This is What’s New…

Depending on who you ask and how those people use SketchUp, it is quite likely that they will hone in on different favorite elements in the 2015 release of SketchUp, which came out just this week and parallel to Trimble’s Dimensions user conference in Las Vegas (which I attended, hence the late post). High on many people’s wishlist was 64 Bit support, so that is likely what will get mentioned most. Others will find the new IFC (Industry Foundation Classes) importer extremely useful. Here is my perspective on the new features:

  • The performance improvements from 64 Bit support, face-finder improvements, and the “fast styles” labels are significant. Even with a thorough, component-based workflow (as I described in Chapter 3 and in my Basecamp presentation) especially large models could in the past bog SketchUp down quite a bit. Things should now get much smoother, especially on powerful machines.
  • The now built-in IFC importer is a tremendous addition! This allows SketchUp to at least in theory work seamlessly with all other BIM software (Revit, Archicad, Tekla,…). It might even be possible to use SketchUp alone as a “slimBIM” modeler. I’ll write more about this feature soon.
  • The new arc and rectangle tools are nice additions. Improving basic modeling tools is always good. This goes along with my as yet not implemented eternal wishlist item of a toolbar of parametric solids (which would help especially beginners).
  • The new licensing system should make installations easier (especially for networks). Occasional SketchUp users will notice, however, that the trial time has changed to a 30-day period. So no more “quick modeling” to stretch out the previously available eight hours.
  • The old “Plugins” menu is now called “Extensions” for consistency.
  • On the Ruby front, there were many more improvements, primarily access to licensing for extensions and access to classifications (such as the previously mentioned IFC). My personal favorites are Model.find_entity_by_id (which lets you manipulate objects) and UI.select_directory (a directory selection dialog, which I wanted for quite some time now).
  • I am wondering if the release cycle will now always be matched with Trimble’s Dimensions conference. That would mean an 18 month release cycle. Given previous announcements of annual releases, it seems that this time around, the timing was more coincidental, though.

In LayOut, the biggest improvements are with labels: multi-segment labels and auto-text.

You can find the complete release notes for SketchUp/LayOut here and for the Ruby API here.

The 3D Warehouse is also getting better by the day (to be more accurate: every two weeks, actually). My favorite feature now is camera views in the WebGL viewer that correspond to SketchUp’s animated tabs. Here is an example (click on the up arrow and then on the camera. Notice that the camera changes from perspective to parallel for some scenes):

As you may have noticed, I said “with SketchUp” in the title and not “in SketchUp”. That was on purpose and reflects the increased level of integration that SketchUp now has with other Trimble products and services. Here are three examples:

Trimble Connect

This service was also released earlier this week and provides a collaboration platform for building design and construction projects. It’s a great way to not only share files and work collaboratively but also mark up 3D models in a web browser, overlay them and run clash detection. I still have to try this out thoroughly, but from what I have seen so far, the implementation is quite impressive. Trimble Connect is a direct result of Trimble’s acquisition of Gehry Technologies because it is built on GT’s GTeam platform. Free test accounts are available here: SketchUp also now has a plugin that integrates the web service right into SketchUp (download here). You can read more about Trimble Connect here.

Trimble Connect 02 - publish_3

Trimble Vision

This feature essentially combines Trimble’s V10 GPS-positioned camera robot-thingy with the photo modeling tools we all know in SketchUp. This is great for surveying, as-builds etc. To be able to use this approach, you have to process the imagery first in Trimble’s Business Center software, however. You can read more about it on this blog post. Here’s an image that illustrates some of the process:


Trimble Scan Explorer

This solution was announced previously and combines LIDAR laser-scanned data from Trimble’s scanners with an easy import workflow into SketchUp where it can then be used as basis for precision modeling. Data also needs to be pre-processed outside of SketchUp but then can be used easily using a plugin that you can find here. The following video shows how this works:

In Summary…

Given all of these integrative solutions, it is clear where SketchUp’s value for Trimble lies. I expect that we can see it used more and more in BIM workflows, for construction planning, data visualization, and general construction 3D modeling. At the same time, it is also great to see the commitment of the SketchUp folks to its general user base including all the police officers, “makers” and schoolkids.


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