No announcement yet.


  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Sketchup

    Before I download Google Sketchup and sink a bunch of time in it, does Sketchup have any practical purpose?

    As in, will it make drawings of basic parts and dimension them for a Cam program... Curious, I see a few people using it. I guess im curious to see what everyone else is using it for
    Last edited by daveo; 01-20-2012, 05:01 PM.
    Feel free to put me on ignore....

  • #2
    I have been using Sketchup for a couple of months now and really like it. I use it for designing stuff I'm making, and then for printing out dimensioned drawings. I don't know if the free version will interface with CAM packages, but there are some others here who may know. One thing I will say, though, is that if you have previous experience with CAD packages, Sketchup is not at all intuitive. Once I got used to it, though, I was ecstatic about what all it could do with respect to its price (free). I bought a PDF book titled "Sketchup Guide for Woodworkers" from Taunton Press that saved me untold hours of frustration.


    • #3
      I use it all the time to produce method statements and sequence-of-work documents in demolition. For that, it's brilliant.
      Peter - novice home machinist, modern motorcycle enthusiast.

      Denford Viceroy 280 Synchro (11 x 24)
      Herbert 0V adapted to R8 by 'Sir John'.
      Monarch 10EE 1942


      • #4
        The spider that I used in my fan assembly I posted a couple of days ago was drawn in Sketchup, exported to DXF, imported to CamBam and cut from aluminum on my CNC mill. Design time was a few minutes. I could have designed it in CamBam but Sketchup was faster and easier.

        I'll be posting a rather much more complex project either tonight or tomorrow which is entirely designed in Sketchup complete to the last screw. You will be able to download the model from the 3D Warehouse. I routinely do all my designing in Sketchup and always work to .0001 tolerance in the drawings even though that may not be the build tolerance.

        Sketchup is far more powerful than it appears at first glance. It is a matter of learning how to use it for precision designing. It is well equipped for it although it doesn't look like it at first. It will work to 0.000001". Good enough for most jobs.
        Free software for calculating bolt circles and similar: Click Here


        • #5
          For Evan

          Evan, Can you give some pointers on where to learn more about using Sketchup as a precision design tool? Thanks. J


          • #6
            A general but very important concept is to stop trying to draw things accurately with the mouse. Whatever the particular command being used the mouse it used to create the initial direction, extrude, rotate, scale, or whatever but the actual value for the distance, angle etc you input via the keyboard. That is the same as other 3D cad programs but Sketchup is so easy to draw with that it seems to make it unnecessary. It is still necessary.

            Go here for the official documentation.


            For the best help resources join the SketchUcation forum and when you have a question ask there. There are a lot of helpful people there. I even drop in sometimes in the Sketchy Physics forum.


            A little hint on using Sketchup is to pay very close attention to the tiny icon that appears beside the mouse pointer when drawing. What it indicates is very important as it is telling you where the inference engine is placing the vertex or endpoint and to what it may be connected.

            Every command in Sketchup also has keyboard modifier keys that make the drawing engine behave in special ways. Learn how to use those keys and life will instantly become much easier.

            The Quick Reference Card at the support link above has all those special keyboard modifiers listed.
            Free software for calculating bolt circles and similar: Click Here


            • #7
              I completely forgot to mention what is probably the single most useful plugin for Sketchup, especially for precision work. It is called Mover 2. It is a small utility that permits moving a group of entities or many groups with absolute precision in any direction. It also provides angular movements in any axis. It is absolutely invaluable for placing duplicate objects to rapidly construct arrays of entire groups such as rows of screwheads on both sides of an object. Simply select the items, Copy from the edit menu, move the already selected items to where ever and then on the edit menu select Paste in place. Instant duplicate entities in the correct places.

              You can download Mover-2 from here along with a raft of other excellent free plugins:


              It is also far more convenient than the hide function because the hide function is very limited. Select a group and use the mover to shift it out of the way in any direction. I use this constantly. Put the item back by selecting it and shifting the opposite direction. Note that the mover tool can only move groups and components.

