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Big Blue Saw Blog

How to Design Parts for Big Blue Saw Using Google Sketchup

Google Sketchup Part for DXF Export

Many of our customers design parts using Google Sketchup, and with good reason: it's a powerful, easy to use tool for 3D modeling with a basic version that happens to be free to download and use. But the basic version of Google Sketchup has a serious shortcoming: it locks you in to Sketchup's proprietary file format.

Fortunately, there's an easy way to generate standard SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) files from Sketchup, which can then be converted into DXF files for CAD software and Big Blue Saw's online quoting system.

The key is to use a free plugin for Sketch up called sketchup-svg-outline-plugin. The download page has a link to a ZIP file containing the plugin. Once you have downloaded the plugin's ZIP file, install the plugin by unpacking the file in the Sketchup plugins folder. On my computer, this folder was "C:\Program Files\Google\Google SketchUp 8\Plugins". Read the official installation instructions if you have trouble with this step.

To demonstrate how to use Sketchup with Big Blue Saw, we will first need a part that can be created using waterjet or laser cutting.

The techniques for creating such a part should be familiar to any Sketchup user. We start with a rectangle with a few circles inside of it.

Designing a Google Sketchup Part

Then we can use the Push/Pull tool to give the part some depth.

Designing a Google Sketchup Part

To start the vector export, you will need to select the face to export by using the Select (arrow) tool. In this case, we are selecting the top face, which looks like a drawing that can be used by Big Blue Saw's online quoting system.

Designing a Google Sketchup Part

By right-clicking on the face you have selected, you will see the context menu for this face. The sketchup-svg-outline-plugin adds a new option to this context menu: "Export to SVG File".

Selecting a Face on Google Sketchup Part for SVG Export

Choosing the "Export to SVG File" menu item will cause the dialog box shown below to appear. The default options should be good enough for most purposes. When you see this dialog, be sure to enter a useful file name and location for the output file.

SVG Export Options In Google Checkout

At this point, you will have an SVG file which you can open in Inkscape. Inkscape can create DXF files using Big Blue Saw's DXF Export for Inkscape. If you don't have Big Blue Saw's DXF Export for Inkscape, you will need to install it.

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Big Blue Saw's DXF Export for Inkscape needs a little extra help to create a good quality DXF file from an SVG generated by the Sketchup plugin. You will need to ungroup all of the elements of the file and convert them to curves.

Select any element of the drawing. Since the entire drawing is a single group, everything will be highlighted when you click on any one part.

Modifying SVG Drawing

Ungroup the elements of the drawing by choosing Object | Ungroup from the menu or by pressing Shift-Ctrl-G.

 

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Modifying SVG Drawing

 

All of the elements of the drawing should remain selected at this point. Convert them to curves by selecting Path | Object to Path from the menu or by pressing Shift-Ctrl-C.

Modifying SVG Drawing

Finally, save the drawing as a DXF by choosing File | Save As from the menu. Be sure to select Big Blue Saw DXF output from the drop-down list of file types.

 

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Saving SVG Drawing as DXF

 

Congratulations. You now have a DXF file which can be turned into a real part made of metal, plastic, or a variety of other materials using Big Blue Saw's online quoting system.

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Big Blue Saw
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Waterjet and Laser Cut Custom Parts.
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