Prosthetics and 3D Printing: the design thinking behind FidoHand

It’s not very often that people create things for the betterment of others they’ve never met before. We recently got wind of a San Francisco fellow who did just that. Inspired by the Robohand project, Dan Bodner created FidoHand: a six-piece 3D printed prosthesis powered by wrist movement for children missing fingers. We talked with Dan about what inspired him to make FidoHand a reality.

A FidoHand fitted to Mary in the San Francisco bay area. Check out local news coverage of FidoHand here.

Origins of a community-inspired 3D printed prosthesis

“I’m really kind of a tinkerer, I have been my whole life,” says Dan Bodner. Dan is also an avid follower of new technology, including 3D printing. He was intrigued when he heard of the Robohand project featured by MakerBot last year: “There were two players in the original design: Richard Van As, a master carpenter in South Africa and Ivan Owen, a mechanical prop maker in Washington state.”

Owen and Van As developed Robohand with two 3D printers provided by MakerBot. Parents who have children with missing fingers often contact Richard in hopes of making their kids’ lives a bit easier.

Iterating on the design

After learning about Robohand, Dan began thinking how he could design his own 3D printed prosthesis. “It all began through my friend,” he said, a friend at a local Bay Area hospital. She is a doctor who works with children in need of a solution like this.

FidoHand during 3D printing. Check out local news coverage of FidoHand here.

Dan received SketchUp files from a MakerBot designer who had done some of his own modifications to Robohand. “I stayed with SketchUp, because I started with SketchUp. I had the building blocks there,” Dan explained. He didn’t know much about SketchUp before starting the project, so he learned 3D modeling from scratch to design FidoHand. “It looked easy, but to make a printable model took a lot of practice.”

FidoHand in SketchUp.

SketchUp’s Extension Warehouse was very helpful along the way, “Solid Inspector was absolutely necessary,” says Dan, “Forget about anything if you don’t have it.” [(Ed.) Somewhere Thom Thom is doing a jig right now.] Dan also used SketchUp STL to generate STL files for his MakerBot. Dan added that a 3Dconnexion mouse helped as well: “You use the left hand to orbit/pan/zoom in 3D and the right for designing.”

Design-thinking for 3D printed prosthetics

The obstacle Dan wanted to overcome was how to distribute 3D prosthetics to people and not have to be physically present to fit them. “There is a great volunteer effort called e-NABLE that helps fit 3D printed prosthetics for children,” Dan says. But he wanted to simplify the process even further.

Dan started by simplifying the design: FidoHand went from a fifty to six-piece design over the course of eleven months of design iterations. The reduction of part numbers is important for a number of reasons: in particular fewer parts means easier assembly and better structural integrity. “I tried to keep all of the parts in a single file, just spread out,” he said when he spoke about his SketchUp file organization. Minor changes were tracked by making parts into components, copying them, and setting them to the side in the SketchUp file. When a new major change was needed, Dan made a new version of the file. He chuckled saying, “I made fifty-plus versions of the file. If I completely screw up or go the wrong direction, I can start over.”

Iterations of FidoHand. Check out local news coverage of FidoHand here.

Dan also developed his own custom fit process. Each FidoHand starts with a few easy measurements from the recipient.

What’s next for FidoHand?

A little girl in Louisiana will receive the second FidoHand in the coming weeks, so Dan is waiting to hear how that goes (and we’ll be calling back to see too). On August 5th, Dan will be speaking at the University of San Francisco in front of the Pediatric Device Consortium, which is sponsored in part by the FDA. There he hopes to gain insights and advice from an interdisciplinary team of professionals on ways to improve FidoHand. “This is really a pivotal point in the development of humankind. The combination of SketchUp and a 3D printer is so empowering for people like me that always have ideas.”

Posted by Deana Rhodes, SketchUp Team

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SketchUp Mobile Viewer: now available for Android tablets

Remember a few months back when we launched the SketchUp Mobile Viewer app for iOS? Well, today, we're happy to tell you that an Android version of the SketchUp Mobile Viewer is now available on the Google Play Store.

Say hello to the new SketchUp Mobile Viewer for Android

Version 1.0 of the Android viewer is officially available for devices with a 7-inch or larger screen size, running Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) or above. It is highly recommended that your device have at least 1024Mb of RAM.

So, Androiders (that's a thing, right?): the entire 3D Warehouse—artisan armchairs, double-hung windows, Hello Kitty 777’s and anything else you can imagine—is waiting for you to mutli-touch it on the SketchUp Mobile Viewer. Go ahead: orbit to your heart’s content!

