3D Printing with SketchUp: 10 Tricks | 3D Printing Blog | i.materialise (2022)

3D Printing with SketchUp: 10 Tips and Tricks

by Fabian | March 30, 2017

SketchUp is one of the most popular 3D modeling & design programs for 3D printing, as we found out from our analysis. However, preparing a SketchUp modelfor 3D printing can be a little tricky. That’s why we put together a list of 10 simple yet effective tips and tricks to make your SketchUp design3D printable.

1: Set your Template to Millimeters or Inches

Some simple clicks before getting started will make your life easier: you may want to set your SketchUp template to metric or imperial units. This way, you won’t need to re-scale the printing size of your model later.

You can change the template by clicking on Window > Preferences > Template and selecting ‘3D Printing – Millimeters’ or ‘3D Printing – Inches’.

3D Printing with SketchUp: 10 Tricks | 3D Printing Blog | i.materialise (1)

2: Install the SketchUp STL Extension

Typically you can save your 3D model as a SketchUp file (SKP). Even though our online 3D printing service accepts these files, you might want to get SketchUp’s free STL Extension. The STL file format is the most commonly used in the 3D printing community and will make it easier to share, print, and edit your design in other software.

With the SketchUp STL extension installed you can export your model as an STL file. Make sure to select the same unit type that you chose in your template (millimeters or inches) when exporting, and choose the binary file format to reduce the size of your file.

3D Printing with SketchUp: 10 Tricks | 3D Printing Blog | i.materialise (2)

3: Avoid Paper-Thin Surfaces & Set Wall Thicknesses

In order to make your SketchUp model printable, you need to ensure that each and every surface has a wall thickness. Without setting a wall thickness, a 3D printer has no information about how thick or how thin it is supposed to print your part.

The picture below shows a model with paper-thin surfaces (not printable, left) and a solid object with thick walls (printable, right). If you want to learn more about how thick your walls need to be exactly, make sure to read this blog post.

3D Printing with SketchUp: 10 Tricks | 3D Printing Blog | i.materialise (3)

(Video) Microsoft 3D Builder Tutorial: How to Create Models for 3D Printing

4: Make Your Model Watertight (Manifold)

A printable model must not feature any holes in its surface. Ask yourself the question: if I were to put water inside my model, would it flow out? If that’s the case you need to find these holes and close them. This is one of the trickiest parts of creating 3D printable models in SketchUp.

The design below is an example of a model that is not watertight. You can clearly see that there is one big hole on its surface.

3D Printing with SketchUp: 10 Tricks | 3D Printing Blog | i.materialise (4)

Once this hole is closed (for example by drawing new lines), SketchUp recognizes that the object is solid on the inside and ready for the printer! You can see such a watertight (also referred to as manifold) object below.

3D Printing with SketchUp: 10 Tricks | 3D Printing Blog | i.materialise (5)

5: Avoid Internal Overlapping

Intersections and walls within your design can make your life difficult since your model needs to have one continuous ‘outer shell’. That’s why it makes sense to think about your model in a 2-dimensional space first.

In the case below, the left shape will not be printable once it is pulled into a 3-dimensional object since it will feature paper-thin walls within the object. The shape on the right, however, won’t be a problem to print once it is pulled into a 3D object because it will only have one ‘shell’. It doesn’t feature paper-thin walls on the inside. We’ll look at an automatic way to create one outer shell later.

3D Printing with SketchUp: 10 Tricks | 3D Printing Blog | i.materialise (6)

6: Check if Your Model Is Solid

Creating watertight models with one continuous outside can be tough sometimes. Luckily SketchUp lets you check if you made any mistakes.

Here’s how it works:

(Video) what 3d printing software to use

  • Triple-click on your model with the select tool (this will select everything).
  • Right-click on your object and select ‘Make Group’.
  • Right-click on your object again and select ‘Entity Info’.

If you designed an object with holes (not watertight) and internal intersection (not in one shell) the Entity Info window will say ‘Group’. This means that your model is not printable and you’ll have to check it again. Right-click on it and select ‘Explode’ to re-edit the components.

