Sketchup is a great free program for making 3D objects like buildings, project cases and spare parts because it has a lot of built-in helpers to make smooth, mechanical shapes.
In this article we will show you how to make and print 3D models with Sketchup Make, the free version of Sketchup, and how to fix the scale of your models and export to useful formats like STL in our old friend Blender 3D for use on online 3D printing services or from printing on your own 3D printer.
Note: if you have not installed Sketchup Make, you can download and install the software here.
Sketchup Make Object
To make your 3D model, open Sketchup and use a useful template like the one for 3D printing. This helpfully superimposes a box the size of the working area of a Makerbot 3D printer. This is great if you have a Makerbot 3D printer and makes you produce models in a useful scale.
Make the model in Sketchup, and when you are finished pay close attention to the size so you can check it later.
To measure an edge, use the pencil tool, find the midpoint and stretch it out to the other edge midpoint, and note the measurement in the bottom right-hand corner.
Exporting 1 – Shapeways
To export the object, go to “File -> Export -> 3D Model,” and choose “Collada (DAE)” as the export format from the drop-down menu.
Set the output options by clicking the options button and checking “Export Edges,” “Triangulate all Faces,” and “Preserve Component Hierarchies.”
Save your file.
If you are uploading your file to an online service such as Shapeways this is all you need to do. It works perfectly right out of the box. Even if it doesn’t work quite the way you think it will, Shapeways enables you to rescale your file up to the exact size you need it to be.
Click the “Scale” button, and add the correct measurements.
That’s all fine and dandy if your only option is Shapeways. But what if you are not using Shapeways or use a service (or have a printer yourself) that only uses STL files? In order to make this work you need another strategy, and we’ve come up with a really good one.
Exporting 2 – Blender converting
To get a legit STL file directly out of Sketchup means you have to purchase the Pro version, which is a good way to go if you have the money, but what if this is a one-off? It can be done, but it’s tricky to find out how to do it so it works. Using this method you can convert the file and make a proper STL using Blender 3D.
Import the DAE file using “Import -> Collada (Default) (.dae).”
On the “Scene” properties tab on the right tooldrawer, choose “Metric” as your scene units.
Now Export the file as an STL using “Export -> STL.”
On the left-hand side at the bottom of the exporter you will see the exporter settings. Change the “Scale” to 1000. As the default seems to be one unit per blender unit, exporting it as is doesn’t work. You need to multiply it for the proper scale.
Now you may export your file as an STL file by naming it, choosing a location to save it and clicking OK.
When you print it to your own printer or upload this STL file to Shapeways or indeed any other online 3D printing service, your STL file will be the correct scale according to your original design in Sketchup.
That’s how you use Blender 3D to make STL files from your Sketchup models for 3D printing. It’s a simple technique, but a powerful one, if you plan on designing a lot of models in Sketchup for printing.
If you enjoyed this article and have any questions about Sketchup, Blender or 3D printing, please let us know in the comments below.