Moving from Solidworks to Rhino


So I’ve been using Solidworks for my 3D printing needs since about 2006.

I now have a copy of Rhino 5 and was wondering if there’s anyone out there that might be able to offer some insight in their experience from shifting over to Rhino from Solidworks in regards to modelling for 3D printing.

I’ve used Solidworks for organic “artistic” designs, with some being made of separate parts that need to fit and/or juxtapose together in a specific way.

The constraining capacity ( at just about any point in my models - and I don’t mean just a specific dimension of say a box for extrude; But like at a certain point along a lofted curved surface volume) of Solidworks was the strongest and most useful aspect that I needed and liked to use.

I am hoping as I learn Rhino I will be able to get the same utility out it.

Once feature of Solidworks that is usually promoted is its proceduralism. Meaning if you change one element of your assembly design many of the following related parts can be updated as well easily.

This may be true for something like a nuts and bolts mechanical machine, but with my organic designs ( lofting numerous different profiles along a 3d spline/guides ) , changes meant starting from scratch often.

What I am looking for as I am teaching myself how to use Rhino, to save on time in the learning curve having gave a general idea of what I wish to do - Any suggestions of what I may wish to consider while I explore? to avoid potential “gotchas”?

My understanding with Rhino is that it has both poly and nurbs modelling capacity. I actually have a limited understanding of both types. Solidworks seemed to insulate me from those considerations as I never had problems with getting my models printed. No having to check for “holes” or inverted meshes ( if there is such a thing ), etc. because I pretty well got what I saw on my screen.

So I guess my other question is with Rhino is there a need to check ones own model before sending it out for printing?

Any comments or feedback is appreciated - hope I gave a clear enough overview of my intent. Thanks

You have here the best place to find all your answers.
But you’ll have to work a little bit. It’s a subject that comes up often and it’s easy to find a lot of hints, tutorials, examples, references… such as;

When you’ll have more specific questions, several users will answer with pleasure. But I don’t think somebody will find time to write a high-level article for you.

Hi Baba - one thing to keep in mind, assuming you have access to both programs, is that they can work pretty well together - as came up here at McNeel just in the last day or two, you can do things like export a freeform surface from Rhino and incorporate it into a more complex object in SW using ‘Replace face’ in SW. This can be updated to keep up with changes to the Rhino surface.


Thanks for the links Marc…and perhaps a more specific question to someone who may be reading this.
Any person out there care to share their experience of having first modeled and 3D printed in Solidworks and then migrated over to Rhino and tried to do the same thing? And aside from easy/difficulty in getting task done, was there any workflow or technical considerations that needed to be done in order to get a printable solid object without issues? ie. getting objections from the printer saying its not printable due to some issue with the file. Thanks

Thanks Pascal for that insight…yeah my intention was to migrate completely over to Rhino with the intention of being able to do everything with it and save on the cost of solidworks. My other option I am thinking about if Rhino doesn’t work out completely is to maybe investigate using Rhino together with Spaceclaim or after reading marcs links maybe fusion 360…so again thanks…will have to continue researching.

I’ve worked with both Rhino and SolidWorks for more than 15 years and even then can’t always know for sure with which one to start a project. For most projects it ends up being a mix, trying to get the best out of them.
One thing that stand out is that, with Rhino, you’ll never be stuck with no other choice but to start over, as it happened a few times with SolidWorks.

thanks for the reply Marc.

Yeah and I think I’m just going to have to dig in learn how to use Rhino more in depth and then ask questions.

Already starting on some project with Rhino and “hate” it already. But I am not going to say what that is because it is more likely due with what I am accustomed to more than anything else.

As I get a workflow established with Rhino after studying some tutorials and web searches then I think I will be in a better position to ask more questions if at that time there are still some what I feel are “limitations”.

Thanks again for the input.

From the tone of your posts, it seems that you aren’t certain that it will be possible to export water-tight objects for 3D printing. I can assure you that you can. We do this all the time.

As you mentioned the fact that SW is a solid modeler makes it very difficult NOT to make a water-tight model. this isn’t the case in Rhino. In SW you always are manipulating a solid object, but in Rhino, although you can work in that way, you can start out with just curves or surfaces and build up a water-tight object in numerous steps.

This may seem frustrating compared to how you are used to working but at the same time you have greater freedom when it comes to organic shapes, continuity of curvature, etc. So it will depend on the type of objects you are creating.

there is a really great video course on for rhino 5. there is a beginner and advanced. you’ll need to watch both. once you go through those you’ll be up and running in no time. its really the best way and you’ll save yourself alot of frustration and hours of playing around.

Thanks jimc,

I see they also have a couple more that would be of use to me after I did the two you suggested.

I agree it would be much faster to follow through a video tut rather than “play” around for hours.

Thanks again for the suggestion.

I wouldn’t put too much effort into SpaceClaim. My experience is that unless the Rhino model is fairly simplistic, SpaceClaim will fail to make the edits that you desire (changing fillet sizes for example).

I rarely use it anymore as I find it disappoints me 90% of the time.


Dan - so you’ve gone back to manually editing fillets etc etc in Rhino?

For the most part, yes. It doesn’t come up often, but when it does, I try SpaceClaim with my fingers crossed, but like I mentioned, I’m often disappointed. It does have some repair tools for closing polysurfaces that I use occasionally. It sure would be nice to get repair tools into V6!

I’ve had more success with Onshape lately. If I do need to go outside Rhino, I find that Onshape is usually the solution that works the best. And it’s free, so that’s nice too.