Alibre Design and Google SketchUp (Alibre Options Tutorial)

31 Jul, 2007 By: Michael Todd

Alibre 3D publisher combines Alibre with Google SketchUp for free.

Alibre Design developed a new free plug-in that lets you combine the power of two popular free 3D design programs -- Alibre Design Xpress (for precision modeling) and Google SketchUp (for conceptual modeling). With the Alibre 3D publisher, you can take any Alibre model or any standard CAD model and import it into Google SketchUp, Google Earth, and Google 3D Warehouse. This month, I'll explain how to install and use this new tool.

Getting Started
Before you can use the 3D Publisher, you must install three programs: Alibre Design (any Alibre version works with this tool), Google SketchUp, and the 3D Publisher. If you don't already have Alibre Design, download the free version. Google SketchUp is free as well, and you can access it here. Next, download and install Alibre 3D Publisher.

Build Your Model
Once you have the proper components installed, open Alibre Design and create your part in the Part Design workspace. As an example, I created this golf club head.


A club iron created in Alibre Design.

Export Your Model to SketchUp
Once your model is complete, you can export your model to SketchUp. Simply open your model and go to Tools / Add-Ons / Google SketchUp Publisher, which brings up the Export Window.


The SketchUp Export dialog box.

If you're familiar with exporting files in Alibre Design, you may notice that there are four new options in the SketchUp Export Window.

The first new option is Display Accuracy, which works similarly to the Circular Facets in Part Design in Alibre. This option affects the quality and accuracy of curved geometry on your model after export. Setting it to High gives you an accurate model but also increases the time it takes to create the model. Setting this option to Low reduces the quality of the model, and it also reduces the amount of time it takes to generate the SketchUp model (this capability is useful for large or complex designs).

The Launch SketchUp option immediately opens your newly created SKP file in SketchUp. This option is useful if you need to modify a model after importing it to SketchUp. If this option isn't activated, your file is converted to a SketchUp format without actually opening the SketchUp application.

The Upload to 3D Warehouse option lets you to share your file using Google's 3D Warehouse. The 3D Warehouse is a repository-like, online database of 3D models. Once uploaded, your model can be located and downloaded by anyone in the world. I have uploaded the golf club head from above into the Warehouse as an example. Click here to access the model.

You can use the Show Alibre Watermark in Preview option in conjunction with the 3D Warehouse. When activated, this option places a small Alibre Watermark in the corner of the preview displayed for your part on the Google 3D Warehouse Web site.


The iron exported to SketchUp.

Details to Keep in Mind
Limitations. Models that are imported to SketchUp can be modified easily in SketchUp, but there are a couple of limitations. If you right-click on your imported model, you can explode the edges and faces. You can then go in and remove edges and faces, but doing so can cause unexpected results to your model if you're not careful. Also, after importing your model, you can add materials to your design using the standard SketchUp tools, but you can't remove materials from your imported model.

Remove overdefined constraints. When importing an assembly into SketchUp, check to make sure that you don't have any overdefined constraints. If you do, you will get an error on export.

Import without errors. If you're importing a model from another CAD system into Alibre with the intent to export it into SketchUp, you must make sure that the model imports without errors. If the model doesn't import properly into Alibre, it won't import properly into SketchUp either.

About the Author: Michael Todd

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