Thursday, May 27, 2010

New Presentation Plug-in: 3D PDF

If you don't have SketchUp Pro, and therefore you don't have LayOut, this new plug-in might solve your presentation problem. 3D PDF by Simlab Soft exports SketchUp models to an interactive PDF. It's not free ($95), but SketchUp Pro will cost you about five times that. (I used the 30-day trial version - maybe Simlab will read this and send me a free licensed copy?) Here's somethign nice: the installation runs on its own; no RB files to mess with.

I tried this out on one of my models in the 3D Warehouse that has scenes in it. (Click the image if you want to open the 3D Warehouse page.)

From SketchUp, I chose Plugins / PDF Export / Export. (The Settings option has additional features, like adding background music and setting default views and styles.) This saves the model out to a PDF file, which looks like the picture below. The four icons on the left of the toolbar control navigation. They're a little clunky to use for zooming, orbiting, etc - a SketchUp-like mouse button navigation would be nice. (Maybe this is already possible, but I didn't find a way how.)

There are also options for adding and changing lights, and setting how the model is rendered (wireframe, hidden line, etc.) A translucent view is shown below.

My SketchUp model has a few scenes, and these scenes can be accessed in the PDF. But I also wanted to display some standard plan and elevation views, and I never managed to find a way to do this, even after a lot of searching around. Maybe those have to be saved with the original SketchUp file as well? To rival LayOut, standard views will need to be included in later versions.

One very nice feature is sectioning. There's no connection to PDF sections and the ones added to the SketchUp model, however. You get a standard section plane parallel to the ground, and can access settings to change its position and orientation, color, intersection colors, etc. Again, this interface could be smoother, but it's still a cool feature that LayOut doesn't have. (But LayOut will refer to section planed defined in your SketchUp model.)

Here's something else that's neat: you can access individual parts of the model and control how they are displayed. For example, I selected the roof, and its corresponding part name was highlighted in the list.

With the context menu, I was able to hide just the roof.

Another nice feature would be the ability to change those part names. Maybe this is possible in the licensed version.

3D PDF also has a dimensioning tool, though it's not yet as sophisticated as LayOut's.

There are also options for creating text, headers, footers, adding new views, etc. There is a lot of room for improvement (including the rather unhelpful 6-page "manual" I found searching around on the help forum). But assuming future versions address these issues, this will be a fabulous addition to your SketchUp arsenal.

Anyone can design anything in 3D!

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1 comment:

BrooXL said...

We bought and tried Simlab's 3D PDF plugin, and found two things very limiting: 1) it does not properly put/save the model units and scale in the .PDF ; so, everything measures in generic 'model units' which is meters regardless of what the SketchUp model was drawn in, and 2) this pluggin exports only 2D plane 3D geometry; it does not export points, lines, guides, text, nor dimension entities - which makes it practically impossible to create a fully commented/annotated 3D model in PDF.

I really hope these shortcomings get corrected because it would be sooo useful!