3D Printing with SketchUp: 10 Tricks | 3D Printing Blog | i.materialise (7)

If you designed a watertight model in one shell, the Entity Info window will say ‘Solid Group’ and then you know that your model is ready to be 3D printed (in the next steps we’ll tell you how to fix this).

3D Printing with SketchUp: 10 Tricks | 3D Printing Blog | i.materialise (8)

7: Look inside Your Model with the ‘Hide Tool’ and ‘X-Ray-Mode’

Looking at your model from the outside means that the inside is a ‘black box’ for you. However, even the inside of your model could feature many modeling mistakes that would make your object unprintable. In the example below, the ‘Entity Info’ window indicates that the object is not solid.

3D Printing with SketchUp: 10 Tricks | 3D Printing Blog | i.materialise (9)

Since it looks solid from the outside, it makes sense to take a look at what’s going on inside. Select a surface (face) you want to hide and select ‘Edit’ >‘Hide’. And voila: you can find the trouble-making mistake. Alternatively, you can switch into x-ray-mode by clicking on ‘View’ >‘Face Style’ >‘X-ray’.

3D Printing with SketchUp: 10 Tricks | 3D Printing Blog | i.materialise (10)

8: Create an ‘Outer Shell’

We already pointed out that designs with overlapping objects create problems for 3D printers. The good news: there’s an automated solution for creating one ‘outer shell’ around the overlapping objects, deleting all internal overlapping parts.

To start with, we have these two solid blocks. Each of these blocks was ‘grouped’ separately (Select >Right click >Make Group). We also selected the x-ray view to make things easier.

(Video) How To 3D Print A Stamp 💡 Learn how to design & print in 3D! #stem

3D Printing with SketchUp: 10 Tricks | 3D Printing Blog | i.materialise (11)

We then move one block into the other. We now have overlapping areas in the interior of this object.

3D Printing with SketchUp: 10 Tricks | 3D Printing Blog | i.materialise (12)

To get rid of these, we select one block, click on ‘Tools’ and choose ‘Outer Shell’.

3D Printing with SketchUp: 10 Tricks | 3D Printing Blog | i.materialise (13)

The last thing to do is to click on the second block. SketchUp automatically created one solid group out of these blocks. As you can see, the internal overlapping parts are gone. The result is a new solid object that is ready to be 3D printed!

3D Printing with SketchUp: 10 Tricks | 3D Printing Blog | i.materialise (14)

9: Fix Reversed Faces (Inverted Normals)

Another problem that can occur is so-called inward-facing or reversed faces. This means that a surface of your model is facing in the wrong direction (typically this means that it is facing the inside of the object instead of the outside). These surfaces are automatically colored in light blue.

To fix this, right-click on the inward-facing surface (face) and select ‘Reverse Faces’. You can see an example of this in the image below (left). On the right, you can see the object how it is supposed to be: all faces point to the outside again.

3D Printing with SketchUp: 10 Tricks | 3D Printing Blog | i.materialise (15)

(Video) 3D Printing: How to Get Your Printer to Pay for Itself

10: Increase Circle/Arc Segments to Getting Smooth Curves

SketchUp ‘smoothens’ arcs and circles in its visual presentation. Even though circles might look perfectly spherical in SketchUp, they are actually only made of 24 sides. Click on ‘View’ >‘Hidden Geometry’ to see theses sides. When being printed, this circle might come out quite edged.

When you select the arc or curve tool, SketchUp will show you their default sides in the bottom right corner. You can then enter a higher number to increase the number of sides. Validate your entry by hitting the ‘Enter’ key and then draw your arc or circle.

The image below shows a comparison between the default 24 sides (left) and 150 sides (right).

3D Printing with SketchUp: 10 Tricks | 3D Printing Blog | i.materialise (16)

Extra: Automatic File Fixing and Preparation

Sometimes problems are tiny and hard to see with the naked eye. There are SketchUp extensions like the Solid Inspector2 that find problems automatically and point them out to you. Simply select a group or component and activate the Solid Inspector tool for an analysis of what would prevent it from being a solid manifold.

