Sketchup and 3d printing?

I really wanted to like sketchup.

I have been looking for a good alternative to the autodesk products. They are complete, but very expensive with antiquated controls, and often an overkill for my relatively simple 3d printing needs.

Eagerly I downloaded sketchup with the pro trial, to allow “solids”.

The interface was good. Nice intuitive panning and moving. To do precision work was a bit fiddly, but I got there eventually. The chamfering and fileting was also a bit fiddly, but could almost always be done with a bit of patience.
Groups and components didn’t work particularly intuitively or well. It seemed difficult to group solids, into a new solid, without making a union, which then made it impossible to go back and move a piece of the construction. I never really got the hang of them, but with more time I may have.

But the thing that was a show stopper was the solids. Putting two solids together, which were in any way a bit more complex (curves, chamfers, slopes, splines, arcs) and you would invariably have holes and hidden faces, which would then stop this new construction from being regarded as a solid.

The standard solution is to download a plugin which highlights these flaws, and laboriously go in and join the dots. There were often between 20 and 100 micro alterations to be done on any merged surfaces. To make it worse, if you then had to move the positions of one of the pieces, you would most likely have to do it all again. Of course I couldn’t move the pieces because I never understood how the components and groups worked with respect to solids, so I had to go to a previous saved version where they were separate solids, move these(save new version for later edits), unionise them again and spend ages joining the dots again.

I’m sure that 3d solid merging algorithms are not easy to get right, but if my CAD software can’t do it then it is not suited to 3d printing.

You don’t need PRO to have solids.

I wanted to comment the rest of your xxx, but I think it is better if I don’t. Or is there a question that I’m not able to see in that rest?

You’re modeling techniques are creating new geometry below SU’s 0.001” internal tolerance.
SketchUp has issues creating tiny new geometry.
However, you can scale existing geometry down to tiny size.

The solution is model big, and then scale it down.
Scale your model up by some easy to use factor such as x100 or x1000.
Scale the model back down when you’re finished.


When you don’t understand how something works in SU, ask. That’s why we’re here.

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I have had similar thoughts. SketchUp can not handle the precision required by 3D printing without work-arounds or plugins.


You’re right, it’s a great disgrace to use such complicated workarounds like work in meter instead of mm and scale before printing it in 3D.

Here come the SketchUp defenders.

Why did my comment offend you so much?

Maybe I’ve read to much comments like this today. Sorry for that.

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It’s an extra, unnecessary mental effort, and easy to forget. How many questions here have been asked and answered about scaling up and down? Too many. If it were not a problem, no one would be asking.

The advice given here is “model to actual size” - except when 3d printing.

In my opinion “there is a well known workaround” and “SketchUp is not good for 3D printing” are two different things. I’ve created many great and impressive 3D prints with SketchUp and I don’t want beginners to read this topic and stop using SketchUp for this task…

I would defend SketchUp only in the case of the old adage “pick two: fast, good, cheap”. Steve said he came from a product that was “very expensive with antiquated controls”, which I could interpret as not cheap, and debatable on whether that antiquated controls means not fast or not good. I’m presuming steve thinks output is better, so let’s go with not fast.

SketchUp is well known for being fast and cheap and not perfect. You’ve got your two. You want three. SketchUp isn’t perfect for everything, but it’s pretty darn easy and fast to get you started. And you have a workaround. On a Friday afternoon, that’s not a bad place to land.



Oh, I see, and yes it would be a shame if people were turned against SketchUp by the title of this post alone. Hopefully, few are so shallow.

The title should read, ‘Why Sketchup, or any other program, is not good for 3d printing when you don’t bother to learn how to use the software.’


Using ‘Components’ and ‘Outer Shell’ should address the majority of your concerns…
‘Components’ can give you your desired ‘history’…
‘Outer Shell’ eliminates internal faces, when merging…
And although not ideal, working at a scale to avoid ‘microns’ should cover the rest…

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Depending on the 3D printer, the original model size may not matter. There may be an option to scale at the printer level.

It also seems this discussion should be rolled back to delve into the model that sparked this conversation in order to look into modeling approaches/methods. You know, the basics,

■■■■ rest_of_the_worlders with their fancy metric system

I really like to help people to learn how to use Sketchup, but I’m afraid I’m becoming less enthusiastic with the rise of affordable 3d printing. Too many people wanting to use the software rather than Learn to use the software.
3d modelling was about producing models in a digital environment and developing the skills to produce them better, faster and more efficiently. Now it is becoming about whatever it is that gets spit out of the printer in the real world. It’s about the end result. How you get there is becoming just a nuisance that you have to get past.

Using sketchup properly is a skill well worth taking the time to learn.


The opportunity to do so may still be available to you, but it will require your becoming more conversant with the software than you may be at this time. This relatively easy program can accomplish results that are parallel to that which can be obtained with other widely used and expensive 3d programs. There are a number of operational procedures that are different from those programs so it behooves the user to adequately understand how to properly make use of the various tools found in the program as well as potential extensions.

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Yeah, it is a bit bemusing reading these venting posts instead of helping with the ‘how.’

I moved 2 posts to an existing topic: How to fill a hole left by a subtract, on a complex surface

In retrospect my post does seem a little trollie, but that was not how it was intended. Rather than be another potential user that just disappeared silently into the night, I thought I would give my feedback. I probably should have called the post “Why I haven’t chosen sketchup as my preferred 3d printing CAD package”
I probably put in about 20 hours to learn the package, learning-by-doing, and going to tutorials, and forums for help. It’s true that I seemed to ignore the posts that always seemed to say, scale up massively, then scale down at the end. Perhaps I couldn’t make myself believe that if it was that easy, the developers would have done that “internally” and saved us all the hassle. I will give it another go with that in mind. And I will take @geo advice and ask more often when II get stuck.