How to Create a 3D Object in SketchUp for 3D Printing

Start by opening Google SketchUp:

Make sure that the appropriate toolbars are open (Large Tool Set, Views, and Large Buttons):

Select the roof of the “house” in the upper toolbar to have an overhead view of the sketch pad:

Set the Camera to “Parallel Projection” (this will make it easier to draw your object because everything will tend to be created in the same plane):

Use the Rectangle icon to draw a rectangle:

Now select the Arc icon to draw a semicircle (make sure to place the semicircle on the “Face” of the object as shown below):

Go ahead and delete the portion of the object corresponding to the inside of the semicircle by selecting the Eraser tool:

Select the Circle icon to draw a hole in the object (you can center it on the X and Y axis by moving the mouse to the midpoints before clicking to start the circle):

Select the inside of the circle to highlight the desired hole in the part:

Press delete on your keyboard to create the hole:

Now it is time to dimension your part.  Select the Dimension tool and then select the endpoints to dimension (the Tape Measure tool is most useful for measuring distances to create new features, rather than to measure existing features):

As you can see, the object is much too large to be printed.  Let’s shrink the object uniformly by double clicking the part and then selecting the Scale tool:

Now pick a corner of the box and shrink the object to something preferably 3-4” wide:

Zoom in on the part by scrolling with your mouse so that you can more closely see everything:

Use the Tape Measure tool to mark the location for another component of the part (a green line indicates that the tape is aligned with the Y axis, a red line the X axis (blue for the Z axis)):

Select the Polygon tool and press “3” to create a 3-sided object (triangle):

Select the Line tool to connect the triangle to the remainder of the part (notice how connecting lines creates objects having a planar surface area indicated by the grey shading):

At this point, go ahead and use the Eraser to delete the lines in between the triangle and the part to create one solid surface (this is important for using the Push/Pull tool and for ensuring that the part will be “manifold”):

Use the Orbit tool to get a different view of the part showing its planar nature:

Create the Z dimension of the part by using the Push/Pull tool and extruding upwards:

Orbit the part around to make sure that there are no openings (making sure that the part is visually “watertight”):

Go back to your top “house” view and triple click the part (to get all three dimensions):

At this point you must use an STL exporter plugin (a great free version is located here:  Select tools, export to DXF or STL:

Select a unit (we use millimeters because the machine is built with more exacting metric components (critical for the Z axis)):

Press ok and then select STL:

Now save the file where you can have easy access to it.  Keep in mind that the gcode generated from the part will be saved by default in the same folder.


You have built your first model!

After saving the part, you have two options: verify the component is watertight or just go ahead and try to slice it.  If you get errors when slicing, use MeshLab or a similar program to find out if there are any errors in the part, correct them in SketchUp, and repeat the export process until its watertight (see our Wiki for a further explanation).

in Working With 3D Models