Start 3D Printing with Google SketchUp

by Matthew Wellington on January 13, 2013

Google SketchUpWith the fast growing popularity of 3D Prototyping, a lot of three dimensional modeling tools and software have been developed in recent years. 3D modeling software plays a crucial role in creating 3D prototypes, as it is only with the use of the right 3D modeling tool that someone can design a perfect prototype.

Over the years, one of the many challenges faced by the general technology of 3D prototyping has been the inability of many people to comfortably create 3D models that can be turned into actual objects through 3D printing. However, since 3D modeling tools came into the picture, even people without extensive product design skill can still create intricate three-dimensional prototypes. By eliminating the ‘lack of skill’ barrier, 3D modeling tools have made it possible for virtually anyone to create 3D models.

Google SketchUp is currently the most popular tool for 3D modeling being used by millions of users across the world. This software allows you to use your artistic intuition to create any three dimensional model you have in mind. SketchUp imposes absolutely no limits on users when it comes to 3D modeling. Common prototypes that can be created with this modeling tool include models of houses, buildings, cars and even furniture. There are a whole lot of other paper crafts that you can fabricate using the Google SketchUp tool.

Google SketchUp was initially owned by the search engine giant, Google, but the application was acquired by Trimble in April, 2012. According to Google, this was necessary so that Trimble could develop the software further and increase its efficiency in fabricating 3D prototypes.

Advantages of Google SketchUp over Other Modeling Software

Regardless of the fact that there are many 3D modeling tools and software on the market, Google SketchUp is second to none. The following are the main reasons that have contributed towards the rising prominence of SketchUp:

  • Ease of Use – it is extremely easy to learn and use Google SketchUp. The software is simple and beginner friendly, thus anyone can manage to create 3D models after just a few hours of practicing. The process gets even simpler when you get used to the software.
  • Accessibility – Google SketchUp is widely available online. Anybody who wants to use it can quickly download it over the internet for free, although there is a ‘Pro’ version for those looking for more functionality. This means you don’t have to shell out a penny to obtain and get to use Google SketchUp.
  • Fast and Efficient – Google SketchUp has very simple tools. As a result you can create the 3D prototype you want in a matter of minutes, depending on its complexity and size. In addition, it has excellent drawing effects that give you an exact image of the model you had visualized.
  • Layout Feature – most architects, designers and engineers normally use the Pro version of Google SketchUp, such as the recent ‘Pro Version 8’; to come up with professional presentations of their respective 3D prototypes. Through the layout feature in Google SketchUp, such people are able to print several layouts of the same model, to give them a more realistic view of the prototype. This way, identifying any flaws in the prototype becomes easy and you can quickly come up with a final prototype that’s flawless.
  • Software Compatibility – the brilliant bit about Google SketchUp is that it supports many other formats, making it compatible with other 3D modeling tools. Because of its compatibility with other software, you can import a model that you had start using other software to Google SketchUp and finish perfecting your prototype using SketchUp tools. As if that is not enough, most Computer Aided Design (CAD) programs freely accept files exported from SketchUp.

Google SketchUp vs Google SketchUp Pro

Many people who want to use Google SketchUp often are faced with the dilemma of whether or not to use Google SketchUp (free) or Google SketchUp Pro. Just for the record, both of them have incredible abilities in designing 3D prototypes.

The main difference between Google SketchUp and Google SketchUp Pro is the fact that the free version is mainly designed for home use but the Pro version has exceptional functionality for professional use.

For instance, Google SketchUp Pro has the layout feature that is not present in the ‘ordinary’ Google SketchUp version. Other additional features that you may find in SketchUp Pro include the Style Builder, which helps the designer to create his own unique SketchUp styles, and the ability to format reports. With the Pro version you can also print images of any size without being limited by your screen’s resolution. It is this feature that enables designers to use Google SketchUp Pro even on their Smartphones without any problems.

How to Obtain Google SketchUp

Most versions of Google SketchUp can be easily downloaded online and you’ll be good to go. Nonetheless keep in mind that if you are downloading a free version, you may only be able to use it for a given trial period. There are only a few differences between the free version and Google SketchUp Pro, so if you don’t have any professional interests with the software, Google SketchUp (free version) will work just fine for you.

You can also download tutorials online to quickly guide you on how to get started. On the SketchUp Website, you can find Video and Self-Paced Tutorials, as well as the option to sign up for an Online Session. However, the best way to learn any new software package is to immerse yourself into it.

Remember, SketchUp can be used by anyone and everyone. Many schools are now even starting to use it for class work and in teaching lessons. Teachers in different schools across the country are finding SketchUp to be very helpful to their students in increasing their understanding of subjects like geography, mathematics (in geometry) and industrial technology.

So whatever 3D model you want to create, SketchUp will do just about everything for you. If you want to learn more about SketchUp then check out this great book by Marcus Ritland called 3D Printing with SketchUp. It has excellent reviews!


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