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Prepare SketchUp Files for 3D Printing

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SketchUp (formerly Google SketchUp) is a free 3D drawing program that can be used to easily create printable models. However, there are often issues that need to be addressed before the models can be printed. Some of the most common issues are discussed below.

Basic Requirements for 3D Printing:
  • Water-tight Model
  • No Paper-Thin Surfaces
  • Minimum Wall Thicknesses and Feature Sizes
  • Outward-Facing Surfaces

Water-tight Models

Each model needs to be completely enclosed, as if it could hold water in the interior space without spilling out. That means that all nearby lines and vertices need to come to a common point, rather than being "close enough." See the example below:
Non-watertight SketchUp Model
To fix this model, you could either move the stray vertex to the main vertex, or you could fill in the gaps with new faces by drawing lines.

No Paper-Thin Surfaces

A common problem, especially with artistic models, is having paper-thin features. These features will not be printed because there is not a measurable amount of material there. See the example below:
Paper-thin SketchUp Surface
To fix this model, you could extrude the surface to give it a thickness, or simply delete it.

Minimum Thicknesses

All 3D printing systems have minimum requirements for wall thicknesses and feature sizes. These ensure that the model will print correctly and not break immediately. For PolyJet printers, the minimum is about 0.6 mm or 0.024 inches. See the example below:
Too thin SketchUp Surface
To fix this model, you could extrude the surface a little bit more, or simply delete it.

Outward-Facing Surfaces

Another common problem is having surfaces facing the wrong direction. Printing software needs to know which side of each surface to print on. See the example below:
SketchUp Reversed Face
To fix this model, right-click on the bad face and select Reverse Faces.

To identify reversed faces, open the Styles window, click the Edit tab, then the Face Settings box and change the Back Color to a bright color such as green.

Convert to STL Format

Most 3D printers require models to be in the STL file format. There are multiple ways to convert your SketchUp file to an STL file. One of the best free converters to use is the SketchUp to DXF or STL Plugin.

To use it, deselect your model. Then click Tools...Export to DXF or CAD...Export Unit = Inches...Export To = STL. Your file is now ready for error checking.

Check for STL Errors

It is important to check your SketchUp STL files for geometry errors, as they are very common and will cause problems such as delays or nasty features on your printed models. Please view our tutorial: How to Fix STL Errors.

Request a Quote for your SketchUp file now!



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