SketchUp is a very popular 3D software suitable for beginners and experienced users alike. Its main goal has always been to introduce people to 3D modeling as easily as possible, which is why it’s so simple to use.
The platform is popular in industries like architecture, design, and film-making. It’s also useful in the maker community as it’s capable of handling large models as well as small objects.
SketchUp is also a great tool for those who want to start with 3D printing but don’t have too much knowledge about 3D modeling. It allows you to start modeling in a very short time. And that’s exactly what we’re talking about in this article.
Continue reading to learn how SketchUp and 3D printing go hand-in-hand.
The 2019 version of SketchUp offers 3 options:
As a beginner, we recommend the SketchUp Free version to get familiar with the user interface and the native tools. In order to use it, follow these simple steps:
It’s as easy as that! Now you’re ready to start exploring.
Before we start modeling, let’s get familiar with our User Interface:
They say that the best way to learn is by doing, so for this beginner tutorial we’re going to show you step-by-step how to model a simple but functional object: an SD card holder!
We will start by setting up the model units.
In the File Menu, click the Open Model/Preferences button and select the option New Model. In this example we will select millimeters. This is because our object will be a small one and using millimeters gives up a bit more precision and control over it.
Before you start modeling, it’s important to figure out the dimensions you need. For this project, we started with measuring a standard SD card. We will then use the Native Tools provided in SketchUp Free to start designing:
Once you have the basic shape, the next step is to include the slots for the SD cards using the Native Tools.
Making the first slot:
Duplicating and distributing:
For the final touch, we can add some details to our SD card holder. To add some character to the SD card holder, select the bottom line of the front face and move it forward 5 to 10 mm. This will cause the front face to slant forward.
Now, select the Text tool to add some text. You can align it on any face you want. However, in this case we put it on the front of the SD card holder where we created a slant in the previous step.
If the text is too big or too small, you can Scale it.
Once your text is positioned, Explode it by selecting it, right clicking, and choosing the Explode option.
Now that we have our model created in SketchUp, we need to export it in a printable format if we’re going to 3D print it.
For this last step, we need to convert our model into a group. The way we do that is by selecting the object with three left clicks – this will select the entire object.
Then right-click to display the options menu. Select Make group and keep that group selected.
Now, we want to adjust the Entity Info. This can be found in the right side toolbar. By selecting the first option: Entity info, a sub-menu is displayed. In the upper part of the menu you should see “Solid group“. This will ensure the object is fully printable without errors.
If you do not see “Solid Group” in the Entity info box, it means there’s some error in your model that will cause an error when sliced and sent to the 3D printer. To try and fix this issue, check the inner faces of the model, close any gap you see, and erase the faces you don’t need, in order to get a hollow object.
Once you’ve checked your model and you got the “Solid Group” green light, it’s time to Export it. All versions of SketchUp 2019 allow you to export STL files, which is the file type we need to make our 3D model printable.
To do this, you only have to click on the Open/Save menu and export it in the STL file format. You’ll get a file you can download and then open in any slicer software like Cura or Simplify 3D to send it to your 3D printer.
SketchUp is a very powerful software. As you can see, it has a very intuitive interface, and the learning curve is very natural. The more you use it, the faster you’ll learn how it works. Best of all you can use it for free.
As you’ve noticed in this tutorial, you can design and model almost anything you want very easily, using only the native tools. SketchUp can be very useful to introduce people to 3D printing because anyone can 3D model and print an object with the first use.
We’ve designed a very simple object here, but in the making of it we’ve covered all the basic aspects of how this software works. We hope this tutorial inspires 3D printing enthusiasts to keep practicing and learning SketchUp until they become able to design and print more complex objects.
Feature image source: SketchUptraining
License: The text of "SketchUp Tutorial for 3D Printing: A Guide for Beginners" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.