Posted by the SketchUp Team

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Like it or not: ratings are back in 3D Warehouse

Today, we’re glad to announce that we’ve implemented a new, cleaner like-based “rating” system for 3D Warehouse.
Fig 1.png

Now, you can "like" models in order to upvote them and store them in your liked models tab
Model courtesy of samothrace41

As you already know, 3D Warehouse is an amazing collection of models of almost anything and everything in the world—from minions to ZZ Top. But sometimes finding the right model can be like searching for a needle in a haystack. User ratings are important signal about a model that lets you know whether other users have vouched for its greatness!

When we re-launched 3D Warehouse earlier this year, there were a few things missing. Perhaps the most commonly asked-about feature, was the old ratings system.

The task of implementing ratings on the new 3D Warehouse gave us the opportunity to re-think the measure of model quality we wanted to capture. Ultimately, when we took a close look at our old 5-star rating system we came to the conclusion that 5 stars was about 4 too many.

When we looked at the data, about 85% of the ratings were either 5-star or 1-star. By in large, people either like a model, or they don’t. This finding wasn’t that surprising since the criteria for 2, 3, and 4-star ratings probably varies from person to person. For your information, with this new like system, we also migrated all of the historical ratings. Any existing ratings that were 3-stars or better were converted into a “Like.”

Another interesting factoid: it turns out that the #1 source of abuse reports from the old Warehouse were from people who filed complaints about their models being rated 1-star. We like the idea of people using ratings to give each other a pat on the back, and acknowledge each other for uploading great stuff. We’re not as fired up about trolls and bullies who cruise around the site and harass others.

We also took into consideration the notion that star rating systems ask a lot from people. After all, your idea of a model that’s deserving of a 4-star rating is probably different than my idea of a 4-star rating. Unfortunately, the subjectivity that goes into the in between ratings often lead to an ambiguous measure of quality.

The new system is simple: you either like something, or not. Your praise for someone else’s work still helps other people find it better, and if a model isn’t to your liking, not up-voting it doesn’t -- and no one’s feelings get hurt.

Even better, liking a model now has an upside for the “liker” as well. When you sign into your 3D Warehouse account and go to your My Warehouse page, you’ll see a new tab for “Liked Models” (see Fig 2) making it easy to get to the models you like time and time again.

Fig 2.png
Fig 2. Keep track of models you like with the Liked Models Tab

You might also notice that a Likes stat has been added to the Model info panel (see Fig 3-1) – and it’s click-able. If you click the Likes link, a panel will slide out from the right side of the screen, containing the list of users who liked that model (see Fig 3-2). You can also see how many models each user has liked and click through to their profile page to see the models listed under their Liked Models tab.

Screen Shot 2014-06-26 at 12.59.00 PM.png
Fig 3. Find the likes stat in the model info panel. Click on “Likes” to find out which users have liked the model.

Lastly, we’ve also added Most Liked as a sort option for search results, so you can now filter your search results for model quality, as measured by the 3D Warehouse community. This is slightly different than the Popularity sort, which is based on download statistics.

We think this new system is a bit easier and maybe even friendlier for everyone, thereby encouraging more liking of more things. Hooray for love; ain’t it grand?

Posted by Mike Tadros, Product Manager

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Create natural shading with trellis components from 3D Warehouse

SketchUp’s geo-location and shadow tools make it easy to investigate sun control options that affect building energy consumption, daylighting and overall environmental impact. Building designers increasingly consider green building facades comprised of trellis systems with appropriate plants as a natural shading option. Well designed trellis systems can reduce cooling loads, create privacy screens that also look great and create lush environments that add to building aesthetics.

Modular trellis system

For over 20 years, greenscreen® has been providing an innovative modular trellis system for adding vertical landscape elements to any design. The basic building block for greenscreen® is a modular panel that can be used for endless variations of shapes and applications, including green walls, freestanding fences, horizontal shade structures, unique column forms and planter adaptations. With over 7,000 project examples, these combinations for building and landscape design are now common elements all over the world.

Find greenscreen®’s trellis system models on 3D Warehouse.

greenscreen® offers numerous variations including green walls, freestanding fences, and horizontal shade structures. 

greenscreen® called on landscape architect and SketchUp expert Daniel Tal to create its SketchUp models. By working with an industry expert, greenscreen® produced models that look great and operate smoothly while accurately representing its real-world products. Best of all, greenscreen®’s SketchUp models are completely free!

greenscreen® models in 3D Warehouse 

Each greenscreen® component comes with high-poly and low-poly models. The high-poly models are great for renderings and estimating light transmission. The low-poly models are easy to use for site planning, layout, and general modeling speed.

