3D Printing with Sketchup now available

I’ve written a book! All about how you can get 3D Printing with SketchUp, it can be purchased from Packt Publishing or from Amazon at this link: 3D Printing with SketchUp.

About the book

As 3D printing is becoming more accessible, it is important for designers and architects to know how to use the technology. SketchUp is a popular 3D modelling tool and is among the easiest programs to work with as a beginner. Whether printing on your desktop, or outsourcing to a commercial 3D print service, this is a skill you’ll want in your portfolio.

3D Printing has become an important part of my service offering. This 3D Printed scale cabin is a project for my client, Jim from Tiny Green Cabins. Jim will use this model to help promote new sales.


This book is intended to help SketchUp users get 3D printing quickly. Starting with an overview of 3D printing technologies, you will learn how to design SketchUp models for 3D printing, set up a template for 3D printing, explore the specific requirements for a 3D printable model, and look at the essential SketchUp extensions for 3D printing. You will start by printing a simple 3D model, progress to importing images that can be used to make 3D models, and move on to tweaking the model for specific 3D printers.

3D Printing with SketchUp Book
Click the picture to get the book!

You may find out more about the book on the companion site, Sketchup for 3D Printing.


Oliver Shea from the UK is an architect and freelance 3D artist. He was working on a project for 3D printing and got an copy of the ebook to help him. He had this to say about 3D Printing with SketchUp:

After having read 3D Printing with SketchUp, I feel I am significantly more confident to tackle my upcoming 3D printing project. The book is clear and concise throughout with each chapter building on the last. I found the case studies very engaging and it was fun to watch a SketchUp model develop into a real world object that you can hold in your hand. It was also great to see each iteration of a model develop until the final result was achieved. I only wish I could see more of the author’s models! The book covers everything from the basic concepts of 3D printing to more advanced printing techniques in different materials. The whole design process is explained from start to finish with easy step-by-step SketchUp and exporting instructions. Throughout the book there are many tips and tricks to keep you totally informed and details on 3D printing services and consumer printers. I will surely be using this book as a reference for all my future projects, it’s really helped me understand how to approach a model with 3D printing in mind.All in all, a fantastic book. Easy to read, fun case studies, hugely informative and great photos. Highly recommended. 5 stars!

I hope the book helps you in your next 3D printing project!

Video Guide to 3D Printing Technologies

Part of my work as a designer is choosing the right material for your project. I’ll ask questions such as,

“Is this a prototype, or end-use part?”
“What level of detail is needed?”
“Does this part require multiple colors?”

The answers to these questions determine the method of 3D printing production used to create your part. There are several methods of 3D printing, which I’ll explain below.

Powder-based Printing

Powder-based printers use extremely fine granulated powdered plastic, metal, or other material as a raw material. Interlocking parts, full color prints, and very strong parts can all be made with powder 3D printers. Here is an example of a full-color machine making a working ball-bearing model, no assembly required!

Sintered Nylon

SLS stands for Selective Laser Sintering, and is the material of choice for tough, hard-working prototypes and end-use parts. Watch this video to see how the parts are made.

Direct Metal Laser Sintering

DMLS produces extremely high quality metal parts. Often used in the aerospace and medical fields, this material is expensive and unmatched in strength and accuracy for 3D printed metal parts.

ExOne Metal Printing

ExOne is a company with a unique metal printing process, sacrificing accuracy for cost. These parts are excellent for art and other decorative pieces that do not require high tolerances.


Yes, real ceramic models can be 3D printed! Intricate model that are difficult to make by hand are no problem with these printers.

Resin Printing

The very first 3D printer was invented in 1986 by Charles Hull, who created an machine that used a laser to harden liquid resin layer by layer. This technology, called SLA for Stereolithography Apparatus, is still used today to make extremely detailed parts. Here’s a video of the process.

Filament printing

You can think of these printers as computer controlled hot-glue guns. The most common personal printers use plastic filament as a raw material. Popularized by the RepRap project and Makerbot, these printers are inexpensive and easy to use relative to other 3D printers. Here’s a video of a partially 3D printed RepRap printer at work…self-replicating!

Commercial filament printers can produce some of the largest, toughest parts in the world.

Lamination printing

Laminating printers start with thin sheets of paper or plastic, cut and adhere each layer, building up the product into a dense strong whole. The waste material is removed by hand, which can be a tedious process for intricate parts.

