I made this instructable primarily for the Full Spectrum Laser Contest and for those who are interested in designing/modeling, but do not know how. As a student interested in engineering and about to enter college, I enjoy designing and prototyping in my free time. A laser cutter or a 3D printer would allow me to do this much faster and for educational use as well (hence this contest entry).

At the end of the instructable, I hope to show all of you how I would put a laser cutter or 3D printer to good use.(After all, that's what this contest is about). Because of all my viewers, my previous instructable was featured and won me a runner up position, despite it being my very first one. I would really appreciate it if you could support me and give this instructable a vote as well, and feel free to leave any comments at the end.

Now, lets get on to Sketchup.

Sketchup is a great 3D modeling tool for those who like to build. It can be used to make templates, presentations, and even for 3D printing. It is a great beginners software, and also has various tools for pros as well. The third picture is an example of what you can create with Sketchup.

Of course, we will need to download it first. You can google it up, or use this link I have provided here: http://www.sketchup.com/download

For step one, it really doesn't matter what you put. (picture 1)

For step two, it doesn't matter what name, use, or email you put. (just type in random letters followed by @gmail.com)

The only thing that matters is your operating system and version. Now if you are like me and don't have $600 to spend around, choose Sketchup Make. You will get a 30 day pro trail anyways so you can see if you feel it is worth the money. I don't see much of a difference. (Picture 2) And lastly, check the agreement box.

Sketchup will now download, click on the downloaded exe. and then go through the installation instructions that pop up.

Step 1: Starting Up Sketchup

To start up sketchup, open the program and you will be greeted by the template selection window. (Picture 1)

Click on the template bar and you will find a myriad of templates to choose from.

Now you might be wondering what is a template. A template sets your default unit of length. This way, when you enter dimensions, you won't have to specify your units (which you can do, but is annoying at times). Some templates come with a model person. The 3D printing template comes with a model MakerBot. These are just to put everything to scale, and can be deleted later on.

You will also notice how some templates have multiple units, such as the first one. Architectural design comes with a scale person, and whenever you type in lengths, it has to be in feet, inches or both. For example, you can say 1' for one foot, 1' 5" for one foot five inches, or 7" for seven inches.

The template I use the most is 3D printing millimeters. It is the same as any other millimeter template, but just know that the camera setting may be different on other templates. We will get to that later on. If you prefer inches, there is a template for that as well. (Picture 2)

Step 2: Setting Your Tools and Axis

First thing to do, click on view, and then toolbars. Uncheck everything and then check Large tool set, Styles, and Views.

In you free time, I recommend going through each of these and seeing what sets of tools suit you best.

The axes include red, blue, and green. Red denotes length, Blue for height, and green for depth. The negative sides of each axis are dotted. The point where everything intersects is the origin.

Simple Cartesian coordinate grid.

Now whenever you draw, sale, or move, you can refer to the three axes. To make things simple, whenever you do something, sketchup will "round" your mouse value. So if you want to connect two points, it will do so when you make a line and get near the second one.

If you want to make a line 5 mm straight up, you can start a line, hover the mouse in a place where it turns blue and says "on blue axis" (meaning that any line you now make will go straight up), and then type 5. If you chose the Millimeter template, it would make it 5 mm.

These are just examples by the way. There are many more "rounding" things that sketchup will do which we will discuss later. It's just that axes are one of them and it pertains to this step.

It is important that you get familiar with the axes and origin because they will be of great use in the future.

Step 3: Lines

To start off, you can delete the MakerBot model. To do so, click on the pointer arrow tool. It is the top left tool.

Using this tool, you can click on components. Components may be individual things you draw, but there is a way to group a bunch of smaller components into one big one.

This is the case with the 3D printer. Simply click on it and press the delete key.

Now that the space is clear, try making a 10 mm line on the red axis. The line tool is the pencil. To freehand hold down the left mouse key from the point where you want to start, and drag a line to the end point.

