Google Sketchup .skp to 3DPDF conversion

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How to convert Google Sketchup/Make (and other CAD files)
to 3DPDF using freeware!

Intro to U3D and 3DPDF
    Universal 3D (U3D) is a newer open-source file format which is (supposed to be, on paper) a more universal, widespread compressed 3D CAD format for the masses to view. This file has many advantages compared to other proprietary CAD formats, including the availability of open-source code to process the files, its compressed size, and its portability. Most importantly, this file format can be embedded into PDF files (called 3DPDF files), allowing portability among a very wide variety of internet browsers, PCs, and devices to view the content. (Although it appears as if the official Adobe Reader X PDF viewer software is one of the few PDF viewers to support 3DPDFs.) Such example usage of 3DPDF files are sharing a read-only CAD drawing to coworkers who may not have the CAD software to view the drawings, or to showcase 3D video game models on a portfolio website. 

   The main downside to the U3D format? The availability of freeware or cheap software to convert CAD formats to U3D, let alone to convert and to embed into 3DPDFs, is difficult, if not impossible, to find, and most average programmers probably do not have the time, skill, or patience to deal with creating their own solution using the provided open-source code, complex 3D Calculus, and vector math.

Enter FinalMesh



    While creating UAHDX over the past Fall 2014 semester, I decided that I needed to find a cheap solution in order to convert my 3D Google Sketchup video game art into 3DPDFs, so that I could showcase and embed them on my portfolio website. (I ended up just converting the CAD art from Ultra Air Hockey instead, since these models can obviously be seen in action in-game). After much searching online, I discovered a very easy method in order to convert most common CAD file formats into a 3DPDF. Using an amazing piece of shareware software called FinalMesh, I was able to create 3DPDF files of my video game CAD Google Sketchup models and convert them into 3DPDFs. 

  FinalMesh is a Windows shareware application which allows the user to view and to convert various CAD drawing formats into other 3D CAD formats and to raycast/render them to common 2D image formats. (Full list of 2D/3D formats are available here). Most importantly, for the 2D image formats, one can add a title, headers, and text, and can also convert 3D models into 3DPDFs! Below is my how-to for converting Google Sketchup models into 3DPDFs. The steps will vary slightly for converting other file formats. Basically, we will be converting our Google Sketchup .skp file into a Lightwave .obj, loading it into FinalMesh, and converting it to 3dpdf.

   What you will need:

   1. Google Sketchup (duh, Free prefered)
   2. TimeStopper 3.0 (NOT >=4.0!, optional)
   3. FinalMesh Trial
   4. Tig's ObjExporter Ruby plugin

  Steps:

    Get your software
  1. If you don't have Google Sketchup/Make download the latest free version from here
  2. Download FinalMesh Trial from here
    1. The trial version is fully functional, except for the fact that it puts watermarks on outputs, and may(?) have time-based trial. Nothing major...
  3. Optionally, Google and find an OLDER v3.x copy (v3.5 preferred) of TimeStopper.
    1. It's a software that allows the user to create a special shortcut to run software at an earlier date, used primarly for defeating time-based trials of software. IIRC, FinalMesh has no time-based trial on it, but I performed this step just in case :).
    2. Use it to create a shortcut patch
  4. Download Tig's ObjExporter
    1. It is a ruby plugin for Sketchup which adds a context menu in order to export freely a .skp sketchup model to Lightwave .obj
    2. It is packed as a .rbz file extension. Change the filename to a .zip file, and extract the .rb plugin inside with your favorite archive software
    3. Place the plugin inside your Google Sketchup installation directory at [root]/tools
    4. If you do not want to make an account to download the plugin (I personally do not like making online accounts for a one-time thing), you can "borrow" some shared login credentials from Bugmenot for Sketchucation.com

          Do the conversion
  1. Load/draw a Google Sketchup .skp file
  2. Select File>ObjExporter. Save the file somewhere. If it asks to convert .png, select "yes"
  3. Launch FinalMesh, either normally, or through the TimeStopper shortcut you made earlier. Load the .obj file you made
  4. Click the "Save as" tab on the left, click the "PDF" tab on the top, arrange your pdf, give it a name, and lastly, click Export. You just made a PDF!
If you want to see some samples exported with this, you can check out my 3D Model gallery for  Ultra Air Hockey. Any questions or clarifications, you can just ask me in the comments.

-Anthony

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