Another handy extension is CleanUp 3. It allows you to cleans up and optimize your SketchUp model with handy tools like “Erase hidden geometry” and “Erase duplicate faces”.

Also, SketchUp added a cool feature to their 3D Warehouse that was developed by Materialise. When uploading a model to the 3D Warehouse, you can check the “I want this to be 3D printable” button (see video below) to get modeling errors fixed instantly. This tool will make your 3D model watertight and allow you to download it as an STL file. While it might lead to somewhat less accurate results, it’s a very fast way to get a printable file. So if you’re searching for an easy-to-use tool that will save you a lot of time and effort (no more searching for file issues, no more exhausting fixing sessions), this is the tool for you.

Extra 2: Getting Your High-Quality 3D Print

Did you manage to follow our tips and tricks and create a printable SketchUp file? In order to send it to our printers, download the SketchUp 3D print service plugin. Alternatively, you can upload your models here and choose from hundreds of material options.

3D Printing with SketchUp: 10 Tricks | 3D Printing Blog | i.materialise (17)

(Video) Free 3D Printed Snowflake Ornaments + SketchUp Tutorial

Get high-quality 3D prints like these with i.materialise’s online 3D printing service.

FAQs

Is SketchUp good for 3D printing? ›

SketchUp is one of the most popular 3D modeling & design programs for 3D printing, as we found out from our analysis. However, preparing a SketchUp model for 3D printing can be a little tricky. That's why we put together a list of 10 simple yet effective tips and tricks to make your SketchUp design 3D printable.

How do I print a 3D model in SketchUp? ›

So I need to export this as an STL file. And if you don't already have it there's an extension on

What is the strongest way to 3D print? ›

Printing with 100% infill will always achieve the highest absolute strength but getting the highest specific strength, which is a strength-to-weight ratio, requires reducing infill and using more perimeters.

Can you create a 3D model in SketchUp to be printed on a 3D printer? ›

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.

Which software is used for 3D printers the most? ›

Slic3r. This open-source software includes real-time incremental slicing, 3D preview, and more. It is one of the most widely used 3D printing software tools.

Can SketchUp save as STL? ›

SketchUp can export three-dimensional models in the STL file format. Yes, SketchUp can export STL files. To export an STL file from SketchUp, go to File > Export > 3D Model. Select STL from the Format dropdown and click Export.

Can you print from SketchUp? ›

To print your model in Microsoft Windows, you can select File > Print, click OK, and your model prints using the existing settings.

How do I convert SketchUp to 3D printer? ›

To do this, go to “file” and click on “export STL.” A small window will open with some export options. You can choose to select “export only current selection.” This is a good option if you have multiple models in your Sketchup file. Select the units and file format that will work with your 3D printer.

How do I connect my 3D printer to SketchUp? ›

Here's a quick overview of how to set up your SketchUp model for 3D printing: Orient your model so that the 3D printer has a base on which to build your model. Your 3D printer prints your model one layer at a time. If your model juts out at the top, the 3D printer has nothing to build upon.

What is the best fill pattern for 3D printing? ›

Triangular Infill: Triangular infill is the strongest infill pattern because triangles are the strongest shape. They are least likely to deform and provide the best support structure behind the walls of the part.

What layer height is the strongest? ›

Best layer height for strength

Generally, a layer height of 0.1mm up to 0.15mm yields the strongest results and going below or above these values will drastically reduce a print's strength.

What is the strongest material for 3D printing? ›

Polycarbonate. One of the strongest FDM 3D printing materials — in terms of both tensile[1] and impact strength — is polycarbonate (PC). In fact, polycarbonate filament would likely be one of the most popular printing materials were it not so difficult to print.

Which is better SketchUp or blender? ›

SketchUp is the clear winner when it comes to learning the software. As soon as you open it up, you can click on the pencil and start pushing/pulling things to get very intricate models. Blender is legitimately challenging to learn, especially when it comes to people who are familiar with other 3D modeling programs.

Can I print from SketchUp free? ›

can I do scale architectural drawings in SketchUp Free? You can export PNG images and print them. It is possible to scale an image in some image editors. If you are doing this for real architectural work you'll need SketchUp Pro.

