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Can you explaine the difference between GCODE and STL?

Message 1 of 3
226 Views, 2 Replies

Can you explaine the difference between GCODE and STL?

I am very new in the forum, can you tell me in simple words the difference between GCODE and STL files?, Why do I need to export to STL file, to transfer to a 3D printing software for example, Luban of Snapmaker, then convert it into GCODE. Why not simply send the GCode from Autodesk to the 3D printer. Thanks for your help.

Message 2 of 3
in reply to: adrian.ambriz

Great question! So an STL file is a type of 3D model. The data stored within an STL file is coordinates of points. Thousands and thousands of points that make up the shape you want. In software, an STL file is given volume by generating a flat triangular face between 3 points. This is why if you zoom into an STL file you can see each of these triangular faces. This is what is commonly known as a mesh file, however it is ultimately just a file of a 3D model. On the other hand, gcode is a type of code, just Python or JavaScript. Gcode is the code that most 3D printers are able to “read”. The code goes line by line and each line tells the printer what to do. For example, G1 X100 would tell the printer to move 100mm in the positive X direction. Your printer cannot directly read an STL file. Printers are far more basic than that and only move and do as they are told. This is why we have slicers. The slicing software, takes the STL file and cuts it up into lots of different slices (hence the name slicer), each one of which is a different layer in your print. It then looks at each of the slices one by one and generates gcode that prints each slice. It then puts it all together in one long gcode file. Typically, slicers have used the STL format as it is a universal 3D model file. Fusion 360 and other CAD software can all export to STL files so it does not restrict the user. There is a big movement towards using 3MF files for 3D printing instead of STL as they have a lot more detail included in them but ultimately this is why we often export as an STL (not a Fusion file) Fusion 360 can generate gcode itself without going into a slicer or exporting an STL. Within the manufacture workspace there is the “additive” tab. This is effectively a slicer within Fusion 360. Add your printer, your settings etc and you can generate a gcode file directly. This has a lot of advantages, one being you don’t need to export to an STL as Fusion can read its own file type!

Oliver Briggs
Community Manager - Education
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Message 3 of 3

Amazing explanation, thank you for this clarification.

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