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Rhino and its STL Tools

February 21, 2005

Filed under: CAD/CAM/CAE,review — Terry Wohlers @ 09:09

Once in awhile, a product emerges and sets itself apart from others in its ratio of price to performance. One such product is Rhino, which sells for $895 in the U.S. ($195 for faculty and students). The designs that are possible with Rhino are striking. I got involved with the software when it first rolled out in prerelease form in late 1996. Around that time, I was assisting a manufacturer of footwear products in Brazil with its product development process. The company was about to purchase $30,000 worth of Alias software and hardware, but I persuaded the company to give Rhino a look. The designers in Brazil downloaded and installed a beta version of the software, began to work with it, and were producing sophisticated designs within one week. Alias Studio would have required expensive training and an estimated six months of practice before the company could have reached the same level of productivity. Needless-to-say, the client was ecstatic with the discovery of Rhino. 

Robert McNeel & Associates, the producer of Rhino, has constantly made improvements to the product since it was first introduced. Last year, the company published an STL repair white paper that explains the STL file repair tools that are free in Rhino 3.0 as a part of the Bonus Tools plug-ins. The 53-page paper provides tutorials that step you through what’s available. The tools permit you to display an STL model in wireframe, flat shaded, and smooth shaded views. Also, you can render the model with color, transparency, gloss, and texture, and add backlighting. The tools enable you to reverse surface normals, remove unwanted detail, fill unwanted holes and gaps, show and stitch naked edges, remove unwanted faces, and add thickness to a mesh. 

Don’t let Rhino’s low price fool you. It is a very serious product design tool that is used by thousands of organizations worldwide. If you use STL files for rapid prototyping, consider Rhino’s STL repair capabilities. If you’re unsure, download the fully functional software that allows you to save 25 times. This evaluation version also supports the plug-ins.