Artwork Conversion offers translators connecting SOLIDWORKS to ECAD tools and equipment.

Exporting from SOLIDWORKS

Designers who need to make masks for either printed circuit boards (PCBs) or for integrated circuits: STL2GBR which translates STL files into Gerber for photo plotting and STL2GDS which translates STL files into GDSII for high resolution masks used in the IC industry.

Why use STL?

Why use STL when SOLIDWORKS can export DXF and there are already DXF to Gerber and DXF to GDSII translators?

It turns out that the DXF file produced by SOLIDWORKS are generally not useful for producing a two dimensional mask. Much of the reason is that the DXF file format does not support the concept of "holes" or "voids." Therefore the resulting contours expressed in DXF do not differentiate between a contour that represents a filled region and one that represents a void.

STL, on the other hand, is a simple but complete description of a 3D body done by converting the surface of the body with triangles.


How the STL Converters Work

Both of our STL translators work by "slicing" the STL body (along a user specified X,Y or Z plane at a user specified depth) and converts the resulting contours into either Gerber or GDSII as needed by the mask making equipment.

Our Boolean engine is smart enough to deal with the contours that are filled and contours that are voids and to translate that information correctly into Gerber or GDSII formats.

create mask data for PCB photo plotters.

create mask data for IC mask writers and equipment.

Importing ECAD Data into SOLIDWORKS

Designers of PCBs, IC packages and even integrated circuits may need to import layout data into SOLIDWORKS as a 3D model. This has been difficult to accomplish because:

  • a) there are many different ECAD layout formats
  • b) a lot of data conditioning is needed before 2D layout will extrude into 3D
  • c) data filtering is often required to create manageable 3D file sizes.

How it Works

The block diagram below summarizes our approach:

EDA import flow into SOLIDWORKS
link to Netex-G link to Qcvku3/3DExtract link to AWROut (Allegro) link to SIP to STEP link to 3Di format link to Netex-G link to Read3Di link to parasolid Click on a block to jump to the relevant page ...

Conditioning Input Data

EDA data to import must be first "conditioned." This involves creating clean contours of overlapping data, correcting any illegal (i.e. self intersecting shapes), and assigning to each layer a height and thickness since we are essentially extruding a 2D series of layers into a 3D body.

Common Intermediate File: 3Di

The output of the conditioning software is a file format known as 3Di. Artwork developed this format in 2004 in order to model IC packages in 3D. It supports multiple layers of condcutors and dielectrics, vias, wire bonds and solder balls.

Once in the 3Di format, Read3Di, a SOLIDWORKS plug-in, brings the data into SOLIDWORKS.

Parasolid as Alternative Path?

A major issue encountered with Read3Di is associated with importing large 3Di files - it seems that as the number of 2D regions with extrusions increases, the time SolidWorks takes to extrude these into 3D bodies increases exponentially. While we have spent years attempting to solve or work around this problem we have not found a viable solution.

While experimenting with alternative import methods (such as STEP which is also very slow) we discovered that the parasolid format (X_T) loads in much faster for large files. We think this is because SolidWorks uses the Parasolid kernel as its modeling engine. After months of development we now have a working parasolid output. More Info ...

Two Modules Needed

To convert from an ECAD format into SolidWorks one needs two modules - a translator to convert and condition the data into 3Di and the Read3Di plug-in. The exception is Cadence SIP which directly produces 3Di output.

More Info ... Read3Di Datasheet

ARTWORK CONVERSION SOFTWARE, INC.                  Company Profile
417 Ingalls St.,     Santa Cruz, CA 95060         Tel (831) 426-6163     Fax 426-2824               email: