After working a while with SketchUp, every 3D modeler will invariably find out that the best thing about this software is that it can easily be extended using free plugins. If a function is not available in plain (free) SketchUp, then chances are actually quite good that there is a plugin available on the internet to fill that void. Functionality that can be added to SketchUp in this manner includes curved shapes (like spheres or onion domes), physics simulation, otherwise unsupported file export (like OBJ or STL) and many others.
By the way: Check out my book, “Architectural Design with SketchUp: 3D Modeling, Extensions, BIM, Rendering, Making, and Scripting.” In chapter 4, I have many tutorials that show how you can use these extensions/plugins.
SketchUp Plugins is a blog that collects and documents many of these plugins (another good collection can be found on Didier Bur’s website). As featured in a recent post on their page, the most downloaded (and thus most popular) plugins are:
- Unfold tool – Unfold models for papercraft, sheetmetal work
- OBJ Exporter – Exports models to the .obj file format
- Contruction Line Tool – Like the Pencil tool for Construction lines.
- Sphere Tool – Adds a Sphere option to the Draw menu
- Model Location – Set the Latitude and Longitude, Time Zone, and North Angle for a model
Some more general modeling plugins worth mentioning are:
- OBJ importer – Get any mesh into SU
- STL exporter – If you want to machine an object
- Copy along path – A useful and missing function
- Slicer – Good for cutting any shape up for manufacturing
- The two freeform and subdivision modeling tools that are currently making the rounds on the SU forums
And there is so much more…
P.S. I’ll add to the list below any plugin roundups that come across my way:
- Dave at Design.Click.Build. posted his list of plugins with a focus on Woodworking.
- Daniel S. started a visual index of “most important” plugins at SCF.