A few days ago, the Trimble folks announced the release of a new point cloud extension for SketchUp, Trimble Scan Essentials For SketchUp. This came on the heels of their release of version 2020.1 of SketchUp Pro. And if you asked me, being able to easily work with point clouds in SketchUp is absolutely the most exciting feature of this year’s release cycle!

Never heard of point clouds? Check out this Wikipedia article as a primer.

Up until recently, Trimble produced the Scan Explorer extension for SketchUp that allowed you to load a point cloud and extract construction points, planes, etc. into the 3D model. The workflow was a bit clunky in that the cloud would never load into the modeling environment but remained in the viewer dialog. This is now much improved in this new extension.

I should mention at this point that there are also other LIDAR and point cloud extensions for SketchUp, most notably Undet, which you may want to check out. Using the instructions in my scripting chapter, you can even manually import (small numbers) of x,y,z data points into SketchUp yourself with just a few lines of code. But that is a very different approach than what this Scan Essentials extension provides.

In the videos below, I am showing some of my workflow approaches. This is actually a very basic example where I am just extracting a floor outline and 3D structural elements from the model. More complex clouds (e.g. scans of historic building facades as showed in SketchUp’s example video) require different approaches, but you can already see how the features work.

This extension works natively with point clouds that have been processed with Trimble’s Realworks software (in the RWP format). In addition, it is possible to load clouds in E57, LAS, and LAZ formats, which makes this tool usable with other data sources as well.

I’ll post more tutorials about this excellent extension soon, but the following set of videos will at least get you started. Fortunate for us, the extension comes with a 30-day trial, which should make it easy for everyone to give this a spin.

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