Friday, February 25, 2011

CADspan Plug-in for Sketchup

One of the things I've been doing since coming to work at Xardas has been to try to become more acquainted with the concepts of 3d design for rapid prototyping. We've got plenty of people to answer our clients' more technical questions, but knowing the process from beginning to end will help me, personally, better address your customer service needs as well.

My background is in graphic design so I'm happiest working in Photoshop and Illustrator (or a pencil, or a paintbrush) - I have no CAD experience to speak of. So I'm starting out, like many of you non-engineers, with Sketchup. I've been through a bunch of very helpful tutorials and can now make a simple house, a vase, etc. I love how intuitive it all is, and I'm looking forward to really being able to do some cool things with it.

This week I installed a plug-in that would be useful for many people designing for 3d printing. It's CADspan, it's free, and it helps you detect reversed faces and non-watertightness. It also lets you export an STL file. Did I mention that it's free? It also has a smooth/unsmooth option and various other tools I haven't played around with.

I have yet to actually print any of my own designs, but as soon as I have a free moment I plan to try!


  1. I wasted a lot of time with the free options (Sketchup+plugins/Blender), I ended up getting to a point where I just couldn't get any further without the software glitching or crashing or not being able to do what I needed. After trying out a bunch of actual CAD programs I went with Alibre Personal Edition ($99). You have to follow the tutorials to get the hang it, but it becomes easier to use for complicated tasks than Sketchup. It has all the tools Sketchup and TurboCad charge hundreds for like chamfer for smooth edges, and boolean operations for making complex parts, shelling etc. It outputs STL files natively. I have had several problems with it crashing, but nothing compared to Blender crashing every single time you perform a boolean op.

  2. That's good to know, Paul, thanks - just in the course of looking at client files I've learned a great deal. I'm actually very taken with a beta version of Rhino for Mac at the moment and can usually fix broken files that way, but I wish I had more time to devote to learning.