Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Creating and importing Step files into Altium for free

This post was brought about by another of our customers needing the ability to create detailed STEP files for their components. Usualy this would entail buying solidworks or something similar.

We knew that we could do it cheAper, and with 3D PCB Design becoming ever more important, we thought we’d share this with the PCB Design community.

Altiums built in 3D extrusion tools are great (and getting better all the time). We expect to see some pretty big jumps in what you can do within Altium in the future. Until that time, try the steps below.

 Step 1

Download and install blender:


Blender is not a point and click program, so you will need to spend a bit of time getting used to the user interface.  However it is free (open source) and worth the effort of learning, as it’s extremely powerful.

Step 2

Once you have the hang of blender and have created your model (or alternatively you can add one of the standard meshes to try it out).

PCB Layout 3D Model

Now export your model from blender as a .obj or .stl.  We have found .obj gives better results.

PCB Layout 3D Model Export


You now have your model ready for converting to a STEP file.

 Step 3

Download and install STLtoSTEP:


 This programe allows you to convert 3D models from STL (or OBJ) to STEP. This little gem is the key to getting your models into Altium.

Allthough this is a free programe, the developers request that if you use it commercialy then they would appreciate a donation (which is fair).


Step 4

From STLtoSTEP select File>Open OBJ

Browse to and select your recently exported obj model (This may take a while depending on the complexity of your model).

Now select File>Save STEP (FACETS).

Your Step file is now ready to import into Altium.


Step 5

Read your models into Altium.

Your done!


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