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Type of software: 3d Design

Price: Free version and $495 Pro version (review is of free version)

Description: Sketchup is an incredibly easy to use 3d drawing and design program that was recently bought by Google. Although their primary interest in it was as an architectural modeler for Google Earth, it has one of the easiest-to-use interfaces of any 3d program around. The free version has a very limited number of Export options which limits it's use for CNC files (the paid version outputs dxf files among others), but Sketchup is great for doing design work and conceptual drawings, to help you refine an idea or make a presentation to a customer.

One of the biggest pluses for Sketchup is that it's programmable using a language called Ruby, which lets anyone extend Sketchup's functionality. Ruby scripts can do things like create new output filters...there's a script that lets you save output files from the free version as stl files..and also scripts that create parametric (customizable) cabinets and all sorts of other things. There's a very active community of script writers that make their scripts available on the web. A good example of this is Rob Bell's Zomadicam.

Another neat feature is an area they call the 3d Warehouse, where you can upload and download Sketchup models. And they have a free viewer that your customers can download to view your models.

Pros: Easy to use, lots of learning resources, the price, expandability with Ruby

Cons: Limited output choices in free version - see below

Third party add-on adds more export options for CAM users

Convert Sketchup SKP files to DXF or STL

Operating system: Windows and Macintosh Program type: Sketchup script License: Freeware

This is a plugin script for Google's free 3D design program Sketchup. The free version of Sketchup has limited file export options. Most CAM programs will not recognise the native Sketchup (SKP) file format. This plugin allows you to export your Sketchup model as a DXF or STL triangular mesh or as DXF lines, which should be readable by most CAM software. The DXF polyface mesh works really well with Cut3d.

There are five export options:

  • DXF polyface mesh (recommended). This will give the most faithful reproduction of your original Sketchup model.
  • DXF polylines: exports the outlines of each face as a polyline, sometimes useful for CAM toolpaths.
  • DXF triangular mesh: breaks all the faces up into triangles
  • DXF lines. This option exports the edges in your model as lines.
  • STL triangles. The stereolithography triangular mesh format, useful for some CAM programs.


Zomadicam (video podcasts) (Ruby scripts) Official Sketchup blog

SketchUp Wiki The SketchUp Wiki - the Companion to SketchUp

Convert Sketchup SKP files to DXF or STL output plugin for SketchUp (free)

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