Is Fusion 360 better than SketchUp? ›

Sketchup is suitable for creating basic modeling designs, and you can visualize or experiment on some woodworking models. This woodworking software is for starters or people who are inexperienced with modeling. Fusion 360 offers a more advanced approach in creating 3D designs for 3D printing. Plus, it's versatile.

Is blender good for 3D printing? ›

Blender is very good for 3D printing. Especially if you want to model characters, environment props, machines or anything else organic you can think of. It's an excellent software. As you learn more about it and get used to its tools and features it will become easier to create 3D printing ready models.

Do you need CAD for 3D printing? ›

CAD is an essential component of 3D printing. Without a CAD file, a 3D printer won't have the instructions it needs to build a prototype or product. The CAD file tells the 3D printer how much material it needs to deposit and where the material should be deposited.

What are the common file format used for 3D printing? ›

The most common and universal file formats for 3D printing are STL and VRML. STL stands for “stereolithography” – it is a 3D rendering that contains only a single color. This is typically the file format you would use with desktop 3D printers. VRML (“vermal”, .

How do I convert a SketchUp file to STL? ›

Export a Model From Sketchup
  1. Click 'File > Export > 3D Model'. ...
  2. Select the location where you want to 'save' the file.
  3. Specify a 'filename' and from the Save As drop-down list, select 'STL File (.stl)'
  4. Click the 'options' button, and in the STL Export Options, select the options for the 'export as detailed' below.
29 Jun 2021

How do I export from SketchUp to Cura? ›

To export the model as something that Cura can read you need to go file-> export->3d models… It is possible in Sketchup to download extensions using the extension warehouse that will allow you to export to a more standard format but for our purposes it is unnecessary.

How do you make a solid in SketchUp model? ›

How to Make Objects Solid in Sketchup - YouTube

How do you print without background in SketchUp? ›

Do this by navigating to File > Export > 2D graphic. Click on the “options” button in the lower right corner next to “export.” The “extended export image options” window will appear. Under the rendering options, make sure you have “transparent background” and “anti-alias” selected. Close the window.

How do you make an STL file? ›

Once you have optimized your part using the above steps, it is ready to export as an STL file.
  1. Download the 3D Print Exporter Plugin from ZBrush.
  2. Select the ZPlugin menu.
  3. Click 3D Print Exporter.
  4. Define and scale your dimensions.
  5. Select STL > STL Export.
  6. Save.

What are STL files used for? ›

STL is a file format commonly used for 3D printing and computer-aided design (CAD). The name STL is an acronym that stands for stereolithography — a popular 3D printing technology. You might also hear it referred to as Standard Triangle Language or Standard Tessellation Language.

How do you draw a 3D printer? ›

Draw with your 3D Printer! - YouTube

How do I edit 3D in SketchUp? ›

Select the SketchUp model entity, context-click the selection, and choose Edit 3D View from the menu that appears. Or, you can enter Edit 3D View by double-clicking, or selecting the model entity and pressing Enter.

How do I use SketchUp? ›

SketchUp - Tutorial for Beginners in 10 MINUTES! [ COMPLETE ]

Is it better to 3D print horizontal or vertical? ›

Well, it's a very small increase in filament used, but if you plan to print the same object numerous times, this can quickly add up. As a general rule, printing vertically reduces the total financial cost and increases the quality of any items that you print, however, it does take a longer time to create each one.

Is 100% infill the strongest? ›

In Short; The combination of a rectilinear pattern with a 100% infill shows the highest tensile strength with a value of 36.4 Mpa. This is only true, however, if the forces applied follow the same direction as the infill layers. For most prints, the overall strongest pattern is honeycomb with an infill of about 50%.

What is a good layer height for 3D printing? ›

When printing a part via FDM, layer heights typically range from 0.05mm to 0.4mm, with 0.2mm being the most common.

