We designed the RVW Model Importer so students and teachers can expand upon the learning already going on in their classrooms. We released the first version with support for importing Stereolithography format (.STL) files because these allowed models to be made using the engineering industry-standard Autodesk Inventor and Solidworks solid modeling software packages already used in many classrooms. Unfortunately, there's no such thing as a universally-supported format for 3D models, so, while we hope to release support for more formats in the future, we knew we were excluding some powerful and easy to use tools.
One of these was SketchUp, an easy-to-learn 3D modeling program originally created by Google and now developed by Trimble. (We like it enough that we even made a set of introductory tutorials.) Thus, we were happy to discover there's now a plugin for SketchUp that allows models to be exported as STL files. Here's a set of instructions to get you started. These were developed using SketchUp 8, but should work as well using newer versions.
1. Make sure you are logged in on your computer as a user account with Administrator privileges.
2. If you don't already have it installed, download and install SketchUp. You can get started learning how to model either using our tutorials on CS2N or the Getting Started guide developed by Trimble.
3. Download the plugin file from https://github.com/SketchUp/sketchup-stl/raw/master/sketchup-stl-1.0.0.rbz.
4. Open SketchUp, then open the Window menu and choose Preferences, then select the Extensions page.
5. Click the Install Extension button and select the plugin file you downloaded in step 2.
6. A popup window will appear asking you to confirm that you want to install the extension. Click Yes.
7. If you are using Windows Vista or Windows 7, you may need to allow SketchUp to make changes to your system when prompted.
8. Click OK in the popup telling you the plugin has been installed. Confirm that the checkbox next to the STL Import/Export plugin is checked, then click OK to close the preferences window.
If you're looking for models to experiment, look no further than SketchUp's 3D Warehouse: open the File menu, then 3D Warehouse, and select Get Models. To export a model as an STL file in SketchUp:
1. Activate the Select tool by clicking the pointer icon on the toolbar or by opening the Tools menu and clicking Select.
2. Click on the model in the scene you want to export. A blue box will appear around it.
3. Open the File menu and choose Export STL.
4. Name the exported file and click Save.
5. A popup will appear telling you how many faces and lines have been exported. This lets you know that the export process has finished.
You now have an STL file you can use with the RVW Model Importer. Check out the Model Importer overview video for directions:
At this time, there is a limit to the complexity of models that RVW can use. If when importing you get a message that says "Mesh could not be reduced enough to be compatible with RVW," you'll have to make a simpler version.
- Ryan Cahoon