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8 Best STEP to STL Converters

Xomety X
By Team Xometry
May 24, 2024
 17 min read
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Converting STEP files to STL format is essential for various industries, facilitating seamless integration across different design platforms. STEP (Standard for the Exchange of Product Data) is a widely used CAD file format for exchanging 3D model data. On the other hand, STL (stereolithography) is primarily employed for 3D printing. It defines the surface geometry of a 3D model using triangular facets. 

Selecting the best STEP to STL converter is crucial to streamline this conversion process. These converters offer efficient translation while preserving design integrity. From comprehensive feature sets to user-friendly interfaces, the top converters ensure accuracy and compatibility, catering to diverse user requirements across engineering, manufacturing, and design sectors.

This article will discuss the eight best STEP to STL converters.

1. Fusion 360®

Fusion 360®, developed by Autodesk, is a comprehensive cloud-based CAD/CAM tool renowned for its versatility in various design and manufacturing workflows.

Its key features include: robust modeling capabilities, parametric design tools, simulation, and integrated CAM functionality. It offers a seamless collaboration through cloud-based sharing. It has an all-in-one approach that offers a wide array of design and manufacturing tools under one platform. On the downside, it has a steep learning curve for beginners.

Fusion 360® distinguishes itself with its all-in-one approach, offering a wide array of design and manufacturing tools under one platform. Pricing includes a free trial and subscription options, with student and startup discounts available. User feedback generally praises its collaborative features and frequent updates but notes occasional performance issues. Fusion 360® is compatible with Windows and macOS, ensuring accessibility across different operating systems.

2. Rhino®

Rhino®, or Rhinoceros®, is a versatile 3D modeling software widely used in: architecture, industrial design, jewelry design, and more.

It offers precise modeling tools, NURBS (Non-Uniform Rational B-Splines) geometry support, an extensive plug-in ecosystem, and advanced rendering capabilities. Its pros include its flexibility, compatibility with various file formats, and extensive community support. However, it may have a steeper learning curve than some other software options.

Rhino® stands out for its focus on NURBS modeling and its ease of handling complex geometries. Rhino® offers both perpetual and subscription licensing options, with pricing varying based on the type of license and additional modules required. Users appreciate Rhino's® powerful modeling capabilities and versatility across different industries, though some note that it may require time to master. Rhino® is compatible with Windows and macOS operating systems.

3. SolidWorks®

SolidWorks® is a comprehensive CAD software suite renowned for its robust 3D modeling capabilities. It enables users to create, simulate, and manage designs easily.

Key features include: parametric modeling, assembly modeling, and drawing tools, facilitating intricate design processes. Its pros include: an intuitive interface, extensive library of components, seamless integration with other software platforms, and advanced simulation and rendering capabilities. However, it has a steep learning curve and high system requirements.

The cost varies depending on the edition and licensing options, typically ranging from several hundred to several thousand dollars annually. User feedback often lauds its powerful functionality but criticizes its pricing and resource-intensive nature. SolidWorks® is compatible with Windows operating systems, providing a robust design solution for engineers, designers, and manufacturers.

4. FreeCAD

FreeCAD is an open-source parametric 3D CAD modeler and a top choice for converting STEP files to STL.

As a robust tool, it offers comprehensive features, including: parametric modeling, modular architecture, and a Python API for customization. Its key features encompass multi-platform support, advanced modeling tools, and compatibility with various file formats. Pros include: open-source nature, extensive community support, and regular updates. However, it has a steep learning curve for beginners.

FreeCAD offers a cost-effective solution with no licensing fees compared to paid options. User feedback highlights its versatility and reliability, earning favorable ratings. FreeCAD is compatible with Windows, macOS, and Linux, ensuring accessibility across diverse operating systems.

5. Autodesk Inventor®

Autodesk Inventor® is a robust computer-aided design (CAD) software renowned for its advanced tools and comprehensive engineering design and simulation capabilities.

Autodesk Inventor® includes: parametric modeling, integrated simulation, and collaboration tools, facilitating efficient design workflows. It has extensive functionality for complex designs and seamless integration with other Autodesk products. It also offers a wide range of industry-specific tools and extensive support resources. However, it has a steep learning curve.

The cost varies based on subscription plans, with options for monthly or yearly payments. User feedback generally praises its versatility but suggests improvements in user-friendliness. Autodesk Inventor® is compatible with the Windows operating systems.


CATIA®, a computer-aided three-dimensional interactive application, is robust CAD software developed by Dassault Systèmes.

Its key features include advanced surface modeling, parametric design capabilities, and comprehensive assembly design tools. Its pros include: extensive functionality for complex designs, integration with other Dassault Systèmes products, and strong support for collaboration. On the downside, it has a steep learning curve and high cost.