 Which process is right for your project?

While not a definitive list of 3D printing technologies, this does include the most common kinds for product design and development. I intend for this resource to help you be informed about the options available, and will help you make the right choice.

50 Useful Links to get You Started in 3D Printing

This is a list of resources that I find useful in my 3D printing work.
I’ve often shared various forms of the list via email with my students and meetup attendees, but thought a webpage would be a better way to present it. (★ denotes my personal favorites)

3D printing Meetup
Meetup at a Minneapolis makerspace.

Makerspaces, Hackerspaces, Fablabs – meet face-to-face with people and their 3D printers

Different names for the same thing. These are community workshops that offer an easy entry point for newbies. Usually open to the public.
List of Hackerspaces – find one near you
Meetup – meet with locals, ask questions, touch prints and printers.


Useful FREE programs related to 3D printing:

  • ★Fusion 360 – powerful CAD package, free for education and startup businesses
  • Sketchup, for general 3D modeling, best at architectural and geometric shapes, easy to learn, powerful with plugins (see list below), free for non-commercial use.
  • Sculptris, for modeling sculptures like clay, easy to learn
  • Tinkercad – super easy online 3D modeling app
  • 123DCatch – creates a 3D model from a set of photos, tricky to use, works better with larger objects
  • Blender, for modeling nearly anything, powerful, difficult to learn
  • OpenSCAD – 3D modeler for folks with a programming background
  • Meshlab, for converting files, editing meshes, and more
  • Netfabb Basic, downloadable program for fixing STL files
  • Netfabb.com, upload your model to get it fixed and optimized for 3D printing
  • Thingiverse, for downloading 3D printable models

 List of free Sketchup plugins that I use for modeling and prepping files for 3D printing:

  • Sketchucation’s Plugin Store – easy way to install and manage plugins. Very similar to the new official Extension Warehouse, but many more/different plugins available. Install this one first, and use it to install most of the others easily.
  • ★Solid Inspector – checks for errors preventing solid groups and components
  • ★Sketchup – STL – Import and Export STL’s from Sketchup
  • Cleanup – use to delete coplanar lines (and much more!), use on imported STL’s
  • Import DXF – Import 2D files from Illustrator (actually it imports any DXF file)
  • Bounding box – draws faces on the bounding box of a group or component.  Useful for aligning odd shaped objects.
  • Weld – Joins connected edges into a curve or “polyline”.
  • Round Corner – adds fillets and chamfers
  • Joint push pull – push/pull curved edges.  Also works for thickening a surface.
  • Bezier curve – Bezier and other curves
  • Curviloft – connect a series of lines or curves into a surface
  • Make Faces – fills in faces, only works if the lines are coplanar
  • Profile Builder – Follow me on steroids
Commercial Sketchup plugin:
  • Artisan($39) – this “subdivides” models into smooth geometry.  Good for making organic curvy models, works with the free or pro version of Sketchup. It’s the one I used to make this Rod of Asclepius.
Visual index of plugins – GIF’s showing what plugins do
HUGE list of plugins – Its here if you need it, but I don’t recommend installing more plugins than you really need as it can get confusing and make Sketchup run slower.

3D print services – upload your 3D model and these folks will print and ship it to you

★Shapeways – usually cheapest, awesome customer service, and by far the easiest way to sell your designs to the world. Offices in New York and the Netherlands.
i.materialise – excellent selection of materials, priority service available, cool contests. Based in Belgium.
Sculpteo – order prints, open a shop. They have some popular iOS apps. Based in France.
★3DHubs – crowdsourced 3D printing, CNC, and injection molding. Thousands of 3D printer owners listed, from little desktops to large commercial operations.

Desktop 3D printers – build one from a kit, or buy one ready to go

Reprap – self-replicating 3D printers, sort of. You also need non-3d printed parts as well. Inexpensive way to get started with your own printer.
Makerbot – a very popular desktop 3D printer.
3D printer directory – excellent list of printers & prices.

