Convert Point Cloud Data to Mesh

@ClintBrown3D Autodesk Inventor 07-min

Have you ever needed to convert a point cloud to mesh data in Autodesk Inventor? While Inventor can import point clouds from Recap, point clouds can be un-usable in some workflows, especially when actual geometry is required to work with.

Converting a point cloud to a surface model is currently not possible in 1 piece of software, however there is a workaround using Recap and some free point cloud software called MeshLab (download link here)

Here is the workflow that has worked for me.

  • Open your Point Cloud in Recap (recap can open the following formats .rcs;*.f|s;*.fws;”.lsproj;*.pts;*.ptg;*.pt>c*.zfs;*.zfpj;*.las;*.laz;*.xyz;*.b<t;*.c|3;*.clr;”.e57;*.rdbx;*.rsp;*.rcp;*.dp;*.prj;*.xyb)
  • Export the model from Recap into .PTS Format

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This next step is important. MeshLab can apparently open .PTS files, but they fail to open if exported from Recap. The simple workaround is as follows:

  • Rename the file extension from .PTS to .ASC

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  • Open Meshlab
  • Import the .ASC Point Cloud

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  • Accept the default “Pre-Open Options”

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  • Your Point cloud will now be visible in Meshlab

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Now convert the point cloud to a mesh

  • Filters > Remeshing, Simplification and Reconstruction > Surface Reconstruction: Ball Pivoting

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Set the Ball Pivot radius. Depending on the complexity of the point cloud, and the fidelity of the mesh required, you will need to run a few experiments.

  • For a first run, I suggest exporting with a world unit of 0.1
  • Apply

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Below is a mesh model created from the point clouds. This model is full of gaps, but could be improved, by changing the accuracy of the import above. However a less dense model may be perfect, depending on use case.

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Export the Mesh to OBJ format

  • File > Export Mesh As…

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  • Give the export a name, choose .OBJ as the extension

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  • Select All and click OK

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  • In Inventor Open the OBJ file

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You are now able to interact with the meshed point cloud. The data is imported into Inventor as a Mesh (as shown above).


Notes for big data sets:

Try to clean up any data that you don’t need in Recap. Once this is done, you can experiment with the tools inside of MeshLab. This is one of the workflows that I have had some success with:

  • Filters > Point Set – Select Visible Points
  • Filters > Cleaning & Repairing > Remove Duplicate Vertices
  • Filters > Cleaning & Repairing > Remove Vertices wrt Quality
  • Filters > Remeshing Simplification and Reconstruction > Surface Reconstruction: Ball Pivoting (see settings above, experiment till you get the right settings for your worklflow)



This workflow was tested with the following software:

  • MeshLab 2016.12
  • Recap Version 5.0.2041
  • Autodesk Inventor 2019.3


Example point cloud from Grabcad: 

Credits for help with the PTS to ASC conversion: CADforum