If you use SketchUp and AutoCAD in your practice, chances are you have imported one of your AutoCAD files into SketchUp or visa versa. SketchUp was developed by two former AutoDesk employees and it makes sense that these programs are directly compatible.

In fact, they share many congruent elements. Layers in AutoCAD will import directly into SketchUp. If you have a large CAD layer list, as many projects do, and then open the layers menu in SketchUp (windows  layers) after import, you will see all those awkwardly spelled CAD layer names.

AutoCAD blocks can be easily converted into SketchUp components

AutoCAD blocks, which are typically trees, shrubs or various site amenities if it’s a landscape design file, will also import into SketchUp. The blocks become SketchUp components. Like blocks, components retain the same attributes between copies. Like blocks, if you edit one component, you edit all components of the same type.

This means that your 2D tree block can be swapped out and replaced with a 3D version. All versions of that block / component are now a 3D tree.

AutoCAD line work, which is composed mostly of polylines can be used like SketchUp edges to generate faces which in turn creates our models.

CAD base plan of Ranch with terrain, vegetation, buildings and other details, ready for import into SketchUp

In essence, SketchUp is 3D AutoCAD minus the line-type scale inconsistency (sorry for my sad attempt at humor), and instead of Paper Space, we have Google Layout.

The trick or method is to convert all these convenient lines, layers and blocks into faces, organization and components. The process goes like this:

Generate SketchUp faces from the AutoCAD linework. Next, add color and volume.
Replace the 2D blocks with 3D components. Last, because all the components like trees and shrubs were on their own layers when they were created in AutoCAD, you can now turn them on or off. This allows your model to be organized and maintain computer performance; i.e. you can build humongous models.

SketchUp model of ranch. The model was completed in 8 hours.

SketchUp model of ranch. The model was completed in 8 hours.

Yes, I am skipping some steps here. AutoCAD linework does not import into SketchUp cleanly and requires some assistance to generate faces. And, you do need to re-organize your AutoCAD file prior to importing it into SketchUp. The base file that will be used in SketchUp needs to have all the relevant information structured in a coherent and useful fashion. This is the key to creating detailed and articulated models.

But believe it or not, these steps are pretty simple and relatively easy. And once again, I do cover this very topic in Google SketchUp for Site Design. In this case, I can only demonstrate how effective it is by the amount of models that I have been allowed to construct using this method. And the level of detail that can included in these models. Like I state in the previous blog, SketchUp, Scope and Budget, we have to use CAD anyway. Using SketchUp to convert our 2D drawing into 3D involves only a few steps and it’s a very practical option.

Next up – SketchUp Trees and Shrubs

AutoCAD line work of Teatro Hotel (Denver) Building elevation

SketchUp model of Teatro Hotel, Denver - By Daniel Tal ( 6 hours to complete - including drafting AutoCAD elevation)

SketchUp model of Teatro Hotel, Denver

Have SketchUp models and images you’d like to share? I would love to see them. Feel free to send me images of some of your favorite SketchUp models. Please include 2 or 3 sentences about the model and project. I will share some of reader’s SketchUp models in a future blog. Send images and descriptions to gidion311@gmail.com

For more info about Daniel and his book, Google SketchUp for Site Design: A Guide to Modeling Site Plans, Terrain and Architecture on SketchUp visit www.daniel-tal.com

For SketchUp YouTube animations created by Daniel visit:
http://www.youtube.com/dtalspace

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Comment by Kimmerjae Johnson on September 23, 2009 at 11:56am
http://www.bouldercyclingmonument.com/
Comment by Kimmerjae Johnson on September 23, 2009 at 11:54am
Hello Daniel,

Very beautiful and useful work you are doing.
I am a sculptor & landscape artist with a monument project for a Boulder park that was drawn in SketchUp. Design approved by City, Alcoa is donating the aluminum. Now we need to get the model to a form capable of communicating with a CNC machine. Talked to Chris Dizon at the SketchUp office in person, and his leads were helpful but ultimately back to sq.1. We are in a serious time crunch, and I am looking for some advice on programs and possible paths to building. I see by your twitter posts that you are a busy human, but if you would have time for a conversation, this would be appreciated. Here's the project website: Cheers, Kimmerjae email: studio@kimmerjae.com

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