SketchUp for 3D Printing

Who better to speak to the topic of SketchUp for 3D Printing than the eLearning Contributor who developed the new training series herself?

Guest Blog Post by Bonnie Roskes, eLearning Contributor

Greetings, Atomic Learners! For over 14 years, I've been producing SketchUp training materials and projects for K-12 and beyond, and the trends for the use of SketchUp in education have been quite diverse. But the strongest teacher-driven trend of the last two years is 3D printing.

Everyone either has a printer, has a budget for a printer but didn't get theirs yet, or is fighting to get a printer allocated in their budget. But even for those who are lucky enough to have their 3D printers, the question is usually, “OK, it's out of the box, now what do I do with this thing?”

There are many apps and programs out there that can create 3D models which can be sent to a 3D printer. But in my experience SketchUp works best for K-12 students: it's easy to learn yet sophisticated enough to produce pretty much anything your imagination can cook up. In the series of videos I created for Atomic Learning, I demonstrate how the computer-to-printer process works.

After downloading and installing SketchUp (the free version, SketchUp Make, is all you need), the first step is to install the plugin that converts SketchUp's native format to the STL format read by nearly all 3D printers. Then I walk through the creation of five projects of increasing complexity. For each project, I've tacked on an additional video with suggestions for additional projects that build on the skills you just learned:

· In the first project, you start with a phone case model downloaded from the free file-sharing site, Thingiverse, and use SketchUp to customize it.

· Next up is a project done entirely in SketchUp: a small house with a matching roof and chimney.

· Now that you know how to use SketchUp's basic tools, you next learn how to trace over an imported digital image to build a logo keychain.

· After that comes models with interacting parts: a stand-up animal toy whose feet are the supports for the body.

· The last project is the one most requested by my own kids: bunk beds that work with Lego blocks.

These projects will help you get started in the very satisfying process of making your own things you can hold in your own hand. Whether you have a 3D printer yourself, or can borrow one, or can use one of the many printing services companies, once you work through these projects, you'll be full of ideas of what you want to model and print next. Enjoy!

Take a look at Bonnie's full training workshop hereNot an Atomic Learning subscriber? Request more information.


Bonnie Roskes, a structural engineer by training, has been writing training manuals, tutorials, and projects on computer-aided 3D modeling since 2001. The program she most frequently writes about is SketchUp – the program that makes it easy for everyone to conceptualize and create in 3D.

In addition to consulting and training, Bonnie owns 3DVinci, a web store providing materials for learning SketchUp, with a target audience of students in grade school through grad school, as well as design professionals including architects, engineers, interior and landscape designers, and general 3D enthusiasts.

Bonnie lives with her husband and five (yes, five!) children in Washington, DC.

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