Be it for virtual or augmented reality, architectural visualisation, design etc. One powerful skill is the ability to model in 3D quickly and effectively. SketchUp is one such tool that can help with this, given its intuitive approach to 3D modelling. As with everything it’s not perfect, but thanks to the many Ruby extensions it’s close!
Today we’re sharing a few must-have modelling plugins for (AEC) SketchUp users…
Flextools is a parametric modelling tool for architectural elements such as windows, doors, stairs etc. There’s no faster way of modelling these components than in flex tools, this is largely due to the ease of placing items: You click on the area you would like to place the item and then either scale the object in place or if you are familiar with Revit, you can type in the measurements in a parameters table. The largest time saving feature is the ‘wall cutting’, this is an automatic cutting out of openings for windows and doors, therefore removing the need to cut openings in your model. This is perfect for conceptual/design stages as this is a non-destructive approach to modelling; when you delete the flextools component, the opening cut goes with it.
The standard items included can be modified to suit your styling requirements or go deeper and create your own specific parametric objects. Another handy feature is the ‘component finder’ which allows you to save specific objects you’ve created and doubles up as a 3D asset library.
Pricing: This isn’t the cheapest extension out there, you can pick up FlexTools for around £100 p/a. However, the time savings justifies the cost. Students can pick this up for just €19 p/a.
In a similar vein to FlexTools, Profile Builder is another parametric modelling tool. Whereas, FlexTools is great for items that change in scale on a project basis such as windows, Profile Builder is useful for creating arrays/spans of typical components . The method for creating your objects will fall under either of 2 categories:
Profiles: Drawing outline profiles such as architraves, guttering, fascias, capping, steel and timber profiles etc.
Assemblies: These are a collection of objects that make up the sum assembly such as fencing, railings & balustrades, construction build-ups such as walls etc.
The publisher has an extensive library of typical profiles and assemblies to use from the start.
Pricing: You can pick up a Profile Builder 3 license for $79 or try their 30 day free trial.
Curic is a suite of tools that give SketchUp greater functionality when modelling. This includes tools for aligning, mirroring, stretching, creating sections etc. The publishers appear to be consistently adding to the ever growing list of tools.
The “Curic Extend” set of tools in particular are very handy. These include extend to an an object; to a face and plane. For example extending a wall to match a sloping roof plane in just a few clicks, the process for which would usually be quite cumbersome otherwise. Curic handles well some particular aspects which SketchUp does not in its own native tool set.
Pricing: Several tools are available for free. The key drawing tools (including extend) are $60 and the full Curic suite is $99, both are a one-off fee.
If you plan to make SketchUp your go-to 3D modelling program, I can highly recommend these tools. You can find all the extensions on Curic’s website.
Solid Inspector is a tool to inspect and repair your 3D objects in SketchUp. This extension will detect in the scene or specific objects: Stray/short edges, holes in faces, reversed faces etc.
As anyone who uses SketchUp frequently will know, keeping your scene/models clean can be very difficult, as can finding errors in your models. Solid Inspector is a one-click cleanup tool; it doesn’t always resolve issues (particularly with faces) but it will identify them for manual fixing.
Solid Inspector is available for free.
Another tool by the prolific ThomThom! Material replacer is the easiest and quickest tool I’m aware of to replace materials in SketchUp; this tool allows you to swap a specific material for another in the project.
This is handy for example, with imported Revit models where all components of a particular type come with a designated material, allowing quick allocation of a new material to walls, floors, roofing.
Another use case here is at design stage, changing the material palette where they have already been applied in just a few clicks.
Material Replacer is available for free.
That’s All Folks
There’s so many other useful extensions for SketchUp available, but these are by far my most frequently used in the realm of modelling. Please share with us in the comments below what your favourite modelling extensions are, we’re constantly on the look out for faster ways of doing things.
Side Note: Extensions are not available on the free web version of SketchUp. If you’d like to check out SketchUp be sure to use their 30-day trial of SketchUp Studio.