How I do it: SketchUp

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