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Importing and Exporting CAD Files | SketchUp Knowledge Base

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Importing and Exporting CAD Files


If youre a SketchUp Pro user, you can import or export CAD
files, which use the .dwg or .dxf file formats.
Before you import a file, its helpful to know what CAD elements
SketchUp Pro does and doesnt support and how to prepare your
CAD file for best results. Then, you can walk through the basic
importing steps outlined in this article. After youre done importing,
check out Starting with a CAD File in SketchUp Pro, which offers
several tips and tricks for handling imported CAD geometry.
If youre exporting a SketchUp Pro file to a CAD format, how you
import a CAD file depends on whether its a 2D file, such as a floor
plan, or a 3D model. In this article, you also discover how SketchUp
data is exported into CAD format.
Table of Contents
1. Understanding what CAD elements SketchUp Pro can import
2. Preparing a CAD file for import into SketchUp Pro
3. Importing a CAD file into SketchUp Pro
4. Understanding how SketchUp Pro data is exported to CAD
format
5. Exporting a SketchUp Model as a 2D CAD file
6. Exporting a SketchUp Model as a 3D CAD file
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Importing and Exporting CAD Files | SketchUp Knowledge Base

Understanding what CAD elements


SketchUp Pro can import
Before you import a CAD file into SketchUp Pro, its helpful to know
what CAD elements SketchUp Pro can and cant import. Then, you
can prepare your CAD file so that youre able to work with the
elements that you need in SketchUp Pro. The following table outlines
what CAD elements SketchUp Pro does and doesnt support. If an
element isnt supported, SketchUp Pro simply ignores it when you
import the CAD file.
Supported CAD Elements

Unsupported CAD Elements

Arcs

AutoCAD regions

Circles

Proprietary ADT or ARX objects

Entities with thickness

Dimensions

Faces

Hatching

3D faces

Text

Layers

XREFs

Lines
Polylines
Nested blocks

Preparing a CAD file for import into


SketchUp Pro
When you take a few steps to check and prepare your CAD file before
import, you can make sure all the data you need imports into
SketchUp Pro and streamline the import process. The following
sections outline what you need to look for and how to resolve any
potential conflicts between CAD elements and SketchUp Pro.
Tip: You dont want to lose details in your original CAD file.
Remember to create a copy of the CAD file and prepare that

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Importing and Exporting CAD Files | SketchUp Knowledge Base

copy for importing into SketchUp Pro.

Change unsupported elements


If you need to import unsupported CAD elements into SketchUp Pro,
try exploding those elements in CAD so they become primitive CAD
drawing elements that SketchUp Pro does support. Here are some
examples:
In Autodesk Architectural Desktop, you can explode ADT walls
and extrusions so that they import into SketchUp Pro as faces.
In AutoCAD, you can explode objects such as doors, windows,
stairs, and contour lines. When you explode CAD objects into
block entities, they import into SketchUp Pro as components. If
you explode the CAD block entities into polylines, the polylines
import into SketchUp Pro as lines or polylines.
Tip: Alternatively, if you use Autodesk Architectural Desktop or
Autodesk Land Desktop, switch to Plan view to export 2D lines
or chose 3D view to export 3D faces. Then select File > Export
to AutoCAD in either of these applications. The resulting CAD
file contains lines or faces that you can import into SketchUp
Pro.

Delete unnecessary layers


In an imported CAD file, SketchUp Pro automatically discards any
entities that have no 3D relevance, such as text, dimensions,
hatching, logos, and so on. However, SketchUp Pro wont discard the
layers holding these entities. To avoid a bunch of empty layers in
SketchUp Pro, you may want to delete or turn off those layers from
the CAD file before you import it into SketchUp Pro.

Move geometry close to the origin


In SketchUp, geometry thats many miles or kilometers away from the
origin (0,0) can cause performance problems. To avoid these
problems, check the placement of geometry in your CAD file before
you import the CAD file into SketchUp Pro.
For example, say youre importing Autodesk AutoCAD DWG files,
such as civil site plans, in order to work with the contour lines. If the
graphic or geometry is far away from the origin, move it close to the
origin before importing the CAD file into SketchUp Pro.
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Alternatively, deselect the Preserve Drawing Origin option in


SketchUps DWG/DXF import options, as explained in Importing a
CAD file into SketchUp Pro, later in this article.