Visit the 3D Warehouse today to download all of the greenscreen® models and anything else that inspires you.

Posted by Mark Lauricello, Business Development Manager

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A Closer Look at an MFA Thesis Completed in SketchUp

We speak to a lot of professionals about how they use SketchUp for their projects, but it’s been a while since we’ve highlighted some of the amazing work that students are doing in SketchUp every day.

A few weeks ago, we came across Julia Carusillo’s thesis project website. She recently graduated from Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) with an MFA and, because we’re pals on Twitter, we found that she did a lot of work for her project in SketchUp.

We don’t often hear about SketchUp being used in the context of an MFA, so we called up Julia to learn more about her degree and her thesis, a set redesign of the 1959 film Black Orpheus.

Exterior scene of Orfeu’s home

Julia’s thesis project was the culmination of her MFA in Production Design. The project includes concept iterations, perspective drawings, elevations and renderings.

Her thesis project abstract paints the scene so to speak saying, “This thesis details the process of relocating Marcel Camus’ Black Orpheus (FR, 1959) from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to Venice, Italy, and the emotional, physical and metaphorical implications in changing this element of the film through production design.”

Concept iterations of Orfeu’s home

Elevation A of Orfeu’s home

So, how was Julia introduced to SketchUp? “The first thing we learned on our first day in school was SketchUp,” she said. Julia laughed as she mentioned her first days in SketchUp at SCAD, “I thought I was an expert on the second day.”

“SketchUp is totally integral to my entire process…I always start with SketchUp,” Julia said, “I was able to do everything in LayOut.”

Julia used SketchUp to draw and refine her model, then used creative-oriented software programs to paint scenes for more texture. Her final assignment only called for one set redesign and Julia completed two, Orfeu and Serafina’s homes, the film’s lovers.

Staircase of Orfeu’s home

Her thesis also features an animated 3D fly-through of Orfeu and Serafina’s homes in SketchUp. Julia explained that she selected the scenes for this fly-through that best spoke to the project theme: “The dichotomies of dark and light, inside and outside, architectural and feral all create unique spaces.”

Now that Julia has received her MFA, she plans to move to the west coast and pursue her dream of working in the film industry, behind the scenes designing sets.

Full set rendering

Her advice to others in pursuit of studying production design? Be in the academic program that lets you go on set and see that not everything you model is going to be the way you created it, and to be okay with it. We’re excited to see what’s next for Julia. See more of her work at

Posted by Deana Rhodes, SketchUp Team

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SketchUp Pro for Non-profits: Modeling compost sites with SketchUp

James McSweeney is the Senior Compost Specialist at Highfields Center for Composting where he helps design and establish composting systems across Vermont. Highfields Center for Composting is one of the many non-profit organizations to which we’ve granted SketchUp Pro Licenses as part of the SketchUp for Nonprofits Program. We chatted with James recently to learn more about the work done at Highfields.

Can you give us some insight on the mission at Highfields Center for Composting?

Originally named “The Highfields Institute”, our organization was conceived in 1999 by former dairy farmer Tod Delaricheliere. We research, educate, and provide technical services for composting and comprehensive food waste recycling programs. The mission at Highfields is to close the loop on community-based, sustainable food and agricultural systems in order to address things like soil health, water quality, solid waste, farm viability, and climate change.

What kinds of projects has the organization taken on?

Highfields has supported community composting programs throughout Vermont, from working with individual elementary schools to help them compost on-site, to developing regional food scrap collection programs and composting operations.

LayOut file illustrating materials flow in composting system

When did Highfields start using SketchUp?

Highfields had done a lot of design but it was mainly on graph paper—we weren’t using any computer design technology when I started about 5 years ago. I had played a little bit with SketchUp but I was just using the free software and found it to be really intuitive. I picked it up and brought it with me as a skill.

It was really time consuming to take the 3D models and turn them into a design from which someone could build. I would have to export these 2D .jpg files and put it in another program and then go back and fix it—and it would have to be this three step process any time I would need to change a small detail… or maybe even more. When I found out about SketchUp Pro I was like “I need to have this!” As a non-profit with a limited budget we found out we might be able to get it.

