Cleaning up imported Solidworks Models, or any messy model

Hello Blenderheads!
I’m hoping someone might have some ideas for how I might be able to get a better quality mesh from a STL file I’ve imported from Solidworks.

You can download the blend file with the imported mesh here: http://www.pasteall.org/blend/3056 (file is blender 2.5 file from a build a couple days ago)

The problem with the mesh is that there are tons of triangles. More troublesome is that the mesh object is made of multiple mesh “islands” aligned right next to each other that make up the sides of the object. The vertices on these islands don’t always match up. If I hit “Merge Doubles” it removes a ton of vertices but then the mesh/normals becomes really messed up because not all the vertices on the islands match.

Is there a better way for me to go about making this mesh one complete solid object (not a bunch of islands). Here is what I’ve tried so far:

  1. Tris to Quads, merge doubles, decimate, mesh tools in 2.49
  2. Tried using Meshlab with little luck http://meshlab.sourceforge.net/ (anyone have tips for this program, I tried lots of options for many hours with no luck)
  3. Tried using Netfab basic (didn’t do anything)

I don’t have solidworks so I can’t change any export settings in there. I’m getting the model from a friend who lives 4 hours away, so I can get him to change setting on the export, but it would be way easier if I didn’t have to bother him!

I’ve looked around quite a bit for answer here, I found these threads but not much else:
http://blenderartists.org/forum/archive/index.php/t-32584.html
http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Blender_3D:_Import_and_Render_a_SolidWorks_Model

Thought I might be able to create a mesh from a point cloud, (http://blenderartists.org/forum/showthread.php?t=144504), but I can’t seem to get that to work. I though if I could somehow create a mesh from the volume that would work, I got something like that to work using Meshlab, but the quality was terrible.

Anyone have suggestions on what I might try? Or does anyone that works with Solidworks have advice I can give to my friend to export the model for me?

Thanks for ANY help anyone has, not sure what I would do without the incredible community!

Retopo it! Just use the fabulous retopo tool in 2.49 and go over the mess. You probably will end up with a much better end result. Just an idea.

Ah, I did try the Retopo tool, but I can’t get any results from it? Can I still use it even if the mesh “islands” don’t connect?

I just uploaded an image of the model, I selected a few of the “islands” using the “L” key and moved them away so you can see what I’m talking about. I don’t want these to move, just want a complete single object!
http://www.pasteall.org/pic/show.php?id=4278

If I can do this with the retopo tool, anybody have some hints?