How I do it: SketchUp

22 Apr

I always enjoy reading about other’s worksflows and learning new ways to optimize my usage of software. So I thought I’d write a series of “How I do it” posts to show those of you just getting started (or those looking to pickup additional tips) how I work.

Below is a list of all the plugins I currently use in SketchUp. I held out on plugins for awhile thinking they were unnecessary bloat for Sketchup, when I added them in I found I had been missing out on some really useful features. Here’s what I’m using at the moment.

STL Export – Easily my most used SketchUp plugin. This lets you export your models as STLs files (as well as several other types) for 3D printing.

STL Import – as you can probably imagine this plugin lets you import STL files. Pretty useful for altering existing designs from Thingiverse. After importing I recommend running Cleanup3 listed below to make the imported file more manageable.

Cleanup3 – This plugin cleans up orphaned and unnecessary lines. It’s really useful for creating a solid in SketchUp. Sometimes you don’t even realize there are lines causing problems. This plug in will remove those for you. It’s also really useful when importing STL files into SketchUp. They import with a lots of extra information that makes it difficult and slow to work with in SketchUp. Running the cleanup script leaves you with a much cleaner model to work with.

UV Toolkit – Not one I use all the time but very helpful for texture mapping unusually shaped objects.

Weld – Turns a series of line segments into a curve. Useful when trying to re-use a group of curved line segments.

FIX SOLID – This plugin attempts to find problems with and fix your solid models. I would say I have a 50/50 success rate with this tool, but the times it does work it saves me a lot of time.

FredoScale – Very useful additional scaling tools. Check out the linked page for more details as there are a lot of options. Pretty handy.

RoundCorner makes it really easy to make nice rounded corners on your objects. It’s really easy to use and results are usually pretty good. 

Joint Push/Pull – Useful plugin for extruding curves in a way not possible using the built in SketchUp tools.

TT_Lib2 – Many of the above tools will require the plugin library TT_Lib2 this provides additional plugins the libraries needed to run. 

LibFredo6 is another library reqiured for some of the listed plugins (including RoundCorner and FredoScale). It also includes an update engine that checks every 2 weeks to see if there are updates to your installed plugins, handy!

Curve Maker – This plugin assists with drawing curves, either interactivly or by specifying dimensions.

Taper Maker – This is handy for drawing taped shapes using iregular shapes and paths.

Stock maker – Useful for estimating material usage for non-3D printing exports.

SketchUp Pro’s Solid Tools – The built in solid tools for SketchUp are very nice and while not a substitute for a real solid modeler like SolidWords do a pretty good job. The tools are part of SketchUp Pro so they can be a little pricey, there is also a $50 a year subscription copy of SketchUp Pro for students that, if you’re eligable can save you some money.

SU Podium – My favorite (and fast) rendering engine for Sketchup. Not free ($198.00) but is available at a lowered price for students. This plugin pulls models directly from SketchUp into it’s rendering program. Very speedy and very nice results are possible.

An additional resource I find pretty handy is the Sketchucation Forum, lots of discussion and new plugins are available there. There is also a Google Group for SketchUp that doesn’t see as much traffic as Sketchucation but can still be handy.

So that covers my plugins for SketchUp, like I said I went a long time without using them but they are SUPER handy. If there is anything else you’d like to know, leave me a comment below.

Edit: thomthom from the Sketchucation forums and overall plugin writing genius has pointed out that the update engine I mentioned is actually part of LebFredo6. I’ve corrected the error above, checkout more of thomthom’s work here: Plugins by thomthom

  • Thomas Thomassen

    TT_Lib doesn’t include an update engine. But it makes use of Fredo’s update engine in his LibFredo library. 😉

    • Whoops good catch. I’ve correct the post and included a link back to your plugin page on Sketchucation, Thanks for all the great plugins you’ve given to the community, they’ve really changed the way I use SketchUp for the better.

  • Diego

    recently I found a very interesting and robust plugin for Sketchup for helical forms

    • Thanks Diego, I haven’ run into that one before. Looks like you can do some pretty amazing things with it!

  • Christopher Cummings

    This is very useful – I’ve been wanting the use Sketchup to make 3D printed models but was skeptical of its ability to export STLs and its poor implementation of curves. Looks like I should give it another look!

  • Pete Prodoehl

    Awesome post! Some of those I’ve used before, but many of them are new to me.

    I don’t use Sketchup as much as I used to, but it’s always a recommendation I give to people interested in learning 3D modeling.

    • Thanks Pete,

      What software are you using these days? I downloaded Autodesk Inventor Fusion and haven’t spent much time with it. But I’m always looking for a better modeling program.

      • tjanderson

        I’d be interested to hear your review of AIF, what other software have you used? This is the first time I’ve come across your site, but these are some awesome posts. Keep up the good work.

        • I actually haven’t spent too much time with AIF yet, it’s still on my todo list.

          I’ve worked in SketchUp, OpenSCAD, FreeCAD, HASH Animation Master, 123D, and a bit of Autocad. Sketchup and OpenSCAD are the ones I find myself gravitating to. Though I’d like to get my hands on SolidWorks at some point.

          • tjanderson

            I’ve worked with Solidworks and Pro-E (both under corporate licenses for my previous employers) I’m really interested in checking out OpenSCAD, especially with the customizable things on thingiverse. I used sketchup several years ago, but stopped when it stopped being free, I noticed recently that there is now a free version again so I will have to get back on it. How do you like 123D? I haven’t been horribly impressed with it yet, but I’ve mostly been trying to capture things to turn into 3D models… I’ve found a set of calipers is much faster… One day hopefully I’ll be able to scan a broken thing and have the model for the replacement in minutes (fingers crossed).

          • 123D Catch is a pretty cool idea but I’ve definitely had mixed success with it. This statue ( at the Field Museum in Chicago is behind glass and would be difficult to model with traditional methods. I took around 25 photos of it and 123D Catch generated that model. Pretty cool. That being said only a handful of my attempts have worked.

  • Louis Maung

    I’ve installed rounded corner plugin.. but nothing shows up in the tool box. Can you show me how do I fix this? Thanks a billion !!

    • Make sure you also have LibFredo6 installed in the plugins directory ( or this won’t work. If possible I’d recommend upgrading to Sketchup 2013, it has a built in plugin manager that makes installing these plugins much easier.

      Install LibFredo using the plugin manager followed by Rounded Corners and you should be set!

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