A customized composting site model

Highfields Center for Composting seems to work a lot in education and schools. Can you tell us about some of these programs?

With SketchUp we created the “Designing a Bin System for Hot Composting” tool. This school design tool was a new thing for us in a lot of ways. The idea is that it’s like an open source design guide. Schools are different sizes and they have different needs. It’s a guide that’s there to help someone at a school create an on-site composting system themselves. It has the basic design elements, how to size the system and the things to think about as they’re designing the system—but a school is generally going to work with a volunteer (a parent or teacher who is able to build) to create their own custom design plan.

Standardized hot composting model used in an open source design guide for schools

The guide allowed us to not jump in and have to develop custom plans—it was something free that someone could download and develop custom plans for themselves. Our goal was for more schools to compost rather than get a bunch of contracts to design custom systems for everybody—that can be really time consuming.

Then we have the Close the Loop program which is there to assist the school from start to finish. We have the technical services side of Close the Loop which is really the composting system guidance and then we have the education program which is where we go in and train the schools on implementing the program in the cafeteria and the classroom.

Are there any features in particular that make SketchUp useful?

The biggest thing looking at SketchUp Pro is being able to work in SketchUp while also in the 2D LayOut and the way that it will be presented to the client. It helped us make our work really user friendly as well as aesthetically pleasing.

Compost recommendations for Hildene, the Lincoln Family Home bin compost system

[The ability to document our designs] expanded our market and our ability to educate folks and represent composting in a much more professional looking manner. It also just added a lot of efficiency to my work. It’s definitely saved me many many many hours on my work...and frustration. And it’s really fun to work with.

Without SketchUp, we would be doing the same work by hand or paying a contractor, which would be much more time consuming and we would have less control over the end product.

Learn more about the Highfields Center for Composting and help them continue their work by donating here.

Posted by Sophie Shephard, SketchUp team

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SketchUp visits the first-ever White House Maker Faire

Today, President Barack Obama celebrated a national “Day of Making” by hosting the first-ever White House Maker Faire. And we got an invitation to join in the festivities. Imagine that. My mom is proud today.


On the SketchUp team, we think of ourselves as “Meta-Makers” in that we make tools that folks like you use to in turn to make something awesome for yourselves. It has been great to see the tool we originally designed for architects and building construction professionals grow in all kinds of previously unimaginable directions. The Maker movement, it turns out, is deep in our collective DNA.

Maker Faire, organized by our friends at Maker Media, is a gathering of fearless, curious and inventive people who enjoy learning and who love sharing what they’ve made with one another. The SketchUp team has been participating in Maker Faires around the world since 2006, showing off projects from hexapod robotics to CNC-fabricated Wikihouses and through them we’ve made a ton of friends in the Maker community.

Since the first event over nine years ago, there has been explosive growth in the number and quality of these events. This year alone there are over a hundred Maker Faires happening in cities all around the world— more events than we could ever hope to attend. But today’s event is a bit different, a bit special. It isn’t every day that you get an invitation to the White House. Steve Berglund, Trimble’s president and CEO, was at the event today and had this to say; “It is an honor to participate in this White House event. Today we saw innovators of all ages using tools like SketchUp to help shape the future. There has been a lot of talk lately about how the Maker Movement will transform and revitalize American manufacturing. Today’s event demonstrated that the possibilities are endless.”

I think Steve is exactly right— there really are endless possibilities. He also pointed out how nice Bill Young (one of our Wikihouse collaborators and master of all things ShopBot) looked all dressed up and wearing a necktie. I’m pretty sure it was a clip-on.

Events at the White House hold a special place in our culture, and with them come opportunities to make stronger than usual statements about what we all want to see in our future. Today, Trimble has renewed and formalized its commitment to the spirit of curiosity, invention and entrepreneurship that exemplifies the Maker Movement. SketchUp Make is here to stay, and we’re going to keep making it better and better in the future. And we need your help.

If you’re a Maker (c’mon… What SketchUp user isn’t) and you want to get involved, join us today in celebrating the “Day of Making.” Make something and tweet a screenshot to @SketchUp tagged with #NationOfMakers. Better, post it to 3D Warehouse and share a link from your model the same way. And when you’re ready for something bigger, sign the Maker Pledge (I did, and so should you) and help to organize the Makers in your community to do something great for our future.

Also… stay tuned for news from the first-ever Paris Maker Faire (aka “Le Maker Faire”) this weekend. Omar and I will be there with Bertier and all of our “SketchUp Friends” for the weekend. Hope to see you there!

