Your 3D model isn’t 3D printable? Here are 12 STL repair off/online software tools to fix STL files and tips on how to repair STL files.
While your 3D model may look like a perfect door handle or light saber in your 3D modeling software, the 3D printed model may very well turn out to be a mess. Crashed 3D printers and misprints are sadly common. Often such failures can be easily avoided by keeping a handful of design rules in mind while designing and modeling. If you have already spent hours in your 3D suite and you are anxious to finally collect your price, there is a range of STL repair tools, both desktop- and web-based, that will help you identify problems and get you reliable results quickly.
STL Repair Tips: Design rules for 3D printable models
A 3D model isn’t automatically a 3D printable file. Here are the most common design mistakes – and what you should repair so your 3D model prints correctly.
STL Repair Tip #1: Repair gaps in meshes
One of the most common errors encountered when 3D printing are STL files that have holes in their meshes – they are not “watertight”. A 3D printer faced with such a file can’t tell an outer surface from an inner surface. All of our STL repair tools listed below can handle these 3D mesh problems easily.
STL Repair Tip #2: Check for non-manifold geometry
Simply put, non-manifold geometries are identical edges directly on top of each other. Typically this conundrum results from extruding but not moving faces and edges. Non-manifold geometry startles 3D printers as much as anyone else who tries to wrap his head around the idea for the first time. Think about the graphic works of M.C. Escher and you’ll get the idea.
STL Repair Tip #3: Get rid of floating surfaces
3D scanning can produce unwanted fragments which result from structures or textures that are unsuitable to the process – e.g. hair, very dark or very bright surfaces. Scans can be reworked before printing by hand (e.g. MeshLab), but automatic solutions are also available in most STL repair software tools.
STL Repair Tip #4: Loose the thin walls
It is paramount to set a wall thickness that can support the overall structure. Depending on to what use you will put your 3D model, you must choose a thickness that will yield a robust model at an economic consumption of filament or other material.
STL Repair Tip #5: Minimize the file size
Many cloud-based 3D STLprinting services impose upload limits on the files you can upload, ranging from 64 to 100 MB. This problem can be remedied by automatic downscaling (e.g. MakePrintable or Materialise Cloud) in your 3D design software.
STL Repair Software Tools (Offline)
If you can’t find the mistake by yourself, you’ll need a piece of software that helps you to repair your STL file. Here are some suggestions:
STL Repair Software #1: Autodesk Meshmixer
What is it? The self-described “Swiss Army Knife” for 3D meshes is more than a simple STL repair tool. Meshmixer is a fully fledged modeling solution that is also capable of hollowing, scaling and mesh simplification. However, Meshmixer is not a beginner’s tool, but if you are looking for a 3d printing tool that seamlessly blends into the Autodesk product family, look no further.
Formats: amf, mix, obj, off, stl.
OS: Windows, OS X, and Linux
STL Repair Software #2: LimitState:FIX
What is it? This is a professional STL repair software with a significant price tag. LimitState:FIX’s mission statement is “Fixes the 3D models other tools can’t!”. Besides the auto-fix capability, the program enables the user to merge STL files, to remove noise shells and to simplify or repair meshes.
Price: $650 (Maker version), $3900 (Enterprise version). Demo available.
STL Repair Software #3: Blender
What is it? Everyone who still has not decided which modeling tool to pick should take a closer look at Blender. Over the last two decades, Blender has become the standard Open Source tool for 3D modeling and animation. Moreover, the program provides a solution to repair meshes intended for 3D printing. Blender is not suited for beginners, but if you are searching for OpenSource software that is a jack of all trades, you have found it.
Formats: 3ds, dae, fbx, dxf, obj, x, lwo, svg, ply, stl, vrml, vrml97, x3d
OS: Windows, Mac OS X, Linux
STL Repair Software #4: Autodesk Netfabb Basic
What is it? Undoubtedly the best-known solution for repairing STL files. As the name suggests, the Autodesk Netfabb Basic version comprises only basic functionality like viewing, analyzing and repairing STL files – if you are looking for a program with more features, the full version may interest you. It is availably by Autodesk with a monthly subscription fee.
