You have an idea for a thing, a physical product. I want to help enable you to take advantage of the power of 3D printing to make your thing. The bridge from your ideas to reality lies in 3D modeling software that describes your model in a way 3D printers can understand. Whether you want me to design the product for you, or want me to train you in Sketchup, I’m happy to help. Contact me today for a free quote!
I’m Marcus Ritland. A few years ago I was searching for a new way to make a living, preferably while working for myself. With a background in construction, AutoCAD and Construction Management, I thought I could draw blueprints or something, but didn’t have a clear idea of what I wanted to do. Since AutoCAD was prohibitively expensive, I went searching for a lower cost software option.
Enter Sketchup, 3D modeling software made freely available by Google. Sketchup was originally developed in 2000 by @Last Software as a way for architects to rapidly make 3-dimensional computer models of their ideas to show clients. It soon won praise for its ease of use and ability to let designers iterate designs in hours, rather than the days or weeks required for earlier methods of visualization. Google purchased the software in 2006 and released a free version to enable the online community to digitally recreate the buildings of their world for Google Earth. In June 2012, Trimble purchased Sketchup from Google, promising to maintain the free version and vision of “3D for everyone”.
When I stumbled on Sketchup in early 2009 (largely because it was a free ‘sort of’ alternative to AutoCAD), Google had already owned the program for 3 years. I discovered Google’s training videos and case studies, Sketchucation – a fantastic community devoted to everything Sketchup, and Go to School – a training website for Sketchup, which all helped me learn how to use the program.
My first Sketchup project was to generate 2D floor plans for a friend’s home renovation. As a fun side project to help me learn the program, I later modeled the home in 3D and showed it to my friend – he was happily surprised by the accuracy of the images, and my ability to illustrate a range of siding and shingle options. In the next few months, I devoted myself to absorbing everything I could about Sketchup, hoping to use Sketchup as a means of income.
After my first project, I explored many other possibilities. I modeled a local business for Google Earth, experimented with augmented reality, and learned about photorealistic rendering. I offered my services to whomever I could find, providing arch-viz services for architects from Minnesota to Australia.
In September 2010, I got my first taste of digital manufacturing when i.materialise announced a 3D printed lamp challenge. I entered the contest, and while I didn’t win, I was hooked. Here was a world where anyone with knowledge of 3D software could create whatever their imagination desired!
From here, learned all I could about 3D printing – available materials, design constraints, and best practices – focusing on commercial 3D print services like Shapeways and i.materialise. In April 2011, I ordered my first 3D printed object, a tea candle holder as a gift for my sister. After critical household acclaim, I decided to keep pursuing 3D printing as much as possible and picked up some projects for people that wanted to design something but didn’t have the 3D modeling skills necessary.
Now, Sketchup’s user base is far greater than its original developers could have ever imagined – professional architects, game designers, film set designers, woodworkers, graphic artists – the list goes on and on.
But the Sketchup users this site will focus on are “makers”. This demographic consists of inventors, entrepreneurs, and tinkerers who have an idea(or 100) and want to make it real. Makers, also affectionately called hackers(different than criminal hackers who steal information), are enabled by a growing online knowledge base and increasingly affordable digital manufacturing tools.
Digital manufacturing tools such as 3D printers are good for creating designs (especially prototypes) cheaper and faster than other methods. Because of their precision and layer-upon-layer working methods, they can also make detailed models that are impossible to create any other way. But how do we tell the machine what to make? This is done with a 3D model created using 3D modeling software.
While there are many 3D modeling programs available, Sketchup is an excellent tool for makers for several reasons. First, the price – Google Sketchup is free for personal or commercial use – it doesn’t get any better than that! (There is a Pro/paid version of Sketchup that has some useful options but nothing that is necessary for 3D printing.) Second is the ease of use – new users can be up and running within a couple hours of opening the program. Third is the online community of users who are willing to help newbies, and developers who have developed hundreds of plug-ins to make tedious tasks easier.
At Denali 3D Design, I look forward to providing training for anyone using Sketchup for 3D printing.