To draw by freehand, but more accurately, click on the start point, and then the end point. This is the same as the above method, except easier to use. This method (and the following one) also allow you to let sketchup know extra mouse values to round to, discussed later.

To draw by measurement, single click the left mouse key and move the mouse. This will drag the line and not let go like the previous method. Simply move your mouse in the general direction you want to draw a line in, in this case the red axis, and type in 5. (for 5 mm)

In the first and second picture, you can see how close you need to be for sketchup to round to the red axis. You cannot see my mouse pointer, but I only moved a few pixels. If you moved your mouse close enough to the red axis to round, and then typed in five, you should now have a line going 5 mm in the positive red axis. Don't worry if it too small for you to see right now.

You can also see in the bottom left hand of both pictures that it tells "select end point or enter value" when I have started a line. On the bottom right hand side, it tells the length of the line.

Step 4: Zooming In

The point of me making you draw such a small line is to demonstrate the importance of this step.

If you are zoomed out too much and have intricate details in nearby areas, Sketchup will get confused as to where to round to. Zooming in can fix that.

To zoom in, you can click the magnifying glass tool and click the point you want to zoom in to. To zoom in or out, move your mouse up or down. To stop zooming, click again.

If you have a laptop touchpad, pinch to zoom works. Using two fingers, you can also use scroll up or down. If you have a mouse, you can also use scroll up or down with the scroll wheel. Just make sure your mouse pointer is at the point you wish to zoom to.

You can see what the difference zooming in makes in the first and second pictures.

Step 5: Rectangles

To make a rectangle, click the tool right below the line tool. If you hover over it it will tell you it is the rectangle tool. Can't find it? Click the "R" key. It is one of the shortcuts you can use to access tools. Can you guess what it is for a line?

Hint: it's L

Making rectangles are like making lines. You can drag them, or click one point and type in measurements. However, you can only make rectangles on the 3 planes. What is a plane? Imagine it as a rectangle with infinite length and width, with one dimension being one axis, and the other being another axis. Rectangles can also be made on faces, and will face in the same direction.

For now, click on the origin, and move the mouse in the direction you want to make the rectangle, positive red and green as shown in the first picture.

The plane you are on right now is the red green plane. There is also the red blue, and blue green. From the place your camera is aimed right now, you should be using the red green plane. Now, type in the rectangles dimension in the format: length, width. Make it a square of sides 5 each. You should be looking like the second picture now.

Here is another way to make a rectangle:

  1. Click on origin with the rectangle tool
  2. hold your mouse pointer on the end of the 5 mm line for a few seconds
  3. move your mouse so that the line's point is black. Your length dimension is now being rounded to the line's length: 5 mm
  4. type in 5 to let Sketchup know of the missing dimension. If you did this with two 5 mm lines on the green and red axis, you will be able to hold you mouse in a position where sketchup rounds to both of the lines and make you the 5 by 5 square.

Hovering your mouse around a significant point, such as the midpoint of a line, end of a line, or center of a circle lets Sketchup know you want to round to that point, and after a few seconds, you will be able to.

Step 6: Camera Movement

Camera movement is important when working with the axes.

For example, in the first and second pictures, you can see that the green axis which I am trying to work with is facing away from me, so Sketchup will not round to it. It will either make a line in a random direction or round to the red or blue axis.

Another reason why camera movement is needed is because a line from your point of view will look different in size than it really is. Check out the third picture. Seems like a crude hexagon I just made right? However, when we move around a bit, we can see what I have actually made. (Third picture) Not what was intended eh? The fourth picture is the same, but I have made a face so that you can see it better.

True, if I had been using points beforehand, I could have made a perfect hexagon on the same plane, but I didn't have any. This is also why measurements are important.

Now, back to our 5mm by 5mm square, if you click on the orbit tool (above zoom and has a green and red arrow), we can look around better. Simply click on the point you want to orbit around and move the mouse. When you are done orbiting, you can let go of the mouse key.

Pressing Ctrl on windows turns off gravity and lets you orbit in different angles.