Formats: 3ds, 3mf, amf, binvox, gts, ncm, obj, ply, stl, vrml, x3d, x3db, zpr
Download: Netfabb Basic
STL Repair Software #5: FreeCAD
What is it? An open-source 3D modeling program that was designed with the needs of mechanical engineering and product design in mind. Among the many features of this program is the capability to repair STL files. If you are looking for a tool that gives you a high degree of control over your work – FreeCAD may be the way to go.
Formats: brep, csg, dae, dwg, dxf, gcode, ifc, iges, obj, ply, stl, step, svg, vrml
OS: Windows Linux and Mac OS X
STL Repair Software #6: Emendo STL File Validation and Repair Software
What is it? Emendo is aimed at providing an automated for preparing and repairing STL files before printing. Therefore it is suited to beginners, who are willing to pay for such convenience. Be aware that similar functionality is freely provided by other solutions, like Netfabb Basic.
OS: Mac OS and Windows
STL Repair Software #7: MeshFix
What is it? MeshFix is an open source 3D model repair tool that fixes various defects in meshes, such as holes, non-manifold elements and self-intersections. Unfortunately, MeshFix is only available for Windows.
STL Repair Software #8: MeshLab
What is it? MeshLab was designed for processing and editing of unstructured 3D meshes, such as the raw products of 3D scans. Its tools allow editing, cleaning, healing, inspecting and repairing. MeshLab is specifically capable of automatically filling holes in meshes. However, this level of control requires a good deal of technical knowledge in order to apply the tools appropriately. Unfortunately, there is no documentation available for MeshLab – a potentially useful tool, but tread carefully!
Formats: 3ds, ply, off, obj, ptx, stl, v3d, pts, apts, xyz, gts, tri, asc, x3d, x3dv, vrml, aln
Price: Free, Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, iOS and Android
STL Repair Online Software Tools
STL Repair Software #9: Materialise Cloud
What is it? This online STL repair service promises that you won’t have to “worry about printability issues anymore ”. Integrated into the Materialise ecosystem, you can find a convenient auto repair tool for STL files. Other features include scaling, setting the wall thickness, adjusting the polygon count and hollowing the meshes before printing them. A convenient and robust service – but you should also take a look at the free alternative MakePrintable (see below).
Formats: 3dm, 3ds, 3mf, dae, dxf, fbx, iges, igs, obj, ply, skp, stl, slc, vdafs, vda, vrml, wrl, zcp, and zpr
Price: Payment for uploads, depending on the plan from 0,7 € to 1,5 € per uploaded file
Visit: Materialise Cloud
STL Repair Software #10: Autodesk Netfabb Cloud Service
What is it? Microsoft gets more and more involved in 3D printing. Here, it provides access to the Netfabb Cloud Service, the tools enables users to analyse their STL files according to parameters such as dimensions, volume, surface area and more before repairing the mesh. If you can’t use the desktop version of Netfabb, but want to make use of its repairing algorithms, you should give this service a chance.
Formats: stl, obj, 3mf and vrml
Visit: Netfabb Cloud Service
STL Repair Software #11: 3DprinterOS
What is it? 3DprinterOS is a 3D printer managing software. It has no less than three STL repair apps integrated into its ecosystem that allow for fixing 3D models. All of these apps do their work automatically.
- Spark Mesh Repair claims to handle “every file”
- Magic Fix in addition to the repairing it also scales, rotates your file for 75 3d printer model. It supports 3ds, 3mf, amf, obj and stl
- Netfabb (see above)
Price: Free plans available
Visit: 3Dprinter OS
STL Repair Software #12: MakePrintable
What is it? This web service straightforwardly does exactly what it claims. It checks your STL files for any mistakes that might corrupt the print. MakePrintable gives you more control over the STL repair process than other web services. You can choose a quality level (prototype, standard and high), hollow and repair the mesh and optimize the polygon count. It even allows you to merge multiple meshes into one. Interesting for anyone looking for a free alternative to Materialise Cloud.
Format: 3ds, ac, ase, bvh, cob, csm, dae, dxf, fbx, ifc, lwo, lws, lxo, ms3d, obj, pk3, scn, stl, x, xgl, and zgl
Price: currently free (beta phase)
License: The text of "12 STL Repair (Off/Online) Software Tools – Some are Free" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.