Reduce the file size if needed


Generally, CAD files import into SketchUp Pro successfully when the
file size is 15MB or less. When you import larger CAD files, the
import can take a long time or may fail. Conversely, the smaller your
CAD file size, the quicker and easier the import. Also, after a
complex CAD file is imported into SketchUp Pro, you may notice that
SketchUps performance slows down. Thats because lines and faces
in SketchUp contain more data than their CAD equivalents.
Tip: For best results with imported CAD files, keep the size of
imported files to a minimum. Here are a few tips for minimizing a
CAD file before you import it into SketchUp Pro:
Import only the necessary geometry. SketchUp models can
be designed to be as accurate as models in CAD.
However, SketchUp is not designed for the same type of
line-intensive drawings done in CAD software. In your CAD
file, clean up or remove any content that you dont need to
use after you import the CAD file into SketchUp Pro. You
might simplify the CAD file to just walls and maybe
doors and windows if you want to model those in your
SketchUp file, too.
Separate levels of detail among different CAD files. If your
CAD file holds lots of necessary geometry, consider
whether you break one file into a few smaller files. For
example, one imported CAD file can contain site plan
information, another can have a floor plan, and a final file
can have a specific detail.

Check the unit of measure


If possible, find out the unit of measure used to create the CAD file.
When you import the CAD file into SketchUp Pro, you need to know
whether your file uses inches, feet, or a metric unit of measurement.
That way, you can match the SketchUp models units to the CAD
files units and thus maintain the scale and dimensions of your
imported CAD geometry.

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Importing and Exporting CAD Files | SketchUp Knowledge Base

Save in a SketchUp-compatible CAD file


format
When SketchUp Pro imports a CAD file, SketchUp Pro strips the
information to its basic geometric components. So no matter what
AutoCAD file format you use (such as 2010 or 2007), the end result
is essentially the same. To maximize compatibility between a CAD
file and SketchUp, however, saving your CAD file in the Release 13
or Release 14 format works best.

Importing a CAD file into SketchUp


Pro
After youve checked and prepared your CAD file, youre ready to
import it into SketchUp Pro. The following steps walk you through the
import process, based on your current operating system:
1. In SketchUp Pro, open the SketchUp model into which you want
to import your .dwg or .dxf file.
2. Select File > Import. An Open dialog box appears.
3. Navigate the the place your hard drive where your CAD file is
saved.
4. From the Files of Type drop-down list, select AutoCAD Files
(*.dwg, *.dxf).
5. Select the file you want to import.
6. Click the Options button. The Import AutoCAD DWG/DXF
Options dialog box appears, as shown in the following figure.
7. (Optional) In the Geometry area, select Merge Coplanar Faces
to tell SketchUp to automatically remove triangulated lines from
planes. Selecting the Orient Faces Consistently box tells
SketchUp to analyze the direction of imported faces and orient
the faces so that their direction is uniform.
8. (Optional) To import geometry at the correct scale, select the
unit used in your CAD file from the Units drop-down list. Your
options are Inches, Feet, Millimeters, Centimeters, and Meters.
Tip: If you dont know the units used in the original file,
use a large unit type, such as feet or meters. Then you can
resize the model as necessary after its imported.

Warning: If you select a small unit, such as millimeters,


but the model was originally intended to display in feet, you
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can unintentionally create itty-bitty faces that will be lost on


import. For SketchUp to recognize a face, the face must be
.001 square inches or larger.

9. (Optional) Select the Preserve Drawing Origin checkbox to


place the imported geometry at the origin defined in the .dwg
or .dxf file. Leave the checkbox deselected if you want to
place the imported geometry near the SketchUp origin.
10. Click OK in the Import AutoCAD DWG/DXF Options dialog box.
11. Back in the Open dialog box, click Open, and SketchUp Pro
begins importing your CAD file.

Tip: If you have a floor plan or other vector graphics in an


Adobe Illustrator ( .eps ) file, you can export the .eps file to
.dwg or .dxf format in Illustrator. Then import the vector
graphics following the preceding steps. If, in Adobe Illustrator,
you first reduce the number of anchor points that define curves,
you can improve the files performance in SketchUp. In
particular, when you extrude faces from curves that contain lots
of line segments, the SketchUp file size can increase
dramatically.

Understanding how SketchUp Pro


data is exported to CAD format
Before you export a SketchUp model to a CAD file format ( .dwg or
.dxf ), you may find it helpful to understand how SketchUp data is
translated into the CAD format that you choose. Heres what you
need to know:
SketchUp faces are exported as a triangulated polyface mesh

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Importing and Exporting CAD Files | SketchUp Knowledge Base

with interior splframe hidden lines (if applicable). This


conversion helps to simulate the appearance of your SketchUp
file, even when all exported faces are triangular.
SketchUp Pro uses the current units set in the Units pane of the
Model Info dialog box as a reference for translation to a .dwg
or .dxf file. For example, if the current Model Info unit setting
is Decimal and Meters, then AutoCAD must be set to decimal
for the units to translate correctly as meters when you open the
exported file in AutoCAD.
Duplicate line entities arent created on top of a p-line entity.