The cost varies based on the edition and licensing options, often making it more suitable for large enterprises. User feedback generally praises CATIA's® capabilities but notes its complexity. CATIA® is compatible with Windows and UNIX-based operating systems, offering versatility in deployment.

7. NX™

NX™ software, formerly Unigraphics NX, is robust CAD/CAM/CAE software developed by Siemens Industry Software Inc. It offers comprehensive product design, engineering, and manufacturing tools.

Key features include advanced parametric modeling, integrated simulation, and CAM capabilities for CNC machining. It has extensive functionality, seamless integration across design disciplines, and strong industry support. However, it has a steep learning curve for beginners and an overwhelming interface for some users.

The cost varies depending on the specific package and licensing model, ranging from affordable student versions to enterprise-level subscriptions. User feedback generally praises its robustness and versatility, though some users find its interface overwhelming. NX™ is compatible with the Windows operating systems.

8. 3Ds Max®

3ds Max®, developed by Autodesk, is a comprehensive 3D modeling, animation, and rendering software widely used in the entertainment and design industries.

Its features include advanced polygon and spline modeling tools, animation controls, customizable UI, and extensive plug-in support. Its pros include: a robust tool set, professional-grade rendering capabilities, and compatibility with various industry standards. However, it is considered complex for beginners and requires substantial system resources.

3ds Max® offers a perpetual license with yearly updates, unlike other software. User feedback generally praises its versatility but notes a steep learning curve. 3ds Max® is compatible with Windows operating systems, catering to a broad user base in the design, architecture, gaming, and animation industries.

9. Online Converters

Online converters are web-based tools that facilitate the conversion of files from one format to another directly through a web browser. These converters typically offer a user-friendly interface in which users can upload their STEP files and convert them to STL format without additional software installation. The pros include: accessibility from any internet-enabled device, ease of use, and quick conversion times. Its cons include: file-size restrictions, conversion accuracy, and privacy concerns regarding uploaded files.

Costs for using online converters can vary. Some offer free services supported by ads, others may require a subscription or payment per conversion. User feedback and ratings provide insight into the reliability and effectiveness of these converters, helping users make informed decisions. Online converters are compatible with various operating systems, including: Windows, macOS, and Linux.

What Is STEP?

STEP (Standard for the Exchange of Product Data) is a widely used file format in computer-aided design (CAD) and product data management (PDM). It is a neutral and standardized method for exchanging 3D product data between CAD software systems. 

STEP files store geometric data, such as 3D models and assembly structures, and additional information, such as: colors, materials, and annotations. This interoperability allows users to seamlessly share and collaborate on design data across various CAD platforms, ensuring compatibility and facilitating efficient communication throughout the product development life cycle. STEP files typically use the extension ".stp" or ".step".

To learn more, see our full guide on STEP.

What Is STL?

STL (stereolithography) is a file format primarily used for representing the surface geometry of a 3D model. It consists of a series of interconnected triangular facets that approximate the shape of the original object. STL files are commonly used in 3D printing and rapid prototyping processes. 

This format simplifies the representation of complex 3D shapes into a mesh of triangles, defining the surface structure through vertices, edges, and faces. While lacking color and texture information, STL files provide a universal standard for exchanging 3D model data across different software platforms and 3D printers. The STL file extension is ".stl".

To learn more, see our full guide on STL.

How To Convert STEP to STL

To convert STEP files to STL format, follow these steps:

  1. Choose an appropriate method based on your preferences and requirements. Options include: using specialized CAD software with built-in conversion capabilities and utilizing online conversion services or dedicated software tools.
  2. Ensure your STEP file is saved in an accessible location for conversion.
  3. If using CAD software, open the program and locate the option for importing or opening a STEP file. If using an online service or dedicated software tool, navigate to the website or launch the application.
  4. Follow the prompts to import or upload your STEP file into the conversion tool.
  5. Specify STL as the desired output format for the conversion process.
  6. Depending on the tool used, you may adjust settings such as resolution or mesh density.
  7. Start the conversion process by clicking the appropriate button or command.
  8. Once the conversion is complete, save the resulting STL file to your desired location on your computer.
  9. Open the converted STL file in a compatible software or viewer to ensure the conversion was successful and the model appears as expected.
  10. If needed, perform additional editing or processing on the STL file using CAD software or other tools.

To learn more, see our full guide on STEP to STL Conversion.

What Is the Importance of Having a STEP to STL Converter for 3D Printing?

The importance of having a STEP to STL converter in 3D printing lies in its role as a bridge between different stages of the design and manufacturing process. 

