Every year, I go through a review of my software suite and processes to see if there’s anything I can do to improve or streamline things further. There wasn’t much this year in the way of new software to choose from (I’d already upgraded to Photoshop CS5 back in 2011), but I was intrigued by the fact that there were now 3 unfolding plugins for Google SketchUp, 2 of which are specifically oriented towards papercraft development. I thought I’d give the thing a try just to see if it was worth doing.
The first candidate was Waybe, which is a commercial plugin. It looked like a fairly decent start, but I nearly fell out of my chair laughing when I saw their commercial license pricing. It costs $200 per year for commercial use and only has a subset of the functionality that you get with something like Ultimate Papercraft 3D, which only costs $39.95. That put Waybe out of the running before the race even began.
Our next contender is Flattery, which is a simpler plugin. It’s free, but the author accepts donations, which is good because money’s a nice incentive to keep working on something. It does what it says on the tin, but it’s a long way from being in the same league as Ultimate Papercraft 3D or Pepakura Designer. It’s still got potential, though.
In the end, I decided that SketchUp still doesn’t cut the mustard as a papercraft development tool. I mean, you can use it for that, but it’s not quite something I’d consider suitable for a production environment.
However…I did fall in love with it for another purpose entirely. It has a rather unconventional toolset that, once you get the hang of it, makes detailing and greebling models surprisingly easy. This is my second SketchUp model, some sort of half-assed floaty tank thing that’s really just meant to be a canvas for figuring out the best ways to greeble stuff:
It’s kind of nuts–I never had it this easy back in the 1990s when I was doing photorealistic 3D modeling. That thing above only took me a few hours of goofing around in SketchUp to do, and would easily have required significantly more time in my other more conventional 3D modeling applications. I’m going to see if this thing can actually export nice, clean, and watertight solids that can be used for 3D printing. If it can do that, that’d be awesome.