What filament has the best layer adhesion? ›

PETG has great layer adhesion and is a great choice for thin vase mode prints like this one.
  • PLA: Ideal For Small Details. PLA is the most versatile material when it comes to complex geometry. ...
  • ABS: Easiest To Post-Process. ...
  • PETG: Unrivaled Layer Adhesion.

How fast should you 3D print? ›

A good print speed for 3D printing ranges from 40mm/s to 100mm/s, with 60 mm/s being the recommended. The best printing speed for quality tends to be in the lower ranges, but at the cost of time. You can test print speed by printing a speed tower to see the effect of different speeds on quality.

What layer height should I use for PLA? ›

A good layer height for PLA or PETG is 0.2mm for a 0.4mm nozzle.

Can you 3D print in wood? ›

Wood as a 3D Printing Material

Moreover, using wood for 3D printing results in environmentally friendly 3D printed parts. Wood is firstly milled to a fine powder and then mixed with binders like sodium silicate, cement, cellulose, gypsum, plastics, and adhesives to make a filament.

Can you 3D print metal? ›

Titanium, steel, stainless steel, aluminium, copper, cobalt chrome, titanium, tungsten and nickel-based alloys are all available in powdered form for 3D printing, as are precious metals like gold, platinum, palladium and silver.

What is the most heat resistant 3D filament? ›

The most heat resistant 3D printing filament of all: PAHT CF15. PAHT CF15 (high-temperature polyamide carbon fiber reinforced) is a very strong and technically advanced material.

Is FreeCAD better than SketchUp? ›

Reviewers felt that FreeCAD meets the needs of their business better than SketchUp. When comparing quality of ongoing product support, reviewers felt that FreeCAD is the preferred option. For feature updates and roadmaps, our reviewers preferred the direction of FreeCAD over SketchUp.

Which is better rhino or SketchUp? ›

The decision of which 3D program is better for you depends on the nature of your project. From our research and first-hand experience, we would recommend Rhino for more industrial design projects and Sketchup for architecture. Rhino has an amazing variety of plugins allowing you to have the ultimate design freedom.

Which is better AutoCAD or SketchUp? ›

AutoCAD is mainly for 2D drawing, while SketchUp was always designed to be a high-quality 3D modeling program. Because of this, AutoCAD has a student version, but SketchUp does not.

Which version of SketchUp is best? ›

SketchUp Pro 2017 is the best version of SketchUp. It has powerful new tools for creating, editing, and showing off your models. With enhanced tools for 3D printing and architecture, SketchUp Pro is tailored to the way you work.

What is difference between SketchUp and SketchUp Pro? ›

SketchUp is the basic version, and SketchUp Pro is the professional version. SketchUp does not support the CAD function, while SketchUp Pro supports the CAD functions. SketchUp does not have fancy tools, and the SketchUp Pro has many fancy tools. The image quality is lower in SketchUp when compared to SketchUp Pro.

Is SketchUp free really free? ›

If you want a free desktop version of SketchUp, it's still a great option. Here's where to find it. First, head over to sketchup.com/download/all in a web browser such as Google Chrome on your Windows or Mac computer. Next, you will need to sign in to a Trimble account or create one for free.

Is Revit better than SketchUp? ›

Revit vs Sketchup: the differences

Overall, Revit is aimed at more complex projects of whole infrastructures. Sketchup would handle such a project too, but it's much better fitted for interior design thanks to 3D visualization tools.

Is SketchUp similar to SolidWorks? ›

SketchUp is a 3D computer aided design program that many professionals use. The type of engineers that use this program the most are mechanical, architectural, and civil. SketchUp is fairly similar to the CAD program SolidWorks; except I think that SolidWorks is easier to use.

Is Fusion 360 free? ›

How long is Fusion 360 free for hobbyists or for personal use? Fusion 360 for personal use is free for 3 years for qualifying non-commercial users. A hobbyist user must generate less than $1,000 USD in annual revenue, using Fusion 360 for home-based, non-commercial design, manufacturing, and fabrication projects.

Can you print from SketchUp? ›

To print your model in Microsoft Windows, you can select File > Print, click OK, and your model prints using the existing settings.

