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Sketchup & UP! Collection of optimization plugins and advice

Posted: Fri Feb 18, 2011 6:53 pm
by Marcus
Hello everybody,
I know some dislike sketchup for the more or less obvious reasons, but it is a great tool to quickly turn an idea into a 3D model.

Unfortunaly, it is not made for 3d printing, and some things end up in mayhem when printing.
While the "print unsolid model" checkbox in the pp3dp UP printer dialog will fix many little issues, some sloppy models can not be printed at all.

As I am not an expert on sketchup, I would apreceate if other's would contribute to this thread with their observations, advice and links to plugins that make the process from design to printing a bit easier.


While meshlab and netfabb have great tools to fix problems, it sometimes is much easier to create a tidy model right away, especially if changing something it would mean that the fixing process would have to be repeated once again.

Problems with triangulation from the export plugin
The STL export plugin creates some odd triangled models once in a while. Especially many thin and small triangles will cause problems when printing, often producing holes or gaps on tiny models (1mm bars for example).

With triangulate faces you can do the triangulation in sketchup to preview where problems can occur and draw some "guide" lines that will result in triangulation that makes more sense:
Image

Exporting and importing STL (instead of using meshlab/netfabb)
Probably everybody knows these :-)

Orienting inverted faces
While there is a function built in to sketchup, it fails when trying to orient complex models.
Two tools are very usefull.
Automatic face reverser
and FrontFace which works like a brush that orients visible faces correctly.
Easy to use, and better then selecting dozens of tiny faces :-)

Holes / Manifold
While not for ubber complex objects with tons of errors, manifold.rb is great for debugging and fixing problematic shapes.
This saves time finding those anoying little holes or doing a quick and dirty fix such as shoving a box into a unsolid area ;-)

//Added
http://forums.sketchucation.com/viewtop ... 23&t=33471 (fixsolids) - looks great!

Others:
CleanUp can be usefull too, but not for fixing but rather creating tidy faces from the start.

Also, the "outer Shell" function in Sketchup 8 can be very usefull. It will have problems when combining a great number of complex shapes, but especially when sending files to others, getting larger stuff printed externally etc. it is a good way to make a clean model without intersecting objects.

Re: Sketchup & UP! Collection of optimization plugins and ad

Posted: Sun Feb 20, 2011 4:26 am
by Twurf
This is a great collection of tools! Thanks!

So far I used Netfabb to fix my Sketchup creations...
I will now look into your other recommendations. :D

Re: Sketchup & UP! Collection of optimization plugins and ad

Posted: Sun Feb 20, 2011 10:23 am
by Marcus
Great, let me know if anything is usefull to you
Or if you find some more stuff, post it ;-)

I also found http://forums.sketchucation.com/viewtop ... 23&t=33471 (fixsolids) which seems a great adition to the collection.
The face reversion tools work great so far. Just on very complex things they fail as well, but with some manual labor the stuff can be fixed to print it with the pp3dp UP anyway :-)

Re: Sketchup & UP! Collection of optimization plugins and ad

Posted: Sat Mar 19, 2011 8:41 am
by Marcus
Just a side note for people new to 3D + Sketchup + 3D printing:

Fixing inverted faces of exported STLs in Sketchup itself

When exporting a object with multiple groups, it will usualy print just fine. While fixing it with meshlab or netfabb is a good idea at times (for example to send it to shapeways or other 3d printing services) the "print unsolid model" option in the pp3dp software fixes most issues.

After using the free STL export plugins, a lot of faces will get inverted (red faces in the UP software, blue in Sketchup). Trying to fix a model with Netfabb can be real time consuming at times if not all inverted areas can be fixed with "select negative shells" and such options.
I find it much easier to import the STL into sketchup again. Double click the inverted areas (blue), and sketchup will highlight the entire group (even though everything seems to be one intersected model) - and with rightclick/reverse-faces it's usualy fixed faster then with other tools...
Just keep in mind to either scale it by 0.03937 before re-exporting it to STL or use the (mm->Inch) scaling in the UP software.

Re: Sketchup & UP! Collection of optimization plugins and ad

Posted: Sat Dec 24, 2011 9:51 am
by Marcus
I forgot to post this here.
The reason why some parts of the stl export are inverted (red in UP) is that the sketchup stl plugin will export mirrored groups inside-out, even if they are correctly orientated in sketchup. Everytime you mirror or scale a part negativly, break appart the group and group again. Same if you allready exported, just locate that group and do it... Just make sure no other ungrouped areas are touching it so they don`t "fuse".

