Using Google SketchUp to Design Robots



Google SketchUp is a marvelous program that is used to create 3D models. This 3D model making program is used by many hobbyists and engineers due to two main reasons: it is extremely easy to use and its FREE!


For example the models pictured below were all created in Google SketchUp.



You can download the latest version of SketchUp here . After you have downloaded and installed it, I want you to watch these training videos( which Google has made) which will give you more of a "feel" for Google Sketchup. Notetaking is advised.


Now that you are familiar with drawing shapes , you could probably draw a crude 3D model of a robot . However , that robot would not be to scale. To draw to scale all you have to do is draw a shape and then start typing in numbers. For example, draw a rectangle with any length and width at all. Now look in the bottom right corner of your screen. Do you see a a small box with numbers? This box is the Value Box and holds the dimensions of your shape. Now without clicking anywhere , start typing the following ( leave out the quotation marks) : "5cm , 5cm" . The value box should now have the numbers "5cm , 5cm" in it . Hit the Enter key. The rectangle which you drew before has now turned into a perfect square. You can now do this to any shape or line drawn. Just draw the line, type the numbers ( without clicking anywhere) and hit enter .

Now what do you type for each shape or line drawn, what is the format for each of these shapes / lines? Well I'll list them for you.(note that A , B , and C are variables which can be replaced by your numbers you want)

Any 2D quadrilateral drawn has the format " A cm, B cm " , where A is height and B is width

For a 2D circle, draw a circle and type the number , the format is "A cm" where A is radius NOT diameter

For a 2D line draw the line and type the number in the format "A cm" where A is length of line


Now to make any of those shapes 3D , use the Push/Pull feature to pull the face to any distance from the original point it was , and then type the distance away you want in the format "A cm " , where A is distance away or depth .

You can also print out your design to scale . This is very useful when you need a drilling or cutting template. Make the template on computer and just print it out . Here are the instructions



Another cool feature of SketchUp is the ability to use other people's drawings into your own design. Click File , then select 3D Warehouse , then click Get Models. This will open up a web browser with the 3D warehouse homepage. The link for the homepage is . Now in the top of the webpage there is a search area. Type in the component you are looking for and then click on the picture or item there that is what you are looking for. Find the button "Download Model" and then click it . All done , your model is downloaded into your design. Now just click anywhere on screen and its in there. If you cannot find it in your model but downloaded it , just pan around until you find it.


If you want to CNC the part that you designed in Sketchup just export the Sketchup file into a .dwg file. To export it you need to be running Sketchup Pro. Don't worry if you don't have the money to pay for it : just download the trial version and export the file . Now that you have the .dwg file of your part , import the .dwg file into your CNC software. Depending on your CNC software, you might need to plot waypoints for the bit to cut . Now export the CNC job file and run it on your CNC machine . Enjoy your custom made part!

For your convenience I have created a collection of Robot Parts which can be found here. That should have a lot of the parts you need.

  Some models of the robot parts in my collection are pictured: 



If you create a robot part , please email me it , i'll upload it to my collection and i'll give you the credit.


Also , I want to thank the members of this forum , the members of other forums who helped, and all those other hobbyists and engineers who sent me their 3D designs.