How to Use Google SketchUp for Ponoko 3D Printing





Introduction: How to Use Google SketchUp for Ponoko 3D Printing

About: I like to make things for the internets. I also sell a pretty cool calendar at You'll like it.

This Instructable covers making a 3D file in SketchUp and then exporting the file so that it can be printed up by Ponoko.  The item being made here is a level-3 Menger sponge.

This Instructable is an entry for the Google Ponoko Challenge. It ends tomorrow, Dec. 17, so if you have an idea for an entry do it soon!

Step 1: Starting With a Cube

The Menger sponge starts with a basic cube. In theory you would be subdividing each face into 9 pieces and then "pushing through" each middle face to create a hole. This technique would work fine for the first iteration, but become a huge problem in the 2nd and a massive headache for the 3rd. Instead it's easier to build up.

Step 2: Build the 1st Iteration

Make the single cube a group. This prevents the cubes from attaching when you copy them.

Now copy and move the cubes so that you have 8 in the arrangement seen in picture 2.

Group these 8 cubes and make 2 copies stacked on top of the first layer.

In the middle layer, delete the 4 non-corner cubes.

You should now have what's in picture 5 here. This is the first iteration.

Step 3: Explode and Erase

Select everything and explode the model. Do this twice and all the cubes should now be connected.

Now use the eraser tool to remove the internal lines in the model. Picture 2 here shows one side cleaned up.

Step 4: Second Verse!

Make the new model a group and repeat step 2.

 - Make one layer
 - Group it
 - Copy it
 - Delete 4 squares in middle layer
 - Explode x2
 - Clean up with eraser

Step 5: Third Verse!

OK, you know what to do next, repeat step 2 again!

 - Make one layer
 - Group it
 - Copy it
 - Delete 4 squares in middle layer
 - Explode x2
 - Clean up with eraser

Step 6: Export the File

OK, the file is ready to be exported, so let's do it!

 - Select File>Export>3D Model
 - Choose a name, but before you export, click "Options"
 - Make sure the same items are selected as in Picture 3 and click "OK"
 - Make sure that the format is "COLLADA File (*.dae)"
 - Click "Export"!

Step 7: Step Into Reality

Now you have a file that is ready for printing by Ponoko. Upload the file and see how much it costs to print. Now you'll likely change your mind about how big you want it and shrink the model size. Then just export another file and upload it again. Repeat until you're happy with the size and cost of the final piece and poof! It becomes real!



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    I would love to see it added to the 3D print group I have just started


    This is very interesting!
    What did this cost for example?

    1 reply

    Yes what did cost???

    cool hey yo semm good fungas with sketch up could i make a game using stuff from skethup tanks tinker


    I want a 3D printer so bad!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Nice Menger Sponge!
    It would be so awesome in gold plated steel.... epic win!

    I just drew this up in Sketchup - it took about 30 minutes. I also have Alibre, but I find it too complicated, Sketchup is fast and easy to use.

    4 replies

    That's funny, I just drew it in SketchUp in one second. I'm not kidding. Of course I had a little help from this plug-in ;) :

    lol.... guess there is the hard way (alibre), easy way (Sketchup by hand) and the "punch who through what?!?!?" way (Plugin)

    I just downloaded that script, it looks like fun :)

    I love it!
    Just out of curiosity, how big is the finished model, what material did you use for the final model, and do you have them available for purchase on the pokono site? I want one!

    2 replies

    This model is about 1.4" on each side, made with the "durable plastic," and I don't have them available for purchase currently. It's pretty easy to make your own, though, and then you can tweak the size. sound like a broken record.... need a web page set up to just send them to?

    This is really neat. I never heard of Ponoko. It's a good idea but it seems expensive. How much did this small model cost? What do you get for the money? Does it come in cut sheets or do they assemble it for you? I'm sure I'm not the only one who has these questions.

    As for 3D CAD programs, I've used most of them, including Sketchup. I found Sketchup really almost impossible to use to do anything. OK, it's free but . . . The major CAD programs have all kinds of features that make doing repetitive tasks, like this, easy--once you learn how. They are difficult to learn, admittedly, but so is Sketchup, frankly. That would be just about my last choice. Considering how hard it is to use, you did a great job. Kudos!

    4 replies

    It's 3D printed so it arrives just like you see it, one solid piece. This is 1.4" on a side and cost $26 for production and materials, plus more for tax and shipping.

    I've used a few different 3D CAD programs, although not extensively, and each has different uses. SketchUp is, like the name says, good for sketching. I've seen it used in architectural consultations, for example.

    I think that if your uses are more intense it wouldn't be something you'd turn to. In the DIY space it's very useful.

    Holy cow! $26 for a 1.4" cube?

    Yup. What can I say, I'm a math geek and wanted a Menger sponge.


    Hey you won! Congratulations!

    "Congratulations to Ed Lewis, aka Fungus Amungus, who created an all-around fantastic Instructable for using Google SketchUp with Ponoko 3D printing to win the Google + Ponoko Challenge"

    Now let's see this in gold-plated stainless . . . LOL