SketchUp Plugins: Site Modeling - Place Trees

Easily transfer your trees from your 2D drawing to the right position (height) on your site model.
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I've been working on a complex site model and needed to add several hundred trees on it. I found a Plugin that once you have the trees drawn in CAD 2D makes it a two click process to put the trees on your site.
The plugin drop.rb drops objects till they hit some base plane. This is very useful to place our trees on the site. What we do, is we simply import the file were all the trees are in 2D.

Once we have imported the CAD file with the trees into SketchUp, we move the trees higher than our site, select them all and with a right click we select "drop at intersection". The trees will drop till they "hit" the site, each of them being placed at the right height.

Once they are dropped, we can edit one of them to turn them into a 3D tree. Since they were blocks imported from AutoCAD they act like components, so all the trees will be updated.

See this last view of the street wit all 3D trees placed at the right height. All with a two click process.

You can download the plugin here.

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SketchUp: Hide Unwanted Edges

Hide those edges you don't want to see in an easy and quick way.
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Almost a year ago, I wrote a post on How to hide all the edges of an object. Although what it's there is still valid if that is what you need, there is a much better way to do this.
You simply need to select the geometry you want to hide the edges of, and go to Window --> Soften Edges. This will bring the smooth soften edges dialog box to the screen, where you can play with the options of how to soften (hide) those edges.

As a quick example see how this surface created with Soap Skin Bubble, was soften to show how I wanted.

What you need to understand though, is that you are not just hiding the edges, you are joining the two faces too. The resulting surface will be one.

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Rhino Plugins: Export to SketchUp

Export files from Rhino to SketchUp skipping any oder transition format
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When exporting files from Program to Program the best way to go is to to the export directly between this two formats. Generic formats like 3Ds work, but tend to make the process tedious, and generally the resulting file needs some clean-up.
For the transition between Rhino and SketchUp, there is a Plugin to export files from the former to the later directly.
The plugin can be downloaded here. More information about it, on the McNeel website.
I've been out on vacation for a couple of weeks. I'll try to catch up with lots of posts I have on a list during the next weeks.

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Select Similar Objects / Blocks / Components

Learn how to select all the instances of a component
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I post often how to find ways to mimic behavior of different programs. We get used to certain tricks that make us work fast and then we miss those things when using a different software.
This is the case of the AutoCAD Architecture function "Select Similar". What this does is to select all instances of an object with the same properties. For instance, if we select a wall, right click and choose "select similar" in the context menu, all the walls of the same style on the objects layer will be selected. The same happens with any object sharing properties and layer with the selected objects.

So how do we do this in SketchUp? There is actually not one method that does all this, but there are several ways to achieve a similar result. If what we want is to select all the instances of a component (the equivalent to Blocks in SketchUp) we need to open the component browser (Window --> Components), then right click the thumbnail of the component we want to select and choose Select Instances (we already went through this on a previous post about How to Replace all instances of a Component).
If what we want is to select all the objects on a Layer, we can simply select one object that lays on that layer, right click it and go to Select --> All on same Layer.

These tricks on SketchUp don't do exaclty the same as the very useful "select similar" command of AutoCAD Architecture and the other AEC versions of AutoCAD, but they are close enough.

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SketchUp Plugins: How to Draw a Helix or a Spiral

Easiy draw helixes or spiral curves with this simple plugin.
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DRAW HELIX (drawhelix13.rb) by Peter Brown allows us to draw helix and spiral curves (flat helix). It is very easy to use and quick. It is accessible via Draw --> Helix (I've modified slightly the original code that was pointing to Draw --> DrawHelix13). It shows a dilog box like the following one, where you can set the different options.

Pitch is the Height of one Helix Rotation. That way, if we set the pitch to 1m and number of rotations to 5, the total heght of the helix will be 5m. The number of segments per rotations will define how many lne segments will form each rotation. This is the result obtained with the default values shown on the image above.