News Sites – subscribe to keep up to date

★Reddit – 3D printing forum. News, case studies, and advice; great for open discussion.
3Ders.org – my favorite blog for breaking 3D printing news right now. Awesome 3D printer directory.
3dprinter.net – breaking news and good commentary from the authors
3D Printing Industry – 3D printing news and commentary
3D Printing for Beginners – Tutorials, reviews, and articles for learning about 3D printing
3D Print HQ – News on 3Dprinting and a fantastic glossary of industry terms
Make: – magazine dedicated to makers. A big deal in the 3D printing community.
Shapeways Blog – mostly Shapeways news, learn how people are using the service
i.materialise blog – keep up with i.materialise news and contests
Its a 3D World – mostly dedicated to Stratasys (Objet) printers

Inspiration – Folks that I admire selling 3D printed designs

Nervous System – online design-your-own-print apps, awesome jewelry and housewares inspired by nature.
Bathsheba – 3D print sculpture pioneer. Sweet symmetrical math-inspired designs.
Michiel Cornelissen – clever designer showcasing a smorgasbord of functional, visually aesthetic wares including Apple accessories.
Josh Harker – super successful Kickstarter campaign selling 3D printed art
★Glif iPhone accessory – Case study: using 3D prints as a pre-production tool to satisfy immediate demand

Case Study: Landlord 3D Prints Replacement Window Parts

A college girl, a honeybee, and…a 3D printer?

In which a landlord learns 3D printing replacement window screen parts is a cost effective solution to broken, outdated hardware.

“All I want is some fresh air.”

Studying for Finals

Julia, a 23 year old medical student, just wants some fresh air in her living room.  Her apartment is feeling stuffy after the long winter, and for the first time this spring the sun is shining warmly.  Taking a break from studying for finals, she walks over to the window near her sofa and lifts up the window.
The bright sunshine has woken a honeybee from its hibernation, and it has gotten stuck in the opening between the screen and window.  Julia’s no wimp though, and besides, she really wants to enjoy the spring air.  She’ll just let him outside before opening the window completely.
She waits for the bee to crawl up near the top of the window, then carefully, so as to keep the bee’s stinger firmly attached to its abdomen and not in her hand, she eases open the screen.  If her plan works, she’ll lower the screen into her kitchen, allowing the bee to escape over the top of the screen to freedom.
Then it happened.  You can’t blame her – she was nervous and in a hurry to let the bee out.  One of the plastic retainers snapped off as she dragged the window the last few inches into her kitchen.  She mentioned it to her landlord the next day.

All he wants is a well-maintained property

Existing Window Screen Retainer
Existing Window Screen Retainer

Peter owns several rental properties in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area.  These houses, built in the 1970’s, have a window screen part that is prone to breaking.  The problem has been nagging him for the past year.  This brand of windows isn’t sold anymore, and this part is specific enough that it’s not available in any hardware stores or online.  Peter likes to keep his properties in tip-top shape, and broken window screens are not part of that equation.
3D printed Window Screen Retainer
3D printed Window Screen Retainer

It may be because the plastic was cheap to begin with, or perhaps it has deteriorated from the weather, but whatever the case the broken screen retainers are adding up.  Something needs to be done soon, and it’s looking like he may have to replace all the windows and screens.  This will be a last resort though, because materials and labor would easily exceed $200 per window.  At an average of 10 windows per property, that $2000 will take a big bite out of his income.
Peter has heard about 3D printing in the news, and wonders if it can be the answer to his problem.  It certainly seems that way from all the talk, but the landlord doesn’t know where to get started.  He keeps looking, and soon his search is rewarded.  There is an “Intro to 3D printing” meetup hosted by a local company, which fits the bill perfectly.  Peter comes away with confidence that 3D printing can fix his problem and a 3D modeling designer that can model and deliver 3D printed parts.

3D printing the solution

3D printed Window Screen Retainer parts
3D printed Window Screen Retainer parts

Peter met with me shortly after the meetup, bringing one of his window screens with the plastic retainers intact.  He explained how the parts were failing, and requested a minor tweak to make the piece more comfortable to open.
Sketchup Model for 3D printing
Sketchup Model for 3D printing

From one of the existing parts, I quickly modeled a replica in Sketchup, and placed an order with Shapeways.  Less than two weeks later, we had two perfect 3D prints. They worked exactly as intended, and the new curved finger grip was much more pleasant to open.
Peter is pleased as a freed bee. For less than $15 per window, he now has a practical solution to his needs.  Whenever he runs low on 3D printed replacement parts, Peter can go to Shapeways.com and order as many as he needs.  No muss, no fuss, and they’ll be on his doorstep in a matter of days.
What about the bee?  Julie reports it was last seen sipping nectar from the rosebushes in the back yard, none the worse for its short captivity.

