The Xometry app works best with JavaScript enabled!
Sign In
Search
Our SolutionsIndustriesResourcesBuy SuppliesBecome a Supplier
Additive Manufacturing

3D Printing Service

Metal 3D Printing Service

Solutions For Every Industry
Resources3D Printing DesignDXF to STL: How to Convert DXF to STL Files
Dual extruder 3d printer producing two bicolor egg model - Image Credit: Shutterstock/Reflexpixel

DXF to STL: How to Convert DXF to STL Files

Learn about these 2 file formats and how to make the conversion.

Xomety X
By Team Xometry
August 30, 2022
 7 min read
RECENT STORIES
Video: How to Create a Technical Drawing for CNC Machining
September 23, 2022
 1 min read
Video: 9 Design Tips for Injection Molding
September 23, 2022
 1 min read

The DXF (Drawing Exchange Format, or Drawing Interchange(X) Format) was initially developed as the native file type for the AutoCAD design package in the early 1980s. This format brought a unique approach to storing 2D and later 3D design data. DXF was developed by AutoDesk for their AutoCAD package and is open to use by other applications. AutoDesk led the drive towards interoperability, seeking the “high ground” of a universal CAD data storage format. Interestingly, the DXF format has not only survived the 2D to 3D shift in product development packages but has thrived and retained its relevance. DXF is a widely trusted and used interchange tool between CAD and CAM packages, providing error-free, highly accurate data and ease of use that the market likes.

STL (STereo Lithography or Standard Triangle Language or Standard Tessellation Language) is the “standard” file type used by the majority of 3D printers. It’s an old format that has no color or texture information. STLs store a series of points on the surface of an object as geometric data. These triangular subsurfaces form a net that describes the outward 3D shape but has no information about thickness, color, or texture. DXFs store the complete design information for construction data in the file. This makes DXF ideal for accurately representing the shapes and relationships of both 2D and 3D parts. When you have a DXF file and need to convert it to an STL format for your slicer software, several online programs can do this, including various CAD packages. Most DXF file converters are either free downloads or online tools that handle a wide range of formats.

This article will discuss the steps in DXF to STL file conversion using Spin 3D, review their definitions and qualities, and examine how to convert and open DXF files.

1. Select a DXF File From Your PC by Clicking the "Choose File" Button.

Go to the Bear File Converter page and follow the onscreen instructions. You can use an explorer route to select the DXF file, or drag and drop it into the window.

2. Click the "Convert" Button To Begin the Process.

Clicking the Convert button will trigger the page to convert your file to the STL format you need.

3. Download Your STL.

Choosing an output folder is not necessary, as the default is to save it into your “downloads” folder. Just click on the Download button and your file will arrive very quickly.

What Is a DXF File?

The DXF file format employs group codes and value pairs to define sections within the 3D data it encompasses. Objects are non-graphical entities, and Entities encompass all of the graphical parts. So line items in the DXF file structure are referred to as graphical objects. Non-graphical objects are things such as DXF dictionaries, whereas line definitions (weight, solid, dotted, etc.) are graphical objects. The various sections within a DXF file to appear are:

  1. Header: Contains information such as the AutoCAD version with which it was created, dimension types for linear and angular measurements, and other settings required for correct interpretation.
  2. Classes: Information relating to application definition for blocks, objects, and entities.
  3. Tables: Information relating to line types, fonts/styles of text, user coordinate systems, and viewports.
  4. Blocks: Groups of graphical and drawing entities.
  5. Entities: Actual object data to describe each separate entity.
  6. Objects: Non-graphical information such as AutoCad dictionaries.

These aspects can be null, i.e., have no contents where they are not required. But for full description and accurate reproduction of complex model shapes, particularly curvature or manufacturing data, all information is relevant.

How Long Does It Take To Convert a DXF File to an STL File?

The time to convert a DXF file to an STL format depends on the complexity of the file and the conversion software. Generally, it will only take a few seconds to complete a conversion. For most files, it is setting up directories and properties and uploading the files into software such as Spin 3D takes longer than the actual conversion. 

Why Should We Convert DXF Files to STL Files?

Converting DXF files to STL files is primarily necessary for home machines and the freeware slicer sector of the market. Integrated slicer software for a few high-end printers can accept DXF format files, as can some of the more advanced non-machine-dedicated slicers. But this is unknown in hobbyist and lower-cost machines, which are only set up to use the STL format.

What Is the Simplest Way To Convert DXF Files to STL Files?

The simplest way to convert DXF files to STL files is by installing a basic CAD package such as FreeCAD. The conversion can be done by confirming the linear and angular resolution settings. Then open a DXF file, and save it as an STL. It must be noted that all CAD software can both open and convert DXF files. Additionally, a wide variety of file format converters are also available. These converters offer an advantage over CAD software in that there is less of a user interface to navigate, making it quicker to grasp the process for novice users. At times, it can be useful to have a PNG to DXF converter, a DXF to SVG converter, and even a JPG to DXF converter. 

What Programs Can Open DXF Files?

A wide range of CAD programs, online viewers, and file converters can open DXF files. These include:

  1. AutoDesk DWG TrueView: The viewer offered by the original developers of the DXF format.
  2. EDrawings Viewer: A powerful tool that allows the “interrogation” (i.e., more than just viewing) of a wide spectrum of 2D and 3D data formats, including DXF. It originated with Dassault Systèmes, the developers of SolidWorks and Catia.
  3. DXF Viewer: A Chrome extension that allows a detailed review of DXF in a browser. 

Is It Possible To Convert STL to DXF Format?

Yes, it is possible to convert STL to DXF format. All of the 3D formats are interchangeable on most of the 3D CAD and file conversion tools. An excellent example of an easily accessible tool to convert STL to DXF format is Aspose. 

What Are the Differences Between DXF and STL?

Table 1 below shows the differences between DXF and STL formats:

Table 1. Comparison of DXF vs. STL
PropertySTLDXF
Property

Valid and usable shape definition

STL

✔️

DXF

✔️

Property

Total 3D data package

STL

DXF

✔️

Property

Vector x-y-z (point cloud)

STL

✔️

DXF

Property

Vector graphics

STL

DXF

✔️

Property

Color attributes

STL

❌ in common ASCII format, can be present in digital files

DXF

✔️ using a color number

Property

Texture attributes

STL

DXF

✔️ but only as a material property

Property

Shape elements

STL

DXF

✔️full inclusion of simple and complex shape parameters including splines

At its core, STL was created as a way of communicating outward shape information for 3D objects but contains no information about color or other properties. This makes it a very simple and robust format. DXF, on the other hand, is a more complete and detailed definition of a 3D object. It allows precise, detailed, and fully defined virtual rendering of shapes as complex curves, lines, circles, splines, and various other predefined figures. Other attributes can define metadata, construction order, material properties, and more. This requires a greater depth of properties to be integrated into the file structure, making a considerably more-capable format.

Summary

This article discussed the process for conversion of the DXF format to the STL format. To learn more about DXF to STL file conversion tools, 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.

Disclaimer

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.