By using a plugin like TUBE ALONG PATH, we are able to turn the helix line generated to a rederable helix.

If we want to draw spirals (a flat helix of changing radius) we simply need to set the Pitch to 0. See how I modeled my ugly living room mirror ;).

Chek here how to Install SketchUp Plugins.

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Maxwell Render: New 2.0 Version Coming Soon

Check out the new features of the upcoming version 2.0 of Maxwell Render.
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Next Limit is announcing on their website the new features of the soon to be released Maxwell render Version 2. The website has plenty of examples of the improved features comparing them to the latest released version v1.7.
So far, for what I've seen on the website, the speed improvement (one of the weak points of Maxwell has always been speed) is amazing, and the behavior of light sources has also been tremendously improved.
I can't wait for the release of this new version and find out about all the new features.

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AutoCAD: Use Curved Frames to Clip your References

Clip your Blocks or XREFs using curved polylines, circles, etc
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A common problem found when using the XCLIP command is that it doesn't clip properly if the polyline we use has curved segments. The same way we can't use circles to clip Blocks or XREFs. If you try to clip a block using a polyline that contains curved segments you will see that along the curved segment the clipping is not done properly. See the following image. The block was clipped using the yellow polyline. The result is not satisfactory at all.

The first image shows the original block, the second one is the block clipped with the XCLIP command. As you see we need a work around this result. The work around is to use an Express Tool Command.

CLIPIT is an express tool command that will allow us to do what we wanted to do. CLIPIT will ask us to select the new clipping frame, that can actually be a POLYLINE, CIRCLE, ARC, ELLIPSE, or TEXT object. It works the opposite as the XCLIP command. With CLIPIT you first select the frame and then the Block, Image, Wipeout or XREF you want to clip. See the following image with the result.

What CLIPIT does, is turn the curved clipping frame into a set of segments. If you switch on the XCLIPFRAME and select the block, you will see that the frame is actually made of straight lines. See it below.

The only bad part of this express tool, is that so far (till version 2009) it doesn't allow inverted clips. We talked about how useful inverted XCLIPS can be on a previous post. Hopefully in future versions of AutoCAD this will be solved.

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AutoCAD: Select all Connected Geometry.

Wonder how to select with a single click all connected geometry? AutoCAD can do it, you just need to know the right command.
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Usually my day at work involves designing and drawing both in AutoCAD and SketchUp (and eventually in Rhino depending on the complexity of the geometry of the project). Switching back and forth from one software to another makes you miss on one program some of the functions that the other program has. This was the case of the "Select all Connected" option in SketchUp. It is so useful to select all connected geometry (it can be accessed through a right click menu or by triple clicking any line on the drawing). But can something similar be done in AutoCAD? The answer is yes.

There is an Express Tool for AutoCAD called FASTSEL (accessible also via the FS shortcut) that allows us to select all the geometry that is connected (touching) any element on our drawing. The elements that can be used using this commands are LINE, POLYLINE, LWPOLYLINE, CIRCLE, ARC, ATTDEF, TEXT, MTEXT, ELLIPSE, SPLINE or IMAGE objects. BLOCKS or XREFs containing these objects will also work.
AEC Objects from some of the vertical products such as Walls or AEC Polygons are not supported. In case you have a Block or XREF containing both supported and unsupported elements, the command will only use the supported elements.

The command can be accessed transparently while using other commands by typing 'FS while the command is running. Also, use the FSMODE System Variable to control if the FS command selects all connected geometry (FSMODE = ON) or only the geometry connected to the first object (FSMODE = OFF).

Note that this Express Tool Command is mostly intended for 2D since I tried to use it in 3D and lines that are actually not touching other geometry did get connected. I find it specially useful when I accidentally explode polylines, with this command you can select all the lines that where previously connected with a single click. Select faster than a private jet with this express tool!

