Best format for importing into Rhino

Howdy! New here but been using Rhino for a long time. I am starting to get more and more work on a contract basis and most other people do not use Rhino. They use Solidworks. If I am going to change a part or create a new part based off of a Solidworks file what is the best format for them to send it to me as?

I have a file that is a laser scan and it was worked on in Solidworks. It is a complete mess on Rhino and very difficult to work with. So in the future, what format should I suggest they send the file to me as?

Thanks! Time to start digging around more in this forum!

-Eric in Colorado

Hi Eric- Step is a reliable format. Rhino 5 can read SW files before SW2015.


Hi Pascal, I run into this a lot as well, is Step preferable to IGS? What are the differences as far as rhino is concerned?

Ohh Rhino will read in the .sldprt file but it is a massive surface with huge counts so I can not convert it to anything without crashing rhino. And when I see somone open it up in Solidworks there are features (cutouts) shown on Solidworks that I can not see in Rhino. Those cut outs are important for me to have. I need to use this model (airplane body) to make brackets and mounts inside it. The best way to do that is a boolian subtraction. I can lay a slab or square piece where I need it and then use the fuse to cut my solid or surface then I have the exact contour I need. But since it is a bunch of wierd surfaces I have trouble even combining them or making them into something whole. And really need the information that you see on solidworks but can not see in Rhino. I even had a guys save it as a Step and that extra information was still not there.

Since this is a laser scan it is the outside. Ideally I would transform this so I could shell it in Rhino and give it the proper thickness as I have to deal with making parts that are on the inside. Does that make sense?


Hi Adam- Step will keep solids as solids, and preserve some assembly info as nested blocks. IGS is fine but you will not get joined objects in Rhino, just a pile of independent surfaces.


Hi Eric- can you ask the supplier to save only some of the file? SW export offers that option.


I have found that I can use a SolidWORKS file less than half of the time. But, mostly because the damn software is so picky and many users are sloppy.

It works fine BUT the sender has to be careful to place ALL of the SW assembly files and ALL of the SW part files in the same folder – before it get zipped and sent over. One folder. Hello?

I can’t tell you how many times I explain this up-front and still get Rhino error messages like this: "importing … error … cannot find folder Qdrive/otherdude/weird name/subfolder blah-blah/ on your desktop. Really?

If the scan was imported into SolidWorks as a graphics body, it cannot be exported.

Every scan I’ve ever seen is a relative mess too. I prefer to recreate the scanned object using the scan as a template/guide, but of course that is work and you run the risk of differentiation. This is probably why they are dumping scans on someone else.

Pascal is correct…STEP is the most consistently reliable format, though I’d ask for the inclusion of the native, .stp, .igs anyway. Sometimes it is hit-or-miss, and options are good.

Absolutely agree. A STEP export will come in Rhino as if it was clean NURBS created in Rhino … and will be totally editable.

If someone sends you an IGES, you may need to educate them. An IGES file is also NURBS, but every single surface has been exploded and will not be connected… which is why you don’t want anything to do with it. If you do get an IGES, you should politely ask for them to export ‘one more time’ and select STEP instead of IGES. You do not want to spend hours re-joining surfaces with an IGES file.

This mistake is commonly made by people who have been using the same software package for a very long time / never updated / never look at any options. So, if they can export an IGES, they CAN export a STEP … if they want to.

My ‘favorite’ vendor was a factory who asked me, “What do you mean, export it step-by-step? Why would we do that?” I finally convinced them to try File→Export→***STEP FORMAT*** and just see what happens. “Oh my! STEP is a file format. Now we get it.”

[So glad you finally understand … after I repeated myself in four emails … and lost three days thanks to you knuckleheads.]

Thanks guys! Now I will bring the file into my day job and have someone export it as STEP. Then I will tak the time to recreate the fuse in rhino my using the step file as a template. Since the scan has a crapload of lines in it. Imagine an airplane fuse. The scan lines are around it and then from nose to tail creating a massive hatch pattern. Most of my work on Rhino has been 2d and I am finally using it for 3d. So what would be the best “thing” to create from this? I will want to take this thing I make and then, since it is a moulded fiberglass fuse, shell or do something to give the model the correct thickness of material so I am using the inside wall dimensions to make my parts. What ever the final product of my model is, it needs to be used to “cut” parts so they follow the particular contour and shape of the inner wall so they take minimal epoxy to glue them in. So I would start out with a rectangle piece, place it on the right spot of the wall and I am guessing perform a Boolean subtraction then pull the rectangle cube back out and it should have the curve on the one side. Does that make sense? Thanks for the help guys!