Does anyone know of an easy and free way to convert my STL models to a PDF drawing for CAD and metal CNC machining?

I've created some great designs that are all STL files and want to somehow send them to a CNC/milling machine to make my designs in metal parts.

  • $\begingroup$ if all else fails "PrintScreen" :-) $\endgroup$ Dec 5, 2019 at 13:12
  • $\begingroup$ What does your milling machine take for input? E.g. convert the STL to an OBJ file and that may be all you need. $\endgroup$ Dec 5, 2019 at 13:13
  • $\begingroup$ The normal process is to start with a CAD file, and then generate a dimension drawing for manual machining, or an STL file. $\endgroup$
    – Davo
    Dec 5, 2019 at 13:29
  • $\begingroup$ @CarlWitthoft yeah that’s pretty much what I did a and was manually adding dimensions to a screenshot...I was thinking there must be an easier way and I think the guy who suggested Onshape takes the cake with his suggestion. $\endgroup$
    – Vbs
    Dec 6, 2019 at 13:29

1 Answer 1


I've had good results with using the free web-based program known as Onshape which allows you to import/create 3D models. One of the features built into Onshape is a drawing tab. You can select the views desired or use a standard layout, as well as add dimensions to the individual drawing views.

Onshape image example

This image above was of a model created in and exported from Tinkercad. No dimensions have been added in this example, but it's available as part of the software. Being browser based, the program will work for any platform.

In order to make this answer more accurate, I attempted to duplicate the results shown in the drawing.

I've discovered that I used Fusion 360 to import the STL. The next step involved turning off history feature, then converting the STL to BREP. Once in BREP form, the no-longer-STL file can be exported as .step, which is accepted by Onshape.

Fusion 360 is a free-to-hobbyists program, but does not run in a browser. There may be other programs which will convert STL to .step and there may even be a browser converter-specific site to accomplish this.

I recognize that this is a convoluted solution, but it's not particularly burdensome, overall.

  • $\begingroup$ Wow thank you for this info! I had no idea onshape existed! $\endgroup$
    – Vbs
    Dec 6, 2019 at 13:27
  • $\begingroup$ Is this a free program that will also work on Mac? $\endgroup$
    – Vbs
    Dec 6, 2019 at 13:30
  • $\begingroup$ added edit, browser based means any platform. $\endgroup$
    – fred_dot_u
    Dec 6, 2019 at 16:18
  • $\begingroup$ how do you export a file like the one shown with the dimensions? I'm signed up with Onshape but am a total newbie and not sure how to use it yet $\endgroup$
    – Vbs
    Dec 7, 2019 at 17:12
  • $\begingroup$ says "failed to create line rendering of topology" $\endgroup$
    – Vbs
    Dec 7, 2019 at 17:31

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