From Sketch-Up to Mock Up…

I know Christmas is over for another year, but how much would you like a tool that lets you create 3D drawings with ease, import those drawings as models into an interactive 3D world, and then maybe print out your designs as physical 3D models using a 3D printer?

For those of you who haven’t come across SketchUp, it’s a 3D-design/drawing package published by Google that allows you to construct simple three dimensional models with very little training, and far more involved models with a bit of practise (for some example tutorial videos showing just how easy it is to use, see 3D Modeling with SketchUp).

Part of the attraction of SketchUp is the ready integration of SketchUp models into Google Earth – so anything you design in Sketchup can be viewed within that environment. This feature provided part of the rationale for my pitch to the “Show Us a Better Way” call last year on 3D Planning applications. The idea there was that planning applications to local authorities might come with 3D plans that could be viewed using a geo-interface – so at a glance I’d be able to see markers for planning applications on the Isle of Wight, for example, and then zoom in to see them in more detail (specifically, 3D detail – because not everybody knows how to “read” a 2D plan, right?!;-) An educational extension to this idea imagined school pupils in a DT lesson creating 3D models based on current planning applications in their locale, and then having this marked according to how well they corresponded to the original 2D planning application drawings. High scoring models (produced in a timely fashion) could then be made available “for real” within the planning consultation exercise.

(SketchUp is already being used in the real-world by companies like Simplified Building Concepts, who solicit user-designs of constructions assembled from a particular range of tubular building components.)

Another attractive feature of SketchUp is the ability to import models into the 3D Cobalt virtual world, as shown in this tutorial video – Using Google 3D Warehouse to Build Cobalt & Edusim Virtual Worlds (obtained via Cobalt – Edusim Quick Start Tutorials):

(Cobalt/Open Croquet rely on the user running an instance of a world in a client on their own computer, and then optionally connecting to other people who are also running OpenCroquet on their computer.)

For more on the educational use of Cobalt, and other 3D worlds, visit the Cobalt/Edusim Group.

As well as viewing models in virtual worlds, it’s also possible to “print out” scale models using 3D-printing technology, as Sweet Onion Creations describe. For example, the following video shows how to print out a 3D model from Google SkethcUp warehouse.

Oh yes, did I mention SketchUp is also scriptable – so you can write code to create your models? Google SketchUp Ruby API (e.g. architecture related Ruby plugins).

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

4 thoughts on “From Sketch-Up to Mock Up…”

  1. Thanks for your mention in the SketchUp post. It’s pretty amazing what’s available for free to download and build out cities and structures with using 3d printers and everybody’s collaborative work.
    Best regards

    Sweet Onion Creations Team
    Bozeman, Montana USA

  2. Hi Tony,

    this is all good.

    Re your tweets during the recent virtual worlds event…
    This is a different value proposition to SL – which has community and cumulativity in an extent that will take a while to build on other platforms where institutions each have their own walled garden virtual worlds. (Institutions need to create the links to join Cobalt worlds, set permissions to allow access… with SL, the shared world is there from the start)
    And yes, I know there are communities around Wonderland, OpenSim, Cobalt, and many other VW platforms. But to date, Second Life has the critical mass, has the communities, has the reusable content, has the mass of 3rd party developers and consultants (to support people and institutions who need to buy in expertise)
    That and not needing to maintain your own server for your class, all add to SL’s value.

    Why should JISC have focussed on SL at their event? Simply, that is the VW being used by the majority of the institutions using VWs just now. Why hold the virtual extension in SL? Most of the people who would want to attend the event have the client software already installed and the firewall permissions to do so.

    It might be a different story next year – more institutions are now looking at OpenSim, OpenCroquet or Wonderland. As noted by virtualworldswatch.

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