Good Examples for Components

I was watching Tyson’s live model of a Desk Lamp and thought his use of components was really instructive of their potential. Being able to add detail to the wood/metal bracket away from the component and then see all of those changes “just happen” to all the instances in the entire model was a pleasure to watch. I think my students would really benefit from seeing and having this experience.

I have two ideas to make this happen and I would appreciate some suggestions.

  1. I would like to be able to demonstrate the power of components to my students and would love some ideas where you have all seen this. Ideas that lend themselves to components. My first thought was for tires on a car, but I know there must be better ideas.

  2. I also want to use this feature as a build-off in class. Give the students a file with many instances of a single component and have each student make their own change to just the component.

It is obviously possible for your suggestion to work for both ideas, but I just wanted to make sure you were fully aware of their use.


I frequently leverage the power of components in my modeling work. Pulling a copy out to work on is one method I like. Another, when I don’t need the neighboring componets as a reference is to hide the rest of the model while editing the component.

There’s also a thing I do when modeling small objects that has become known as the Dave Method (I’m not real sure who started calling it that) which involves making a copy of the original component, scaling the copy up and editing that. Once finished with the editing I exit edit mode and delete the giant copy. This eliminates the issue of missing tiny faces. This little knob was modeled that way.

Another way I utilize that is in conjunction with Make Unique. For example, the coffee table started out as a copy of the tall table. I used Make Unique on the copy and then editing one of each of the components in the copy to change their size as needed to make the second one. I didn’t need to model any new parts for it.

Thinking about your car tire thing, it would be possible to drag out a copy of the tire, open it for editing and draw a whole new wheel inside the component which would result in the wheels on the car being replaced without needing to move the old ones out and move the new ones in.

Your build-off idea sounds kind of cool.

Another thing you might want to teach your students about components is the usefulness of positioning the component’s origin and axis orientation to make components easy to place and replace. The component’s origin is the insertion point when you bring the component in from a local collection or from the 3D Warehouse. And in the desktop versions of SketchUp, at least, it’s easy to replace components with new ones if they are set up with the same relative origin location.

How old are your students?

I’ve used components to make multiple views of the same object inside SketchUp (i.e. without using Layout). It’s kind of like a reference file; edit one copy and the other’s update. Here’s an example from a class with SketchUp for Schools when it first came out:


High School

That is a very cool animation!

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Yes! So this would be the idea. I give students a file with the cabinet and a very basic hardware component. They edit the component and see the changes on the cabinet. I am just not sure how excited they would be about this model.

The last idea I thought of was a Ferris Wheel with just a rectangular prism for the seats. Students would end the prism which would be a component and then see all the seats change. I’m not sure if thats the best idea though.

Thanks for the help!

No. I wouldn’t expect high school students to be very excited about changing knobs on a cabinet. The Ferris wheel idea seems like a good one. You could have them edit one of the seat things to see it change and then maybe have them make alternating seats unique and replace one set with a different seat component.

Some years ago I modeled a wooden roller chain and sprockets for a guy who was designing an automaton. Later he wanted to add buckets to lift M&Ms. Since my chain model was made of components it was a simple matter of modeling the bucket component and then replace every other link.

Dave, we are circling the perfect model for this activity. I really appreciate having this place to bounce ideas around.

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I think it’s cool that you want to teach your students these concepts about working in SketchUp. Generally it seems this is under-utilized by many users.

I would also try to remember setting “Glue to” to “Any” for these kind of components

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For my needs at least, gluing isn’t always a good thing. Can’t place a component with gluing properties at the intersection of guidelines for example.


Had an embarrassing moment with my dad trying to do that very thing but with a sheet metal screw. It’s pretty frustrating.

The gluing thing? For what I generally model omitting the gluing property works just fine and for things like screws, they are easily rotated once placed. And I usually only insert one and rotate it before copying to make the others.

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I had better have screws to spare, especially when working outside. And no one should be walking barefoot afterwards.


Yes, I’ve been through this frustration! I think what happens it this:

  • When a “gluing” component sees a surface to snap to, the blue axis of the component goes perpendicular to the surface (as intended by the feature).
  • When a “gluing” component sees a guide line, the blue axis goes up along with the model’s natural blue axis. An unfortunate side effect of mapping red-green to a gluing face, because a guide line is just a line and not a face to be perpendicular to.

The safest workflow with gluing components is to place them first safely on the intended face and to move them to the exact place on a guide or other reference feature afterwards