3D Printing using SketchUp: tutorial

I was inspired by the question above to make this post and outline the super basics of 3D Printing and the steps.

UPDATE: I want to note that we now have a Printables feature on 3DWarehouse! Printables is a feature that makes it easier for millions of 3D Warehouse users to create, share, and print STL files. It’s built directly into 3D Warehouse, so there’s no need to download any additional plugins. Simply upload your SketchUp model to the 3D Warehouse, make it public, checkmark it Printable. From there, 3D Warehouse will hand your model off to Materialise’s Cloud Services which will analyze your model and automatically fix some of the most common issues that are known to hamper 3D Printing workflows. They will then generate a watertight STL file and send it back to 3D Warehouse where it will be available for you to download.

Also, check out this Knowledge Center Article: Making a model 3D Printable.

SketchUp can be used for 3D Printing very easily. Now I am no expert so I hope others from the Community will post here but for a beginners sake I can outline some of the general steps. There are many 3D printers, but I will outline the process with the MakerBot 3D Printer.

  1. Design the thing to be printed in SketchUp. There are many “best practices” to keep in mind.
  2. Get the latest version of MakerBot Desktop software
  3. Export the SketchUp design. In order to export and import .stl files in SketchUp you will need to download the SketchUp STL Extension from Extension Warehouse And/Or search through designs on Thingiverse and export the .stl file from there. (You could also import those into SketchUp to edit/redesign)
  4. Import/open the .stl file into Makerbot Desktop on your computer.
  5. Make sure your file is centered and touching on the platform. Also check the dimension/sizing. There are many “best practices” to keep in mind here in making sure you will get a good print.

  6. When you are ready to print click the “Export Print File” button. It will then be saved as a .thing file. The 3D Printer reads the .thing file, not the .stl file.

  7. Depending on the type of printer you have, you can use a cord to hook up your computer to the 3D Printer, or some sort of external hard drive that hosts the .thing file.
  8. Print it!

There are many little details and things to know between each point above. The type of printer depends on many things as well. Hopefully this will give you a rough idea.



Thank you Alex. Your reply is fantastic and I will work through it. Should I require more assistance I know who to contact, very efficient, thanks.

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Jumping Johnnies on a haystack! Why do I have to reinvent the wheel all the time instead of RTFM! I wasn’t aware of this material, I’m the kind of guy who jumps into swimming pools without checking it there’s any water first :grin:

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I moved a post to a new topic: Sketchup & 3D Printing work

FYI a good article on mistakes to avoid when designing a 3D Model for printing.

A good mind set is a Su solid model is necessary for 3 d print but not sufficient. The commercial printers generally have criteria above what SU checks and of course same for your own printer.
Here is some info from Shapeway. Note they have a free cloud base service , will check your model and email back found problems.

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I am newb with SU.
I am trying to create a hollow cube for 3d printing. I would like to be able to change the thickness of the walls, without changing the external volume.
Can anybody help?
Thanks, Benedict

Your hollow cube is simply one cube placed inside of another. The space between the double walls is the wall thickness. Face fronts (the white side) on the outer cube should face out so the cube appears white. Face fronts on the inner cube should face in, so that if your point of view were inside the inner cube, it would also appear white. The back faces (light blue) should face in toward the space between the cubes. Both cubes should be grouped or componentized together, forming a single SU solid.

The following picture shows the nesting of the cubes and orientation of the faces, using a section plane to expose the interior:


Thank you Gully, for the prompt response. Your solution is very good, but I wasn’t clear enough in what I need. I need That the space between the cube be filled with the plastic from the 3D printer. I just need a cubic enclosure with a hollow core, to save material.
Thanks again,

Your question was clear enough, and my response described how you accomplish that with a SU model.

SU doesn’t really have true solids–it’s a surface modeler that does not create internal “solid masses.” But a model using the conventions I described, namely a group or component recognized as a “solid” by Entity Info with the faces oriented so that the face backs point toward the interior of the “solid mass” will be interpreted by a 3D printer as you describe, and the space between the walls will print as filled with solid material.


Thank you Gully,
Your explanation is good and clear. My next problem is positioning the two cubes one inside the other so that their centers coincide and thus ensuring uniform wall thickness. I would very much appreciate if you helped with this :slight_smile:


Aligning things along one, two, or all three axes is one of the basic applications of inferencing in SU. In this case, you wish to align the two cubes on center along all three axes.

The easiest way to do this is generally to align one axis at a time using the Move tool. This picture shows two cubes like you’ll be using, sized to result in the desired wall thickness and with their faces oriented properly, being aligned first along the Blue, then the Green, and finally the Red axis, using midpoint inferencing and axis locking with the Shift key.

You must master this and similar techniques to open up the power of SU. If this is all new to you, you need to spend some time studying and practicing inferencing. Track it down in the Knowledge Center and the YouTube SketchUp collection. Read, watch, practice, repeat.



I thank you A LOT, both for the advice and for the tutorial. It’s been very helpful

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Alternately you could draw the outer box, select it and copy. Uniformly scale it down to the desired inner box size, then Paste in place. A copy of the original outer box will now enclose the scaled inner box at dead centre. Going back to Dikisors original post though, 3D printing this will still require support material to be able to generate the ‘lid’, since that surface will now be hanging in mid space between the walls. If still wanting a hollow cube, you could create a sloping ledge from the inside walls towards the centre, so that by the time the lid gets printed, it has something to sit on. This would require checking the slicer and printer settings to check the overhang tolerance (some will auto generate support material of overhangs exceed certain limits)

@goodwingavin I can recommend you 3d-button plugin from 3d-button.com. You can check if your model is printable, analyse and repair your 3D file if necessary. You can also compare prices of the model in different materials. Really nice and useful tool.

I add the STL file to Slic3r and let it do the work of slicing it into layers and let Repeiter-Host print the item . . . . But then I use Linux ( Ubuntu 15.10 64 bit ) not windows to do things in . . I have a Geetech I3 Pro C Dual Extruder 3D printer . . Going to .4 mm nozzles as the .35 was a bit small and leaves spider web here and there
Lay out of sign to be on my work table

Can’t understand why you would ‘introduce’ yourself in the introduction thread with a half asked question with no specifics or anything really about yourself. Then start another thread asking about trying to align things but not really giving us anything to go on, and then finish off with an attempted tutorial.

We are happy to help.
Be specific.
Ask full questions.
Attach .skp files and images to help understand your issues.
If you speak another language, post a google translation **and ** your native language.

Did not know what you wanted in intro . . And this answer was for some one who had a problem with slicing of parts to print . .

And it took a while to find all the buttons to click to get stuff done . . But I also speak Japanese and Russian . .What do you speak ? Besides English ?

I have an issue of putting something up on 3D warehouse and making it public. What if the item I want checked and verified and converted is for market? It’s my item. I don’t want it available in the public domain as it would be for purchase by my customers. How can we correct this?