              That brings up another important point. Group everything, absolutely everything. That way it protects geometry in that group. It will not be changed or interact with other geometry in another group. Nothing should be left ungrouped. It makes that geometry vulnerable to accidental changes. This will result in surfaces that look planar but really aren't. Use the show Hidden Geometry on the view menu to discover invisible vectors that indicate a plane isn't actually planar. Grouping makes it much more difficult to corrupt the model geometry. That is by far the most common problem people have working with Sketchup.

              The hide function is also very useful for reaching inside objects. You can hide anything at all including single faces, single lines, faces and line, entire groups or the entire project. When items are hidden they are still interacting with the rest of the model unless they are locked. When finished dinking around with something that was behind a face then go to the edit menu and select Unhide last.

              When you are messing around with hidden objects you must be in the same context to unhide them. If you had group 49 selected and open when you hid the front face you must have the same group open to unhide it. Or, you can select Hidden Geometry and all hidden objects will show up. Select what you want to unhide and on the edit menu select Unhide selected.

              Another item for precision work is the ruler tool. Use it to create Construction lines that you can snap things to. This is an absolute must for all facets of precision work. I make, use and erase C-lines constantly for nearly everything I draw. If you find that you cannot seem to erase the C-lines just pick Select none from the edit menu and then select Delete guides.

              Free software for calculating bolt circles and similar: Click Here


              • #8
                Evan, are you using the Pro version?


                • #9
                  No, the pro version doesn't have anything I need that I can't get with a plugin.
                  Free software for calculating bolt circles and similar: Click Here


                  • #10
                    Sketch Up is great for Evan. He likes to dig around and find the plug-ins that you need to get the job done. Not me. I like to open the program and design something. Not spend my time trying to "get" the program to do what I want it to do. I hate work arounds.

                    I use Alibre Design Expert. It is not cheap but not quite as expensive as SolidWorks.

                    Evan always writes that he doesn't like Alibre Design but he hasn't tried the latest version I believe. He has invested so much time and effort to learn to use Sketchup that he doesn't try other software. I don't blame him.
                    How to become a millionaire: Start out with 10 million and take up machining as a hobby!


                    • #11
                      +1 on Alibre. I've been using it for years, but still remember the joy I had at finding how easy it was to design 3D stuff. I looked at Sketchup once, and was quite unimpressed. Are you going to design machine stufff, or wooden toys...

                      I think you can get started with Alibre quite cheaply.


                      • #12
                        Are you going to design machine stufff, or wooden toys...
                        Heh. You be the judge.

                        This is for an upcoming project.
                        Free software for calculating bolt circles and similar: Click Here


                        • #13
                          I found SketchUp to be difficult to change the size of an object later in the design process. It is not truly parametric in that regard as far as I was able to ascertain. But it is free!

                          I don't know about the rest of you but my projects change alot. When I wanted to change the size of something it was not easy. Maybe things have changed in the last couple of years.
                          How to become a millionaire: Start out with 10 million and take up machining as a hobby!


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Black Forest
                            I found SketchUp to be difficult to change the size of an object later in the design process.
                            That was my primary beef with it too. Maybe I just didn't stick with it long enough to figure it out. I've had no trouble becoming proficient with Alibre (at home) and Solidworks (at work). The Sketchup paradigm just doesn't click with me which is a shame since I like the price.


                            • #15
                              You are right in that it is not truly parametric. That is a drawback sometimes. However, everything may be scaled anyway you wish. When you scale something so do the dimensions you have applied to the object. Once scaled you can apply the new scale as the default size instead of a scaled size.

                              Like all other CAD programs there is a lot to learn. I have tried many programs and Sketchup has more flexibility that any other I have tried. It is much easier to use than most if you take the time to learn the various "tricks". That applies to all software but with SketchUp the end of the learning curve is more rewarding than the others.

                              SketchUp has a large number of "hidden" functions that make drawing very fast and precise. They are "hidden" to avoid scaring off people that just want to do a little 3D sketching. In actual fact they aren't hidden at all. They are all sitting there ready to use, all you have to do is learn how to use them.

                              Speaking of hidden tricks, if you scale an object in all three dimensions at once to a value of minus 1 it produces a mirror image of the object.
                              Free software for calculating bolt circles and similar: Click Here