CAD software often generates designs in STEP format, which is versatile but not directly compatible with 3D printers. STL, on the other hand, is a standard format used by 3D printers. The converter facilitates seamless interoperability by translating complex STEP models into STL files, ensuring they can be quickly processed and printed. 3D printing relies on STL files to define the geometry of the printed object layer by layer. Without a converter, users can manually recreate or redraw their designs in STL format, which is time-consuming and prone to errors. The converter streamlines prototyping and manufacturing workflows by automating the conversion process, saving time and effort.

A reliable converter preserves the integrity of the original design during the conversion process. It ensures that intricate details, dimensions, and features are accurately translated from STEP to STL, maintaining the fidelity of the final printed object. With the widespread adoption of 3D printing in various industries, collaboration often involves sharing and exchanging design files between different software platforms. By providing compatibility between STEP and STL formats, the converter promotes collaboration among designers, engineers, and manufacturers, regardless of the software tools they use.

The converter empowers designers and engineers to iterate and refine their designs more efficiently. They can quickly prototype and test their ideas using 3D printing technology by converting STEP files to STL. This accelerates the innovation cycle and ultimately leads to better products.

How To Choose The Best STEP to STL Converter

To choose the best STEP to STL converter, consider the following factors:

  1. Opt for a converter that ensures high fidelity in translating STEP models to STL format. Look for converters with robust algorithms that preserve intricate details, dimensions, and features of the original design without distortion or loss of quality.
  2. Select a converter with a user-friendly interface and intuitive workflow. The conversion process should be straightforward, allowing users to easily upload STEP files, adjust settings (if necessary), and initiate the conversion with minimal hassle.
  3. Choose a converter that offers quick conversion times without compromising accuracy. Look for tools that utilize efficient algorithms and cloud-based processing capabilities to expedite the conversion process, especially for large or complex models.
  4. Ensure the converter is compatible with your existing software ecosystem and workflow. Look for converters seamlessly integrating with popular CAD software platforms or offer plug-ins/extensions for easy access and usage within your preferred environment.
  5. Consider converters that provide customization options for adjusting conversion settings according to your requirements. This may include options for optimizing mesh density, resolution, or file size to achieve the desired balance between accuracy and efficiency.
  6. Choose a converter from reputable providers with a track record of reliability and customer support. Look for converters backed by responsive customer-service teams, comprehensive documentation, and regular updates to address any issues or compatibility issues.
  7. Evaluate the converter's cost-effectiveness based on your budget and usage needs. Consider whether the converter offers a one-time purchase, subscription-based model, or free version with limited features. Assess the value proposition in terms of pricing, features, and support offered.
  8. Research user feedback and reviews from other customers to gauge the converter's performance, reliability, and user satisfaction. Look for testimonials, case studies, or independent reviews that provide insights into the converter's strengths, weaknesses, and overall performance.

What Are the Key Features of a Reliable STEP to STL Converter?

Key features of a reliable STEP to STL converter include:

  1. Ensures faithful translation of STEP models to STL format, preserving intricate details and geometry without distortion.
  2. Offers an intuitive interface with easy-to-follow steps for: uploading, configuring, and initiating the conversion process.
  3. Provides flexibility to adjust conversion settings such as: mesh density, resolution, or file size according to user preferences and requirements.
  4. Utilizes efficient algorithms and cloud-based processing capabilities to expedite the conversion process, especially for large or complex models.
  5. Seamlessly integrates with popular CAD software platforms or offers plug-ins/extensions for smooth integration into existing workflows.
  6. Backed by reputable providers with responsive customer-service teams, comprehensive documentation, and regular updates to address issues or compatibility concerns.
  7. Offers quick conversion times without compromising accuracy, ensuring efficient processing of STEP files into STL format.
  8. Provides a cost-effective solution with transparent pricing options, whether through one-time purchases, subscription-based models, or free versions with limited features.
  9. Supports compatibility with various operating systems and CAD software platforms, ensuring accessibility and usability across different environments.
  10. Implements robust security measures to safeguard user data and ensure privacy during conversion, especially when using online converters.

How Do STEP to STL Converters Differ in Accuracy?

STEP to STL converters differ in accuracy primarily due to variations in the algorithms and methodologies used to perform the conversion. A converter's accuracy depends on its ability to faithfully translate the complex geometry and features of a STEP model into the STL format without introducing errors or distortions.

Different converters employ various mesh-generation algorithms to approximate the geometry of the original STEP model with triangular facets. Some algorithms may prioritize speed and efficiency over accuracy, resulting in simplified or generalized meshes that may not accurately represent intricate details. Some converters allow users to adjust tolerance settings, which control the level of detail preserved during the conversion process. Higher tolerance values may result in smoother, simplified meshes, while lower tolerance values preserve finer details but may increase file size and processing time.

