How to show exported rays in SolidWorks and Autodesk Inventor

OpticStudio exports ray information into IGES, STEP and SAT CAD file formats, however SolidWorks™ does not read this information in by default. This article describes the necessary settings in order for SolidWorks to display the ray patterns exported from OpticStudio. 

Zemax LLC would like to thank Dave Mansur from OPTRA, Inc. for providing us with the Solidworks™ details and George Eck from Universal Instruments Corp. for providing the Autodesk Inventor details found in this article.

Authored By Dan Hill


Oftentimes, the most difficult part of an optomechanical design is the communication between CAD programs. Luckily, OpticStudio makes it easy for users to work with other programs to promote a seamless design process. It may be the case that users want to export their system to another program. While exporting the system itself is fairly straightforward, there is an extra step that must be done in order to export and show the rays that interact with the system.

This article is an overview of the process of showing rays in SolidWorks and in Autodest Inventor.

How to show rays in SolidWorks

It is often useful to export rays along with the optical components of your design to be viewed in a 3D CAD program. When exporting a sequential system, the number of rays to export, as well as the ray pattern is defined directly in the export window.


When exporting non-sequential designs, the ray pattern and number of rays are defined by the sources and their number of layout rays. Note that the STL format does not support the exporting of ray entities.

Although OpticStudio creates the ray information in the exported file, SolidWorks doesn’t read this information in by default. In SolidWorks, the user must change a specific import option in order to read in the ray information from the file to be imported.

When opening a file in SolidWorks, first choose to see only the exported type format (such as *.STEP) and then Options....


From within the Options window, check Free point/curve entities and select the Import as sketch(es).


That's it! You will now see the rays inside your SolidWorks model.

How to show rays in Autodesk Inventor

In order to show rays on a STEP file in Autodesk Inventor 2016, open the STEP file in Autodesk Inventor. After loading the STEP file, the Import options will appear. Under Object Filters, check Wires to ensure the rays are shown.

KA-01406_4_Import options

In order to show rays on a STEP file in Autodesk Inventor 2014, open Autodesk Inventor and click Options from the open screen. Simply check the Wires in the Entity Types to Import section, as shown below. This technique also works for Autodesk 2013, and possibly older versions as well.

STEP_Import options



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