Exporting a SketchUp Model as a 2D


CAD file
When export your model view as a 2D CAD file, you can choose the
scale and a number of line options. The result is a 2D vector file in
.dwg or .dxf format that you can open in your CAD program.
Follow these steps to export a 2D CAD file:
1. To maintain your models scale in the exported file, in SketchUp
Pro, select Camera > Parallel Projection. Then set your view to
one of SketchUps standard views by selecting Camera >
Standard Views and selecting an option from the submenu that
appears. (See Viewing a Model for details about the model
view options.)
2. Select File > Export > 2D Graphic.
3. Navigate to the place where you want to save your exported file.
4. (Optional) Change the file name if youd like to name the
exported file something other than the SketchUp files current
name.
5. Select either the .dwg or .dxf file type. In Microsoft Windows,
select this option from the Export Type drop-down list. On a
Mac, use the Format drop-down list.
6. Click the Options button to set the scale and line options, which
are explained in detail in the upcoming list. When youre done,
click OK in the DWG/DXF Hidden Line Options dialog box
(Microsoft Windows) or the Export Options dialog box (Mac OS
X).
7. Click Export and your CAD file is saved in your selected
location.
In the following figure, you see the line options dialog box for your
current operating system. The following list introduces your options
so that the lines in your exported file meet your needs:
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AutoCAD Version: Select what version of AutoCAD youd like to


use to open the exported file.
Drawing Scale & Size: The Full Scale checkbox is selected by
default. However, if you deselect that checkbox, you can set a
custom scale. In the In Drawing box, type the actual
measurement you want to use to set your scale. In the In Model
box, type the value for scaling your exported model. For
example, for a scale of 1:4, type 1 in the In Model box and 4 in
the In Drawing box. To customize the page size, enter values in
the Width and Height boxes.
Profile Lines: Here, you can customize how profile lines appear
in your exported file. You can set the line width as follows:
Select None to export profile lines at the standard width.
Select Polylines with Width to export profile lines as
AutoCAD polylines. When you select this option, you can
leave Automatic selected so that the exported lines match
the profile line width. If you deselect Automatic, you can
enter a custom width in the Width box.
Select Wide Line Entities to export profile lines as
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AutoCAD wide line entities.


The Separate on a Layer checkbox, which is selected by
default, creates a layer for profile edges. If youve used
SketchUp layers to control visibility, note that SketchUp layer
assignments dont translate directly when you export a
SketchUp file to a 2D CAD file.
Section Lines: If you export section lines or a section slice,
these export options become available. See Slicing a Model to
Peer Inside for details about sections and how to export them.
Edge Extensions: Some CAD applications might have problems
recognizing line endpoints and intersections when your model
uses SketchUp line extensions. Deselect the Show Extensions
checkbox to toggle extensions off in your exported file. If you
leave Show Extensions selected and deselect the Automatic
checkbox, you can enter an exact length for line extensions in
the Length box.
In Microsoft Windows, you can select the Always Prompt for Hidden
Line Options if youd like to set options in this dialog box anytime you
export a 2D CAD file. You can also restore the default settings by
clicking the Defaults button.

Exporting a SketchUp Model as a 3D


CAD file
When you export a SketchUp model as a 3D CAD file, you can select
what entities are exported. To export your model, follow these steps:
1. In SketchUp Pro, select File > Export > 3D Model. The Export
Model dialog box appears.
2. Navigate to the location where you want to save your exported
file.
3. (Optional) Change the file name if you like. By default, the
exported file uses the same name as your SketchUp file name.
4. Select either .dwg or .dxf as the file format for your exported
file. In Microsoft Windows, select your file type from the Export
Type drop-down list. In Mac OS X, use the Format drop-down
list.
5. Click the Options button to open the Export Options dialog box,
shown in the following figure. From the AutoCAD Version dropdown list, select the version of AutoCAD youd like to use to
open the exported file. In the Export area, select the checkbox
for each type of entity that you want to include in the exported

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file. Click OK when youre done.


6. Back in the Export Model dialog box, click Export, and your file
appears in the location where you chose to save it.

Tags:SketchUp
Using SketchUp Data with Other Modeling Programs or Tools
Starting with a CAD File in SketchUp
OS:

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