Now, next to the orbit icon, you will see a hand. This is the pan tool. It allows you to move side to side. Try it out.

Here is another tip: Holding shift on windows while on the orbit tool makes it into the pan tool. So don't waste time switching tools.

Also, press the "O" key for Orbit.

Step 7: Push Pull

Pushing and Pulling allows you to stretch a face to give it one extra dimension as an object. For that reason, you cannot push a curved surface; they do not count as faces.

Pushing and pulling allows you to make a 3D object without building each and every face. It is also helpful when you have curved surfaces as sides. For example, making a circle and pulling it up makes it a cylinder. The flat side of the circle counts as a face. The curved side of the cylinder doesn't.

The icon for push pull is a thin square with an arrow pointing up. If you can't find it, press the "P" key.

To push or pull, you can either click and drag like the line and rectangle, or click and type a dimension.

Try clicking the square you have, then pulling it upwards, then typing in 5. pulling it up tells sketchup in what direction you want to go 5 mm. We do no ave to specify the axis though because you can only push or pull in the direction the face is facing.

You can see that when I make the 5mm square a 5mm cube, it goes out of my screen. Using the orbit tool, refocus your cube so you can see it properly. (first and second pictures)

You can also see here that Sketchup is giving me the instructions to use the orbit tool on the bottom left hand corner of the screen, as with any other tool. If you are having trouble or are confused, you can refer to that as well.

Step 8: A Few Important Round Points

As I had said before, midpoints of sides are special points. If you draw anything from a point on a line, it will split that line in two. This also changes the midpoint.

So what does this mean for us?

Well assume you want to draw a line perpendicular to another, and you want it at 1/4 of the line's distance. Simply make a line of any size from the midpoint, then make a line of your desired size from one of the new midpoints. Now you can delete the first line which was used to move the midpoint.

Back to the cube, draw a line that follows these parameters:

  • It is on the top face of the cube
  • It is along the green axis
  • It is from the midpoints of the front top and back top edges.

You can refer to the three pictures if you need help.

After this, locate the move tool. (or click "M")

Click on the line and move it up along the blue axis 2 mm.

I works the same way as the line tool, click and drag, or click and click, or click and type in the dimension. (2 in this case) Refer to pictures 4 and 5.

The move tool can move only one component or selection at a time. If you highlight a bunch or components, it will regard it as one. Since you are only clicking and moving the line you just made, the two faces to the left and right of it will be stretched out as well.

Also by now, you might have noticed that I am having you build a small house. It will be the example I'll use to help you learn the basic tools.

Step 9: More Rounding With the Roofing

More types of special "points" include the extended, perpendicular, and parallel lines. They will highlight as pink while being drawn to grab you attention to them.

We will be using the extend line to accurately make the edges of our roof. Doing so is similar to rounding to an axis or point. First click on the edge of the line you want to extend, hover over a few points on the original line for a few seconds, then start to make a line that is going in the same direction as the original one (but extending it of course). It will then highlight pink and say extend edge. Refer to picture one for this.

Now, while the line is pink, type in 1 for a 1 mm line extending the roof. Your house should look like the second picture now.

Next, we will make a line perpendicular to our extended edge to give the roof some thickness. Remember, it may be difficult for Sketchup to know what rounding points you are interested in so you may have to change you camera like I did in picture number three. I even zoomed in a bit. You can also see that in picture number three, I started a line, hovered over parts of the line I want to make my new one perpendicular to, and then started to make a line while it was pink.

If you were making your perpendicular line the way I was, type in -0.5 for a line of half a millimeter going the opposite way. Remember, a negative value is the the same as a positive one in the other direction. You could have just as well gone in the direction I ended up in and then typed in 0.5 for a positive value. You should be at picture four now.