How converters reconstruct surfaces from the STEP model influences accuracy. Methods such as tessellation, voxelization, or boundary representation (B-rep) conversion can affect the fidelity of the resulting STL file. A converter's ability to handle complex geometries, such as: curved surfaces, sharp edges, or intricate features, directly impacts accuracy. Converters with advanced algorithms and optimization techniques are better equipped to represent complex models accurately.

Some converters offer post-processing options to refine the converted mesh, such as: smoothing algorithms, edge detection, or feature preservation techniques. These options can enhance accuracy by addressing common artifacts or imperfections introduced during conversion. Reliable converters incorporate validation and error-checking mechanisms to identify and correct potential issues in the converted mesh, ensuring accuracy and integrity.

How Do the Conversion Speeds Compare Among Different STEP to STL Conversion Tools?

The conversion speeds among different STEP to STL conversion tools can vary significantly based on several factors:

  1. The efficiency of the underlying conversion algorithm plays a crucial role in determining conversion speeds. Some tools may utilize optimized algorithms to quickly process and translate STEP models into STL format, resulting in faster conversion times.
  2. The level of optimization implemented in the conversion software can affect processing speeds. Well-optimized and efficiently coded tools can perform conversions faster than less optimized alternatives.
  3. The hardware resources available on the user's system, such as CPU speed, RAM, and disk I/O, can impact conversion speeds. Tools running on powerful hardware configurations may complete conversions faster than those on less-capable systems.
  4. The complexity of the STEP model being converted can influence processing times. Models with simple geometries and fewer components will generally convert faster than highly complex assemblies with intricate details.
  5. Some conversion tools may leverage parallel processing techniques to distribute computational tasks across multiple CPU cores, resulting in faster conversion speeds. Tools that support multi-threading or parallel processing can achieve significant performance gains.
  6. Depending on internet connection stability, server load, and processing queue, online conversion tools may have variable processing speeds. Offline tools installed directly on the user's system may offer more consistent and potentially faster conversion speeds.
  7. Tools that support batch processing of multiple STEP files simultaneously can improve overall efficiency by streamlining the conversion process. Batch processing enables users to convert multiple files in a single operation, reducing the time required for manual input and processing.

Is the Conversion Process Provided by the Best STEP to STL Converter Efficient in Terms of Time?

Yes, the conversion process provided by the best STEP to STL Converter is efficient in terms of time. The efficiency of the conversion process depends on several factors, such as: algorithm efficiency, software optimization, hardware resources, and file complexity. The best STEP to STL converter will likely excel in these aspects, ensuring swift and reliable conversion of STEP models to STL format.

The best converter is expected to utilize optimized algorithms to quickly process and translate STEP models into STL format, minimizing processing times. The converter is likely well-optimized and efficiently coded, allowing for smooth and fast operation, even with large or complex STEP files. While hardware resources play a role, the best converter should efficiently utilize available resources to maximize performance and ensure fast conversion speeds on various systems. The best converter efficiently handles complex geometries and intricate details, ensuring consistent and fast conversion speeds regardless of file complexity. If supported, the best converter may leverage parallel processing and batch processing capabilities to enhance efficiency further, enabling users to convert multiple files simultaneously and reducing overall processing time.


This article presented the best STEP to STL converters, explained each of them, and discussed their various features. To learn more about STEP to STL converters, contact a Xometry representative.

Xometry provides a wide range of manufacturing capabilities, including 3D printing and other value-added services for all of your prototyping and production needs. Visit our website to learn more or to request a free, no-obligation quote.

  1. Fusion 360®, Inventor®, and 3ds Max® are registered trademarks of Autodesk, Inc.
  2. Rhinoceros® and Rhino® are registered trademarks of Robert McNeel & Associates (TLM, Inc.)
  3. SolidWorks® is a registered trademark of Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks Corporation
  4. CATIA® is a registered trademark of Dassault Systèmes
  5. The FreeCAD trademark is owned by the FreeCAD Project Association.
  6. NX™ software is a trademark of Siemens Industry Software Inc.


The content appearing on this webpage is for informational purposes only. Xometry makes no representation or warranty of any kind, be it expressed or implied, as to the accuracy, completeness, or validity of the information. Any performance parameters, geometric tolerances, specific design features, quality and types of materials, or processes should not be inferred to represent what will be delivered by third-party suppliers or manufacturers through Xometry’s network. Buyers seeking quotes for parts are responsible for defining the specific requirements for those parts. Please refer to our terms and conditions for more information.

Xomety X
Team Xometry
This article was written by various Xometry contributors. Xometry is a leading resource on manufacturing with CNC machining, sheet metal fabrication, 3D printing, injection molding, urethane casting, and more.

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