From STL file to Carbide Create (PRO) [screenshots included] (outdated, please see updated instructions in tutorial section)

Today I played a bit with taking STL files into Carbide Create (PRO).
This is a work in progress, but the question comes up here often enough that I figured I should show screenshots of what this process looks like

Step 1: Find a suitable STL file
Not all STL files you can find on the internet are suitable for machining on your Shapeoko. 3D printers can print “true 3D” objects that contain hollow areas underneath solid areas. With the Shapeoko, you can only “cut from the top”, so the hollow areas are out of reach. But eve with this limitation, you can find many great STL files on thingiverse, etsy or ebay.

For this tutorial, I’m using the STL file from

Step 2: Convert the STL file to a height map PNG
Using the tool from I converted the STL file to a heightmap grayscale PNG:

This creates the following heightmap PNG:

Step 3: Use the Modeling feature in Carbide Create (PRO) to create an appropriately sized design

  • Set the size of the stock to the recommended size
  • Create a rectangle around the whole piece
  • In the model view, import the PNG (see screenshot)

Step 4: Create toolpaths
Generally I create 1 roughing toolpath and 2 finishing passes at different angles:

Step 5: Check the simulation

(the unstable release 433 from yesterday has a visualization bug in this preview)

Step 6: Export to GCODE and cut the wood
… we all know how this works …

The C2D file is here: heartt.c2d (678.3 KB)


That was fast! Looks awesome. I don’t use CC, but this looks nice and straightforward. I’ll give it a try later.

Carved it out of a scrap piece of walnut this morning

came out well but I cut a few corners with the stepover so there’s still some milling lines visible (this 3D carving does not carve quick)


Looks great and very useful!
What compilers do you recommend to compile your code into an executable for Windows 10 64 bit? ( its been a good long while since I needed to do this myself)

@fenrus Already built the .exe…just download and use as shown above.


I develop it on Linux (I really only use windows for cnc stuff, the rest of my world is linux) but I cross compile it to Windows… the github release have a compiled Windows binary for convenience (and I do test that)


This is so great!! Thank you for not only answering my question with a solution but sharing it. I’m going to try to follow your steps ASAP!!

Not sure what to look for on GitHub. I see the components of your software but do not see an .exe file to be used. Or maybe there isn’t one. Downloaded the zip file but there wasn’t an exe in there either. Thanks
Opps sorry I just found the link above. Thansk

Hi I wasn’t able to make it work. Found the exe file. downloaded to a directory called stl2png. Moved an stl file to the directory and followed your example above. It seemed to run about 5 seconds and the prompt came back. But there wasn’t anything extra in the directory. Where would it be. What am I doing wrong? File size was about 120 meg.

hmm I’d love to figure out more and debug… is this STL something magic or is it distributable in some form ?


also one thing the current version 1is not good at is detecting ascii STL files … it does not support those (yet)… is your stl file a “binary STL” or an “ASCII stl” ?

It is a topo file of a valley near here. It loads into Fusion 360 okay but it would be nice to shorten up the procedure by using Carbine Create. It comes into Fusion with a size of 75 by 75 inches. That may be some of the problem. It had to be scaled down to use it. Don’t be concerned about it. I can make it work with Fusion. Just thought you might want to look at it. I just loaded it in a word program and I can read. Not sure if that answers your question about ASCII stl?

That makes it ascii.
I’ll see what it takes to add ascii support

Instead of downloading a windows executable, you can now do the conversion to depthmap in your browser:


I’m fairly new to cnc work and have been looking for something like this to try out without breaking the bank on expensive software. I tried downloading the files on 3 different pc’s (all windows 10) but can only get it to work on one. Also, the browser one works fine but I cant seem to download the resulting PNG image. Am I doing something wrong?

can you see the resulting image correctly?
You can always right-click-save-as

(which browser are you using? I mostly tested Chrome)

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I can see the image correctly but there is no option to save when I right click. I’m using Microsoft edge. I’ll download chrome and try that. Thanks

Sorted. Working perfect with chrome. Thank you

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For any Rhino users out there the PNG heighmap is easily accomplished with 2 commands from any model (.stl or otherwise).
Open a viewport in ‘shaded view’ set the viewport you want (typically in parallel projection)

Command: ShowZbuffer
Command: ViewCaptureToClipboard

Paste to PS and save as PNG.

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This worked great. Thanks for providing.

I previously managed to create a height map using Cinema 4D, but this was super simple.

Would you consider allowing users to select the output resolution?