Ollie wrote in to ask:
“I see that you’ve used Sketchup from time to time for your robots. There’s a class coming up that I might take, but I wanted your opinion first. How do you like Sketchup?”
I like it a lot - but I should say up front that it is not a design tool for robots. That being said, it's a fantastic app for quickly 'sketching' concepts whether they are buildings, robots, or other objects.
Quick sketches made with Sketchup for client proposals
We hesitated buying it at first since it was a little more than we wanted to spend at the time, but in our particular case it's turned out to be well worth the money. The Sketchup learning curve is amazingly short and intuitive - at least it was in our particular case.
IR sensor mounting prototype design
Like most tools, once you develop a comfort level in using it you start to find lots of other situations where it can be applied. For example, in working on a commercial storefront marketing study for a client we needed to illustrate some concepts. We wanted to use a particular competitors store that the client was already familar with, but we couldn’t take photos, for obvious reasons. So we put together a quick Sketchup model.
Competitive store location and layout study
The underlying Sketchup model took just an afternoon to build and render the images we needed.
This was not an architectual design project - it was a marketing study. We could have just used words to describe the concepts, but with the images the client was totally blown away. They immediately understood the concepts we were trying to communicate, were overjoyed with the study, and have come back to us with more projects.
Would I use Sketchup to design a robot? Yes. I would definitely use it to sketch the initial concepts and design, but pretty early in the process I would export the model to other software like AutoCad or analysis programs. Sketchup is extremely good at what it does, and isn’t a general purpose design program.