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HelpTutorialsSketchUp STL export tutorial

SketchUp STL export tutorial

This tutorial was made by Shapeways Community member Jed of

If you would like to use the content in this tutorial to help your community export to the STL file format or use Google SketchUp for 3D printing, please link to this page and do not copy our content once again. This would be lame.

This tutorial is meant for Sketchup 7.1 or higher. It works with both the free version of SketchUp and also SketchUp Pro 7.

Step 1: open your model in SketchUp & export

There are various free and commercial add-ons for producing .stl files from within Sketchup, but having tried many of them most really do not work very well, if at all.

Since the last Sketchup update though (7.1) it has become very simple to produce perfect .stl files and here is how to do it using a couple of other very useful and free programs alongside Sketchup (MeshLab and Accutrans3D). Meshlab is free and open source and Accutrans is free for 30 days.

Open you model in Sketchup....

Export as 3D model (Collada) (File -> Export-> 3D model )

Step 2: Open in Meshlab and Save as STL

Now open the file in Meshlab and save as STL.

Step 3: Open in Accutrans

Open that .stl file in Accutrans3D and go Tools -> Check for Water Tight Meshes...

If there are errors it will look like this:

Click "yes" and it will highlight holes with a Red line and Edge errors with green lines.

Pro tip: remove a large face or area

Sometimes these errors are obvious - sometimes, as above, they are REALLY hard to see. One trick I have learned is to go back to your SketchUp file and delete a large area deliberately (lets remove the flat base of the model)

thats better - although we now have whopping HUGE hole, we know exactly where it is as we just made it!

Pro Tip 2: Back to Accutrans & repair in SketchUp

So, now we export the file again, swap it to an .stl and put it back into Accutrans and, again, check for watertight meshes....this lets you easily "Look inside" your model for those pesky errors (Obviously you will have one big red-marked hole which you just deliberately made, so ignore that and look for the other holes!)

Go back to your sketchup model, find and fix the errors:

Look! Holes!

and easily fixed!

Step 4: Fixing edge errors

Here are my edge errors: WhenI I pulled out these areas SketchUp left the panel behind - these need to be deleted!!

and now all fixed.

Step 5: One last watertight check

  1. OK, save your file. Export it again (File -> Export -> 3D model -> COLLADA file.
  2. Open it in Meshlabs.
  3. Save As .stl
  4. Open it in Accutrans3D and run the watertight check again.......

Step 6: Upload

OK - now you are ready to upload to Shapeways as ether a .dae (COLLADA) file OR as an .stl file. 

Both should now be fine.

Thank you so much Jed!!

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