Is SketchUp good for Modelling? ›

SketchUp can be used in a variety of projects, from buildings to 3D printable product mockups. It is a great tool for 3D modeling projects across architectural and interior design. Since SketchUp uses straight-line segments to build forms it is not advised to use it on organic designs such as plants and animals.

What is SketchUp good for? ›

SketchUp is a program used for a wide range of 3D modeling projects like architectural, interior design, landscape architecture, and video game design, to name a few of its uses. The program includes drawing layout functionality, surface rendering, and supports third-party plugins from the Extension Warehouse.

What software is used for 3D design? ›

Best 3D Modeling Software
  • Autodesk Maya.
  • Autodesk Mudbox.
  • Houdini.
  • Cinema 4D.
  • Modo.
  • Autodesk 3Ds Max.
  • ZBrush.
  • Rhinoceros.
17 Mar 2022

How do I convert a SketchUp File to STL? ›

Export a Model From Sketchup
  1. Click 'File > Export > 3D Model'. ...
  2. Select the location where you want to 'save' the file.
  3. Specify a 'filename' and from the Save As drop-down list, select 'STL File (.stl)'
  4. Click the 'options' button, and in the STL Export Options, select the options for the 'export as detailed' below.
29 Jun 2021

How do I print from SketchUp for free? ›

How to PRINT from the Web Version of SketchUp! (Online Version Tutorial)

Do professionals use SketchUp? ›

Do other professionals use SketchUp? Definitely! As well as the architects, interior designers and industrial designers mentioned above, SketchUp is used by landscape designers, video game designers and many more. As 3D printing becomes more common, new uses for SketchUp are being discovered all the time.

What is the selling price of SketchUp Pro in the market? ›

SketchUp Pricing
NamePrice
SketchUp Free$0.001 Seats Per Year
SketchUp Shop Subscription$119.001 Seats Per Year
SketchUp Pro Subscription$299.001 Seats Per Year
SketchUp Studio Subscription$699.001 Seats Per Year
1 Sept 2021

Why SketchUp is used professionally? ›

This program makes 3D modeling, designing, and creating quick sketch ideas of what a project could be that they can be easily viewed as a digital file. You can have multiple projects and files saved to the program at once, and you can pull them up or store them away with ease.

Is AutoCAD better than SketchUp? ›

AutoCAD is comparatively better than SketchUp when it comes to rendering the details. Models in AutoCAD can effectively replicate shadows under various lighting conditions. Designs in SketchUp are not as detailed compared to AutoCAD, and one can tell looking at the design it is software work.

Which version of SketchUp is best? ›

SketchUp Pro 2017 is the best version of SketchUp. It has powerful new tools for creating, editing, and showing off your models. With enhanced tools for 3D printing and architecture, SketchUp Pro is tailored to the way you work.

What is the easiest 3D program to learn? ›

Top 6 easy software for beginners
  • Tinkercad is a product of Autodesk, leader of the most popular 3D modeling and CAD software. It's free software available online. It's very intuitive and shows you the basics of 3D by using primitive shapes. ...
  • Morphi.
  • 3D Slash.
  • SelfCAD.

Is SketchUp a CAD program? ›

Technically, SketchUp is a 3D design and modelling CAD program – but it can also be used for traditional computer aided design tasks. Indeed, many professional designers use SketchUp for CAD tasks.

Is Blender good for 3D printing? ›

Blender is very good for 3D printing. Especially if you want to model characters, environment props, machines or anything else organic you can think of. It's an excellent software. As you learn more about it and get used to its tools and features it will become easier to create 3D printing ready models.

Videos

1. 3D printed 10th scale car jack/ how to design printable model in SketchUp | Scale Addiction
(Scale Addiction)
2. Top 5 Ways to Join 3d Printed Parts!
(Modern Hobbyist)
3. Google SketchUp as your Design Factory
(i.materialise)
4. Discover the Unimaginable – 3D Printing with i.materialise
(i.materialise)
5. Making a 3D-Printable Key Fob with my Place Shapes SketchUp Extension
(Alexander Schreyer)
6. Facebook Live: 3D Printing (June 21, 2017)
(SketchUp)

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