Posted by John Bacus, SketchUp team

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Ahh, SketchUp in Paris…

Paris, Paris, Paris… what a wonderful city in the summer time.

And if you happen to find yourself there on June 21 and 22, come and join the SketchUp Heroes conference, where French SketchUp uber users will be presenting their projects to the public.

Even better, SketchUp Heroes is co-located with Maker Faire Paris, and we are giving away tickets visit the Faire. VoilĂ : great makers and great SketchUp modelers all in one place! For a chance to win a pair of tickets, just fill out a simple form here. We have a limited number of tickets, so we’ll be doling them out on a first-come, first-serve basis. We hope to see you there!


Posted by Omar Soubra, on behalf of the SketchUp Team

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Wanted: A Graphic Designer for SketchUp

We're hiring! The SketchUp team needs an experienced graphic designer (with 3D modeling skills) to work on graphics for marketing, training, and some in-product applications.

You'd be designing trade show socks one day and website mocks the next—it's a pretty broad job description. The person we hire will be able to work without a lot of direction across just about all of SketchUp's teams:

  • Marketing needs data sheets, brochures, schwag (shirts, etc), and any number of other last-minute items.

  • Our Web team needs wireframes and paint mocks that will serve as the "blueprints" for our website.

  • Sales needs trade show booth banners and graphics.

  • Training needs help with online training tutorials and manuals (designing them, not authoring them).

  • Our Product team needs splash screens and fancy dialog boxes for every new version we release.

The job is about 20% print and 80% web. We work with Adobe's CS toolset a lot, but we try to use our own stuff (SketchUp and LayOut) as much as we possibly can. The position is full-time, it's located at SketchUp World Headquarters in Boulder, Colorado, and candidates must be legally allowed to work in the USA.

If you think you might like to be the next new member of the SketchUp team, please fill out this form. It's pretty straightforward, but there is an assignment: You must complete a special design project in order to be considered.

It's a standard one-page brochure for SketchUp Pro that we would hand out at an architecture-focused trade show. The design brief includes copy, models, images, logos, fonts and colors. The deadline for completing the assignment and filling out the form is 11:59 MST, Wednesday, June 18th.

After we've looked at everything that's submitted, we'll contact our favorite candidates and ask them to formally apply for the job on Trimble's hiring website. Good luck!

The SketchUp Marketing Team

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Performance-based design for the Hudson Yards Redevelopment Project

Two weeks ago, a few folks from SketchUp HQ traveled out to New York City for the first-ever PER/FORM live design competition. "Live" as in real-time, head-to-head SketchUp modeling. As far as we know, this was a first for a SketchUp competition, one that we were excited to see play out.

Organized and hosted by Sefaira at the Pratt Institute’s Manhattan campus, this unique event challenged designers to demonstrate that we don’t have to choose between high-performing buildings and beautiful design. By considering performance impacts during the earliest stages of design, architects and engineers can make information modeling choices that serve both the form and function of a building.

Contestants hard at work in SketchUp and Sefaira for the PER/FORM live design competition. Photo: Stephanie Murano

Most of the competition’s contestants traveled to participate in the competition, coming from all over the U.S., as far away as Hawaii. Prior to the first round, Sefaira revealed that the proposed site for the day’s live design competition was actually the same Hudson Yards Redevelopment Project that contestants had worked on during the online round. The challenge for the day was to reimagine the site, just north of the High Line park, not as it is today but as it will be in 2018.

Contestants spent the first round working from scratch in SketchUp on the form of their proposed structures, taking into account the new, 2018 context buildings. The second round saw contestants focusing more closely on the feedback they were receiving from Sefaira for SketchUp’s real-time analysis engine. Using that feedback, they refined their structures’ siting, form, and glazing.

Design submissions from the three finalists

After receiving feedback from a learned panel of judges, the three finalists -- Andrew Herbst, John Campbell and Junrui Wang -- faced off in a final, live design round. In the end, Junrui Wang’s unconventional low-lying structure won the top prize, as it performed well in the Energy Use Intensity metric and integrated seamlessly with the High Line.

PER/FORM's three finalists (left to right): Andrew Herbst, Junrui Wang (winner), John Campbell. Photo: Stephanie Murano

Thanks to all the participants for their considerable efforts throughout the PER/FORM competition and to Sefaira for trying out this exciting new competition format.

Posted by Chris Cronin, on behalf of the SketchUp team

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