Lastly, we will finish a side of our roof by using parallel lines. To do so, start a line, hover over the line you wish to make it parallel to (the top of the roof) and then go in a general direction where it is pink and says parallel to edge. You can see in picture number five that I am hovering over the line. Note that a finished line will be thick and an unfinished will be thin, like the one I am dragging around here. Now go in the general direction of a parallel line like the sixth picture, and this time make a line of any length within the house like I have (now picture seven). Since we do not know the exact distance between the house wall and the edge of our roof, we cannot enter a value. On top of this, we do not have any specific points on the house wall to go by.

All we have to do now is use the pointer tool, click on the excess part of our line, and hit delete. Remember, the edge of the house will split the parallel line we made into two components. We are deleting the second one here. Also, you can click on the pink eraser (or hit "E") and click on the components you want to delete.

You should be at the picture eight now.

Step 10: Take a Breather

Whew! That might have been hard to understand.

It is important that you know at least these VERY basic skills. Go back and start a new project and play around with the tools you have. Then, take a small break and let's get right back to work.

PS: even I took a break from writing this instructable here :D (but only a few minutes)

Step 11: Finishing the Roof

To finish the roof, we will be using push and pull.

During this step, I will show you another tip you can use regarding rounding and push pull.

First, set you camera like mine in the first picture, looking the back of the house.

Now, remember how I had told earlier that push pull only goes in the direction the face you are pushing is facing? Well, for that very same reason, you can round pushing and pulling to ANY other point pushed or pulled back as far as you want to push or pull to. For example, I want to connect the edge of the roof we made with the back of the house. To do so, I can click on the face of the jutting out roof, and hover my mouse over any point on the back face of the house or any point of the back edges of the house. You can see this in the second and third pictures. The fourth one is the end result.

Since we know the depth of the house (measurement on green axis), we could a have as well started pulling backwards, and typed in 5, or pulled it forwards and typed in -5. (forwards being towards the negative green axis)

To put forward backwards left right and all of those in perspective, try experimenting with the views toolbar at the top of the screen. It includes many small houses and each button represents a different way of looking at it. I purposefully made you make this house in the same orientation as the buttons so that you will be able to do this experimentation.

Lots of behind the scenes planning eh? Pretty proud of how it turned out myself :D

Step 12: Symmetry Finishes the Roof

Now do all that we did regarding the roof with the other side and you should end up with what I have here. This will test out your skills so far.

Next, we will make a line that extends the underside of our roof, is parallel to the top of the roof, and is directly under the tip of the house. Make another line symmetric to the first one. Finally, erase the extra lines on the roof. Refer to pictures 1 through 4. You can see in pic 2 that the line is parallel to the top, and on a blue axis to the tip of the house (which means it is directly above or below it).

lastly, you may delete the lines on the top of the roof. If these lines are important and make unwanted changes to you design, you can also right click and click the hide option. You should be at picture five now.

Step 13: A Decorative Window

We will now use the polygon tool to make a decorative window. The "P" key doesn't work for this since it used for push and pull already. The tool looks like a pentagon surrounded by a red circle. It is next to the circle tool which we will also use in this step. The circle tool is a circle.

Now the polygon tool will make regular polygons, that is shapes with equal side lengths and angles. RIGHT AFTER you click the tool, you can change the number of sides by typing in a number. Type in 8. You will now be making octagons. Now, find the point where the top of the house and the edge of the roof rounds a axis as shown in the first picture. Now move your mouse in the up general direction, along the blue axis line that formed with the tip of the house (second picture).

Type in 0.5 for a 0.5 mm radius and you should be left with what I have on picture three.

Now comes another point of rounding - centers. Centers can be of any shape with a diameter such as circles or polygons. To find the center of a shape, hover over the borders for a few seconds and go to the middle. The center will be found for you. No click on the circle tool and start a circle at the center of the octagon, and you may start stretching it in any general direction. It is a circle after all. Type in 0.6 for a radius of 0.6, and see if you are at picture four by now.

Now keep in mind that a 3D printer will only print 3D objects - that is only if anything has depth. You cannot print out a square. For that reason, we need to give our window some depth. Push the window in 0.1 mm and pull the border out 0.1 mm. Your house should look like number 5 now.