Re: Sketchup & UP! Collection of optimization plugins and ad

Posted: Sat Apr 14, 2012 6:13 pm
by macnacfeegle
Right chaps,

I've spent all day playing with Sketchup 8. Some operations it makes very easy, others it makes a right difficult pain in the dark and private place.

Also, it seems that unless the model is very simple then it is almost impossible to print. Trying to get a decent stl file out of SU with intersecting parts is easier than trying to pry open the wallet of a Yorkshire man.

So, are there any tricks, gotchas or modes of operation with SU that users can suggest?

Also, as I am said tight fisted Yorkshire man, any suggestions for stl plugins for the freebie version of SU would be most appreciated. I am using one from SourceForge and something called DSXSTL or summat like that.

Finally, any point in getting the Pro version of SU?

Currently I am attempting to install Autodesk 123D to give it a whirl.

Many thanks,
Angus

Re: Sketchup & UP! Collection of optimization plugins and ad

Posted: Sat Apr 14, 2012 6:22 pm
by pleppik
The free Netfabb cloud service will fix most problems with the STL files generated in Sketchup.

http://cloud.netfabb.com/

Re: Sketchup & UP! Collection of optimization plugins and ad

Posted: Sat Apr 14, 2012 9:12 pm
by Marcus
Never needed it :-)

Re: Sketchup & UP! Collection of optimization plugins and ad

Posted: Mon Apr 16, 2012 2:15 am
by wilsonj
Whilst not directly helpful for sketchup, have you tried autodesk 123D ? Its free, and beta and is far from perfect, but it allows me to make much nicer models that I wouldn't have a hope in hell of making in sketchup. Yes there is a learning curve, like with anything, but it could be worth a look.

Re: Sketchup & UP! Collection of optimization plugins and ad

Posted: Mon Apr 16, 2012 7:50 am
by macnacfeegle
Thanks for the replices, lads. Would have responded earlier, but I trashed my PC when I installed an extra USB card. Spent all day nursing the stupid system back to health; still some issues outstanding - like the Brother laser printer staying offline, and the HUE HD webcam not being recognised - my young daughter will not be happy by that!

Anyway, back to the subject in hand. Tonight, I will try and post some examples of the problems I have been having. Should be able to do this now that the stupid USB post (finally) recognises my camera and actually downloads photos.

Marcus - details, man, details. Are you using the freebie or the pro version. Do you work in a particular manner with Sketchup or do you use some of the 'fix-it' services mentioned elsewhere in this post.

Pleppik - will give this a whirl, though I have read (maybe in this forum) that fixing the problems can take longer than starting from scratch.

wilsonj - downloaded the Autodesk123D beast on Saturday and installed the humungous monster - complete with .NET and all. Will give it a go, once I repaired all my USB woes. Bit concerned at having my models on a remote server into which I have to login. I may be misinterpreting the whole set up but....well until I try it.

Many thanks,
Angus

Re: Sketchup & UP! Collection of optimization plugins and ad

Posted: Mon Apr 16, 2012 10:08 am
by Marcus
Good luck with your computer, nothing that should not be fixable :-)
Darn machines take up so much time sometimes...

True, for more complex things Sketchup is not my first choice either. But it does the job nicely for most projects, especially non-organic shapes.

If you keep basic rules in mind, there is no need to fix Sketchup created files. And for all other things, the "print unsolid" option in the PP3DP UP software will take care of little quirks. You don't even have to create a unified model / outer shell, it will print just fine with that checkbox.
The only times I used the above plugins or fixed it with meshlab/netfabb was when I used plugins that created complex organic shapes with a lot of holes, inside-out areas.

Re: Sketchup & UP! Collection of optimization plugins and ad

Posted: Mon Apr 16, 2012 8:34 pm
by wilsonj
Hi Angus,

sorry to hear of your computer woes.

I have been using 123D for the last couple releases, and its on the beta 9 version that forces you to log on. Apparently you don't have to upload your models to the web, but you do have to log on to save in formats other than the native one. eg STL. There has been a few complaints about this "feature".

I happen to still have beta 8, which doesn't force you to do this. Not sure if its available anywhere on the net or not. I'd send it to you if it wasn't so darn big. Oh and its also pretty taxing on the PC.

Good luck

Cheers
Jamie

Re: Sketchup & UP! Collection of optimization plugins and ad

Posted: Mon Apr 16, 2012 10:33 pm
by Marcus
(forgot to add: I am using the free version of Sketchup)