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SketchUp Plugins: Slice Your Model

Do you need to get slices of your SketchUp model to build a real life model? Slice it easily with this Plugin.
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A common process in my office is to design some of the buildings in SketchUp and then build physical models of them cutting the pieces with a laser machine. With simple geometry this is no problem, and it is easy to draw the outlines of the pieces in AutoCAD to send them to the laser cutter. When the Gemoetry is more complex the process requires a bit more effort.

SLICER (slicer.rb)
is a Plugin that helps doing this. The Plugin generates slices from a given 3D model and you can choose which axis you want to use for the slices to be generated.
See the following example. I used the same terrain I used on a previous post and I created slices of it every 5m.

The plugin even asks you if you want a flattened copy of your slices, which basically means that it will spread the slices on the ground plane, so you can just set a Top view and Export to AutoCAD. See the image of this other simpler model.

Of course CAD exports from SketchUp are not always very clean, so there might be some tweaking needed before using a laser cutter, but this definitely speeds up the process. To use the plugin, select a Group or Component, go to Plugins --> Slicer and then use the dialog box to configure how the slices should be created. Download the Plugin here.

Chek here how to Install SketchUp Plugins.

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AutoCAD: Delete a Layer that Contains Objects

Do you need to delete a layer but the purge command doesn't do it? No worries, there is an express tool for that.
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One more day of problem solving at work. Ryan asked me today if I knew how to delete a layer that the purge command doesn't delete. The solution is to use one of the Layer Express Tools. And of course I thought: let's write about it here during my lunch break! It is raining anyways.

LAYDEL is an Express Tools Command that allows us to delete a layer even if it contains objects. This is useful to delete layers we want to purge but because they might be included in some block definition we are not using anymore, the purge command can't delete them. Be careful though, since it will delete the layer and its contents. TO use it simply make sure that the layer you want to delete is not current, type LAYDEL and select an object on that layer (alternatively you can access this function through Format --> Layer Tools --> Layer Delete).

There is an alternative method to delete a layer but keep its objects. The LAYMRG Express Tool Command merges one layer into another and deletes the first one. It is very useful when trying to simplify the layer structure of a drawing but we want to keep all its graphical information. To use it, type LAYMRG (alternatively you can access this function through Format --> Layer Tools --> Layer Merge)select the layer to delete and merge, press ENTER, then select the target layer where you want the information to be merged to.

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SketchUp: Load new Plugins without Restarting the Program

Do you want to load a new Plugin without restarting SketchUp? Alex Schreyer has a Plugin for that.
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Sometimes we want to try new Plugins we just downloaded without the "hassle" of closing SketchUp and opening it againg. Alex Schreyer, has written a Ruby Script that allows us to do that.
PLUGIN LOADER (as_pluginloader.rb) adds a submenu to the plugin menu that allows us to reload the entire Plugins folder or to pick one by one which Plugins we want to load.

You can download the plugin using the above link or go to Alex Schreyer Website were he keeps updating it with the latest release.

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AutoCAD: Offset Ellipses and keep them as Ellipses

Tired of getting SPLINES when you offset you ellipses? Maybe you want to try this quick video tutorial.
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One of the biggest issues of working with ellipses is the fact that if we offset them using the OFFSET command, they become Splines. Splines are entities that are hard to work with, especially when we need to trim parts and later we want to extend them again. Tired of toggling the PELLISPE system variable many times, i wanted to see if there was a way to offset an ellipse but keep it as an ellipse. I did found the way to do it. It is a bit slower than using the OFFSET command, but if you think you might need to edit the resulting ellipse maybe you want to give it a try. See the video below.

The steps are simple:
  1. Draw two lines from the quadrants of the ellipse. Their length should be the distance you want to offset the ellipse. (To be able to Snap on the qadrants, turn them or access the quadrant osnap with through the OSNAP contextual menu)
  2. Select the ellipse, move one of the grips next to one of the lines to the other end point of that line while holding the CTRL key.
  3. Move the grip next to the other line you previously draw to the other endpoint of the line
That´s it, your resulting parallel ellipse is still an ellipse and not a SPLINE.

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