Step 14: Window

This part will be almost a test because I will only provide you with two pictures. Good Luck!

  1. Start by finding the midpoint of the left front edge of the house
  2. make a 0.75 mm line in the positive red direction
  3. make a 1 mm line in the positive blue direction from there
  4. make a 1 mm line in the positive red direction from there
  5. make a 2 mm line in the negative blue
  6. make a 1 mm line in the negative red
  7. make a 1 mm line in the positive blue
  8. delete the 0.75 mm line
  9. BAM! a window. Check picture one now
  10. now find the midpoints of each opposite edges and draw a line between them.
  11. The window should have 4 panes now. Check pic 2

If you are feeling up for some more work, make a 1 mm by 0.1 mm window sill like picture 3 and pull it out 0.1 mm.

Finally, indent opposite corner window panes 1 mm and the other two at 0.5 mm using the push pull tool. This will allow you to see the detail if you 3D print it. (Picture 4)

Step 15: Door

To make the door, we will use the rectangle tool and the line tool. Start off by making a line on the red axis at the bottom of the house at length 0.75mm. This will be a point for us to start making the door. (Picture 1)

Next, make a rectangle starting at the end of the line you just made. But wait! There is something you should now be told about the format of rectangles:

It isn't always length, width.

Depending on how you start dragging it before typing in a dimension or where you make it, the format may change. Good rule of thumb, enter it as longer side, shorter side. See pictures two and three for example. I dragged the rectangle on more of the red axis and typed in 3,1. The rectangle then became a long one on the red axis. But in picture 4 and 5, I dragged the rectangle upwards more and typed in 3,1. You can see the dimensions for both rectangles in the bottom right hand corner. This is only when making rectangles on a face. If you are making a rectangle in space, then it is always length, width.

Back to the door, start the rectangle at the end of our 0.75 mm line and stretch it more upwards than on red axis. Type in the dimensions 2.5, 1.5 for a perfect sized door. Next push it in 0.1 mm so we can see the details. (Picture 6)

Step 16: Door Details

To make the door panels, make a 0.6 mm by 1 m rectangle in the free space next to the house. Remember, since it is free space it is length, width. Now pull it out 0.1 mm.

To give it a bevel, we will need to make lines and use the move tool again. Start off by making a 0.1 mm line on the bottom edge of the panel like picture 1. Now make a vertical line to the top of the panel. Do this for all edges to end up at picture two. Now delete the extra lines but keep the inner rectangle you just finished.

Using the move tool, grab the front edge of the panel and move it to the inner rectangles sides. refer to pictures 3 and 4. Do this for all 4 front sides.

Now go and zoom in to the top of the door and press "T" for tape measure or click on the tape measure. now hover over the back top edge of the door for a while, click on the edge, and start dragging straight down. (Picture 5)

Type in 0.1 and you should be able to get a horizontal dotted line like I did on picture five. Do the same from all back edges of the door.

Now to make this next step easier, look to the toolbar of cubes to the top of your screen and click on the clearish blue one. It's the first one and it is called x-ray. You can now see through faces. Now go the the camera angle I have in picture six.

Now triple click on the door panel so it is all blue and hit control x or cut.

Now whenever you paste it, you will be using the move tool. Every time you paste it, move it into the empty space where it used to be. Then match the top left corner of the panel with the top left point created by the dotted lines. And every panel is arranged around the door. Look to picture seven to see how I placed the panels and how it looks while triple clicked. Keep in mind that you need to match the top left corner on the BACK of the panel. Otherwise, it will become part of your door. turn off x-ray, and your project should look like mine. Don't forget to delete the helping measurement lines.

All we need now is the doorknob now.

Step 17: Doorknob

To make the doorknob, I will teach you the arc tool and the follow me tool.

Start off by zooming in to the door like I have in the first picture, and make a 0.2 mm line from the midpoint of the left side.This will help us later.

