I haven’t fully committed yet to coding all of my engineering calculators within the SketchUp API, but I am heading that direction as I further contemplate my next Sketchup Plugin: Medeek Structural Plugin.
The largest obstacle is the ability to generate MS Excel files and PDF documents (reports). For this to really work I need a way to have my plugin’s calculations export their data into nicely formatted spreadsheets and/or PDF reports. I have no idea where to even start and don’t even know if this sort of thing is remotely possible with SketchUp, the API or Ruby, I’m assuming it is because I am sure other people have run into this same sort of thing as me.
Any assistance or direction in this regard would be greatly appreciated.
Ultimately, I am hoping to create a structural plugin that will allow an engineer to do all of the lateral and vertical calcs for a typical residential or light commercial wood structure. The reason for using SketchUp for this sort of thing is the ability to leverage SketchUp’s intuitive drawing interface to create all of the building primitives/elements and provide an easy to use method for viewing and inputting building geometry and other design criteria.
I’ve actually had the idea to create this type of program since about 3 years ago but the show stopper was always the graphical interface and 3D component of it. Not until I began tinkering with the API about a year ago and waded into a full blown plugin development (truss plugin) did I realize the potential available within SketchUp. SketchUp and its API solves the 3D interface hurdle magnificently and now I am hopefully on course to create the one piece of software that will be the apex of my engineering career and hopefully further automate and advance the field of residential structural engineering.