Tips for 3D Printing with Sketchup

TIps for 3D Printing with Sketchup
Matt Donley runs an informative blog with Sketchup tutorials and Sketchup news at Master Sketchup.  As he’s just starting to get into 3D printing, he asked me to write a post about 3D printing with Sketchup, which I was happy to do.
In the article, I draw from my own experience modeling for 3D prints, as well as interactions with people in my Sketchup classes and in online forums such as Sketchucation and Shapeways.  There are a few questions about 3D printing Sketchup models I see crop up repeatedly.  I cover the best solutions to these problems, including making the model Solid, working with tiny parts, and the best file format for 3D printing.
If you need advice on a tricky model, email me or hit me up on Google+ or Twitter.  I’d also love to see what you make if these tips help you out!
Read the post on Matt’s site: 8 Tips for 3D Printing with Sketchup.

The Story of Twisted Star Lamp

This is the story of the project that launched my interest in 3D printing. In September 2010, i.materialise announced a 3D printed lamp design challenge.  The guidelines were pretty simple – design an original lamp using Sketchup, taking advantage of 3D printing’s unique capabilities. After two months of learning about 3D printing and designing over one dozen prototypes, on the final day of the challenge I submitted this hastily rendered design.  The lampshade was my own design, but the lamp base was supplied by i.materialise and required for the contest.

Starburst Lamp by Marcus Ritland
My entry to the 2010 i.materilase design contest

I didn’t win the contest, but became addicted to 3D printing.
When designing the lamp, I worked hard to create something that I would be happy to show off on my desk, while incorporating features that showcase the power 3D Printing into the design.   I wanted to shield the bulb from sight, to throw a unique shadow pattern, and take advantage of the translucency of the material.   These features combined makes a design that would be nearly impossible to manufacture cost effectively with any other method.
In the next few days after the contest ended, I kept playing with the design and had the thought to give it a little twist.  When that was finished, I knew the design was complete!  Here’s what it looked like in Sketchup:
Star Lamp Twisted original
Original images of the twisted lamp

After the design tweak, I really wanted to see the lamp in real life so I uploaded it to the i.materialise print service to check the price.   At nearly $400, it was a bit pricey for something I’d never tried before, so I decided to make something cheaper first.  I designed a tea candle holder featuring a tessellating crystal pattern on the sides which won critical household acclaim, but that’s a post for another day!
After a year of learning and designing about a dozen successful 3D print projects, it was time to order the Twisted Star Lamp.  I chose Shapeways for the print service because of their superior pricing and excellent customer service.
I cut open the box with UPS exhaust still hanging in the air, and carefully lifted the bubble-wrapped package out.  I was blown away.  Honestly, it was one of the most exhilarating moments of my life when I opened the box and held the first design I had ever made for 3D printing.  Every little detail I had struggled to perfect, and even the minute imperfections in the design were faithfully reproduced in laser sintered nylon.
The lamp was surprisingly heavy, a little rough to the touch, and not delicate at all.  Each of the points was clearly defined.  These are all characteristics of the material I chose for 3D printing.
Fresh out of the Shapeways box
The Twisted Star Lamp, fresh from the 3D Printer

Of course, its not really a lamp without a bulb and some electricity.  I had already assembled those parts using components purchased at a local lamp repair shop.  I slid the shade over the bulb, and promptly had a shining example of 3D printing!
3D Printed Twisted Star Lamp

3D Printed Twisted Star Lampshade plus electricity!

There are many specific things I learned by printing this model that I’ll use when designing future 3D prints.  The main lesson was that I need to leave plenty of room for the support powder to be cleaned out from the model after the printing process.  At the apex of the lamp, the fins are very close together, making the powder difficult to clean from between them.  In future versions, I’ll make that area much easier to clean.
I’ll leave you with an image I composited for a poster – the intersection of 3D printing and fine art!  The central top view shows the pattern cast by the unique design of the lamp.

Denali 3D Design 3D Printed Twisted Star Lamp
Composite image with design wireframes and photos of the Twisted Star Lamp.