Is SketchUp Good for 3D Printing?


SketchUp is a CAD software that can be used for creating 3D models, but people wonder whether it’s good for 3D printing. I decided to write an article answering this question as well as other related questions.

Keep on reading for more information about 3D printing with SketchUp.

Is SketchUp Good for 3D Printing?

Yes, SketchUp is good for 3D printing, especially for beginners. You can create 3D models for 3D printing quickly in all types of shapes and geometries. SketchUp is known for being a simple software to use that has many features and tools that make it easy to use. You can export models as STL files to 3D print.

It is free to use and even has a cool model library called the 3D Warehouse that is full of standard parts that can go straight onto your build plate.

One user who has used SketchUp for many years did say curves are difficult to create. It also doesn’t have parametric modeling which means that if you need to adjust something specific that is the wrong size, it won’t automatically adjust the design, so you’d need to re-design the whole thing

Objects like screw threads, bolts, chamfered edges will not be easy to create according to the user.

They did say that it’s very quick if you want to make a prototype object that doesn’t need to be edited.

One user did mention that they love SketchUp for 3D printing and it’s the only software they use. On the other hand, someone recommended going with TinkerCAD instead of SketchUp, saying it’s easier to learn and does everything a beginner would need, along with great tutorials.

SketchUp is mostly made for architecture and not originally to create models to 3D print, but it does still work quite well for many people.

Check out the video below for an example of a user making 3D models with SketchUp.

If you really want to get into SketchUp, I’d recommend going through this playlist of SketchUp tutorials and various modeling techniques.

Can SketchUp Files be 3D Printed?

Yes, SketchUp files can be 3D printed as long as you export the 3D model as an STL file for 3D printing. If you are using the free version of SketchUp online rather than the desktop version, you can grab STL files by using the Download button rather than the Export button. 

The desktop version does require a paid plan to export STL files and it has a 30-day free trial version if you want to test it out.

There are three versions of SketchUp:

  • SketchUp Free – Basic features
  • SketchUp Go – Added feature like solid tools, more export formats, unlimited storage at $119/yr
  • SketchUp Pro – Premium version with a lot of added functionality, various layout tools, Style Builder, custom builders and more. Perfect for professional work and comes with a desktop platform at $229/yr

How to 3D Print From SketchUp – Does it Work With 3D Printers?

To 3D print from SketchUp, follow the steps:

  1. Go to File > Export > 3D Model to open the dialog box or go through the “Download” button on the online version
  2. Set the location where you want to export your SketchUp file & enter the file name
  3. Click on Stereolithography File (.stl) in the drop-down box under Save As.
  4. Select Save and another dialog box will open.
  5. Click on Export and SketchUp will start the export.
  6. Once you’ve successfully exported the SketchUp file, your model will be ready for 3D print.

SketchUp Vs Fusion 360 for 3D Printing

Both SketchUp and Fusion 360 are great platforms for 3D printing but the choice of the tool may differ depending on the users. Most people seem to prefer Fusion 360 due to its parametric modeling feature and advanced tools. There are more capabilities for creating mechanical and unique models with Fusion 360.

I wrote an article called Is Fusion 360 Good for 3D Printing which you can check out.

One user who designed something really complex in SketchUp said that using a CAD software like Fusion 360 would have made designing those parts easier and faster, though for simple objects, SketchUp is the ideal software.

People agree that if you want to create something mechanical to 3D print, SketchUp isn’t the best option. Another thing to know is that the skills you learn in SketchUp aren’t easily transferable to other CAD software, unlike Fusion 360.

One user who has tried both SketchUp and Fusion 360 for 3D printing said that they initially started with SketchUp and ended up transitioning to Blender. Once they got a 3D printer, they stumbled upon Fusion 360 and it became their main go-to software for creating models.

They did admit that the learning curve for Fusion 360 is steeper than SketchUp but it’s still easier than other professional software.

Another user who moved from SketchUp to Fusion 360, stated that Fusion 360 is parametric and SketchUp isn’t.

Parametric modeling basically eliminates the need to redraw your design each time one of the dimensions on your design changes since it changes automatically.

One person’s experience was that they started with SketchUp but quickly found Fusion 360 to actually be easier. They recommended having a play around with Fusion 360 for a few hours so you can really get a hang of it.

There are similar experiences as well, with one user saying he used SketchUp and abandoned it for Fusion 360. The main reason for them was because SketchUp wouldn’t render sub millimeter details which he did for smaller objects.

There are some key differences between the software in factors like:

  • Layout
  • Features
  • Pricing

Layout

SketchUp is quite popular for its straightforward layout, which is preferred by beginners. In this tool, the top toolbar contains all the buttons and the useful tools also appear as bigger icons. There are floating windows when you select some tools on the platform.

Fusion 360’s layout resembles that of a conventional 3D CAD layout. There are tools like design history, grid system, part lists, different view modes, ribbon-style toolbar, etc. in this platform. And the tools are organized with names like Solid, Sheet Metals, etc.

Features

SketchUp comes with a handful of attractive features like Cloud Storage, 2D drawing, and Rendering- to name a few. The tool also has plug-ins, web access, and a 3D model repository. Overall, it’s perfect for beginners but may disappoint you if you’re a pro designer.

Fusion 360, on the other hand, provides Cloud Storage, 2D drawing, and Rendering too. But the best part of this platform is the collaboration in terms of file management and version control. Also, the platform is familiar to designers who know CAD tools.

Pricing

SketchUp provides you with four types of subscription plans such as Free, Go, Pro, and Studio. Except for the free subscription plan,  there are yearly charges for all the plans.

Fusion 360 has four types of licenses named personal, educational, startup, and full. You can use the personal license for non-business use.

Verdict

Many users prefer Fusion 360 as it is a full-fledged CAD software with functionalities that go beyond 3D modeling. It’s easy to use and very easy to manage the features.

With all the functions, it becomes a more powerful tool when compared to SketchUp. Fusion 360 users specifically mention the better control and easy modifications the software offers.

On the other hand, SketchUp can work well for beginners. It is geared more towards a non-CAD user base. It offers intuitive design tools and interfaces for beginners. It has a shallow learning curve and comes with all the basic design tools.

Check out the video below comparing Fusion 360 and SketchUp.

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