Now we could be making a doorknob, but any circle we make now will have too small of a radius. We need to scale our house bigger. At this point, it is actually small enough to fit a few houses on our fingernail. So that we can make the details easily, we will scale 5 mm to 50 cm, which is a 100 times increase.

Triple click on the house and press "S" for scale. You can also click on the square with a diagonal arrow for scale. You should be at picture 2 now. This tool is very cool because you can scale the house in any direction you want. Play around with it in your free time. For now, click on the back top right point like I have and start dragging it away from the house. (Picture 3) Now type in 100. This is multiplier we want to scale it to. (or the percentage divided by 100) This means we multiply the size by 100.

Now zoom back to where we were at the first step. Make a circle with the center at the end of our helper line and make the radius 5 mm.Next, make a line on the green axis from the center of the circle with length of 20 mm. Next, start a line from the tip of the previous one. Make it on the positive red axis and 5 mm in length. Lastly, make a 10 mm line on the green axis from where the helper line meets the circle. Refer to picture 4 for help.

Now, click "A" for arc or press the tool directly under the polygon tool. Click on the endpoints of the two previous lines you made and hover on the point where the helper line meets the door edge. The arc's radius should be red (Picture 5). Now, type in 5 and make sure the doorknob now has a P shape on it (Picture 6).

Once you have finished all that, click on the follow me tool which is directly under push pull (or press "F"). Now The following might take a few tries, but click on the P on the doorknob and move your mouse around the edge of the circle. The P shape will follow around the circumference and make a doorknob! You can see this process in Picture 7 and 8, as well as the final product in picture 9. This follow me tool can be used n anything with radial symmetry but it's not worth it to use it on simple shapes like cylinders, which can be made using push and pull.

Step 18: Final Touches

Triple click the entire house and click scale. Select the same point as we did earlier, but this time, type in 0.1. This will divide our house by one tenth and create a house that has a 5 cm or 50 mm base. This is ten times the size of our starting one. It is small enough to be 3D printed and big enough to have the details visible. If you want, you can scale it up a bit from here to match you 3D printer's dimensions.

We still have one component to add though. The chimney.

Start by making using the measuring tape and making a line 10 mm from the back of the house, and one line 20 mm from the right side of the house. Next, start a rectangle at the point where the measuring tape lines meet and type 7, 10 to make it a 7mm by 10mm rectangle. Quick note on rectangles here: There are exceptions to when what input is length and which one is width. If a rectangle doesn't come out right the first time, simply switch the dimensions.

Your chimney should look like picture 1 now. Next, start a line at the higher two points of the rectangle and drag it along the green axis so that is right above the other point, like picture 2. Do the same on the front facing side of the rectangle. Next, connect each line end to the point directly under it. You will now have two triangles like picture 3. NOTE: when you create a closed figure of lines on the same plane, you will create a face.

Now, connect the end points of the two triangles you made to end up at picture four. Right click the darker faces and click "reverse face". This just prevents future glitches and looks better. Refer to Picture 4.

To finish the chimney, pull the top surface up 10 mm. Does you house look like Picture 5 now? If so the great work! If not, then refer back to the previous steps. Also, This house is in the same orientation as the views buttons (The toolbar with house buttons).

You now have a finished house that can be 3D printed. Now this does depend on what printer you have, but you can also download a skp (Sketchup file) to stl extension off the Sketchup website.

Step 19: Thanks!

Now if you made it all the way to this step, CONGRATS!

That was a long instructable (and I might even make it longer if people have questions). Thank you so much for going through this and spending your time to learn something new from me.

As I have said before, This instructable was made primarily for the FSL contest. Being a student about to enter college, have a 3D printer and laser cutter at my disposal could help in my educational life a lot. If you liked this instructable, then please give it a vote and a favorite. Leave any constructive comments or any questions you have for me and I will see you in my next instructable!

Happy Building :D

<p>Great write up. Very detailed!</p>
<p>Thank You!</p>

About This Instructable




Bio: I love to build things that look cool in general or have a nice use to it... pretty much anything really then. If you are ... More »
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