 2D (DXF for extrusion) and 3D (STL) files.

If you want to render the imported STL file later, you have to make sure that the STL file is "clean". This means that the mesh has to be manifold and should not contain holes nor self-intersections. If the STL is not clean, you might get errors like:

CGAL error in CGAL_Build_PolySet: CGAL ERROR: assertion violation!

Expr: check_protocoll == 0

File: /home/don/openscad_deps/mxe/usr/i686-pc-mingw32/include/CGAL/Polyhedron_incremental_builder_3.h

Line: 199


CGAL error in CGAL_Nef_polyhedron3(): CGAL ERROR: assertion violation!

Expr: pe_prev->is_border() || !internal::Plane_constructor<Plane>::get_plane(pe_prev->facet(),pe_prev->facet()->plane()).is_degenerate()

File: /home/don/openscad_deps/mxe/usr/i686-pc-mingw32/include/CGAL/Nef_3/polyhedron_3_to_nef_3.h

Line: 253

In order to clean the STL file, you have the following options:

- use . This will repair the holes but not the self-intersections.

- use netfabb basic. This free software doesnt have the option to close holes nor can it fix the self-intersections

- use MeshLab, This free software can fix all the issues

Using MeshLab, you can do:

- Render - Show non Manif Edges

- Render - Show non Manif Vertices

- if found, use Filters - Selection - Select non Manifold Edges or Select non Manifold Vertices - Apply - Close. Then click button 'Delete the current set of selected vertices...' or check for an instruction video. The screen should show "0 non manifold edges", "0 non manifold vertices"

Next, you can click the icon 'Fill Hole', select all the holes and click Fill and then Accept. You might have to redo this action a few times.

Use File - Export Mesh to save the STL.


<DEPRECATED.. Use the command import instead..>

Imports an STL file for use in the current OpenSCAD model


A string containing the path to the STL file to include.
Integer. The convexity parameter specifies the maximum number of front sides (back sides) a ray intersecting the object might penetrate. This parameter is only needed for correctly displaying the object in OpenCSG preview mode and has no effect on the polyhedron rendering.

Usage examples:

import_stl("example012.stl", convexity = 5);

0% developed  as of November 17, 2009 STL ExportEdit

STL ExportEdit

To export your design, select "Export as STL..." from the "File --> Export" menu, then enter a filename in the ensuing dialog box. Don't forget to add the ".stl" extension.

Trouble shooting:

After compile and render GCAL (F6), you may see that your design is simple: no. That's bad news.

See line 8 in the following output from OpenSCAD 2010.02:

Parsing design (AST generation)...
Compiling design (CSG Tree generation)...
Compilation finished.
Rendering Polygon Mesh using CGAL...
Number of vertices currently in CGAL cache: 732
Number of objects currently in CGAL cache: 12
   Top level object is a 3D object:
   Simple:         no                <*****************
   Valid:         yes
   Vertices:       22
   Halfedges:      70
   Edges:          35
   Halffacets:     32
   Facets:         16
   Volumes:         2
Total rendering time: 0 hours, 0 minutes, 0 seconds
Rendering finished.

When you try to export this to .STL you will get a message like:

Object isn't a valid 2-manifold! Modify your design..

"Manifold" means that it is "water tight" and that there are no holes in the geometry. In a valid 2-manifold each edge must connect exactly two facets. That means that the program must be able to connect a face with an object. E.g. if you use a cube of height 10 to carve out something from a wider cube of height 10, it is not clear to which cube the top or the bottom belongs. So make the small extracting cube a bit "longer" (or "shorter"):

difference() {
	// original
	cube (size = [2,2,2]);
	// object that carves out
	# translate ([0.5,0.5,-0.5]) {
	    cube (size = [1,1,3]);	
Correct use of difference

Here is a more tricky little example taken from the OpenSCAD Forum (retrieved 15:13, 22 March 2010 (UTC)):

module example1() {
		cube([20, 20, 20]);
		translate([-20, -20, 0]) cube([20, 20, 20]);
		cube([50, 50, 5], center = true);
module example2() {
		cube([20.1, 20.1, 20]);
		translate([-20, -20, 0]) cube([20.1, 20.1, 20]);
		cube([50, 50, 5], center = true);

Example1 would render like this:

A not valid 2-manifold cube (simple = no)

The example1 module is not a valid 2-manifold because both cubes are sharing one edge. They touch each other but do not intersect.

Example2 is a valid 2-manifold because there is an intersection. Now the construct meets the 2-manifold constraint stipulating that each edge must connect exactly two facets.

Pieces you are subtracting must extend past the original part. (OpenSCAD Tip: Manifold Space and Time, retrieved 18:40, 22 March 2010 (UTC)).

For reference, another situation that causes the design to be non-exportable is when two faces that are each the result of a subtraction touch. Then the error message comes up.

difference () {
   cube ([20,10,10]);
   translate ([10,0,0]) cube (10);
difference () {
   cube ([20,10,10]);
   cube (10);

simply touching surfaces is correctly handled.

translate ([10,0,0]) cube (10);
cube (10);