A frequent question readers ask about drawing in SketchUp is how to get an exploded view of their model. I confess that when I started using SketchUp a few years ago I also looked in the Menu Bar, searching for a tool that could make that exploded view for me automatically. But it wasn’t there.
There are at least a couple of plugins available for SketchUp that can make the job quickly done for you, but I’ve never used anyone of them. I’ve always exploded my models manually because I consider it to be a more flexible practice, especially if you create a plan to take down to the shop and you want to have a particular view, where every single exploded component is clearly in sight.
Exploding a model is not such a long procedure as you might think, it’s just a question of minutes. What is important is to get a little organized to speed up the process.
Every time I draw a model, I like to use layers. Layers can help you getting your model neat, because you can assign to different layers different components. For example, the carcase may be part of a layer, the drawers of another layer, and so on.
When it comes to explode a model, especially if it is a complex one, layers may be very useful and save us precious time.
To better explain what I mean, I exploded for you the cabinet for a benchtop router I recently did and that is available as a free plan here. You can download it and experiment following my example.
Let’s go through the procedure to better understand how to do that.
Before exploding a model, always make a copy of it, using the Move/Copy tool, otherwise you’d get the finished model lost.
It could be a good practice to create a new scene, so it will be quickly accessible with one click of the mouse also in the future. In the picture below, before creating the scene I hid the complete model, so it is invisible when I select the exploded view and I orbit around it.
The model has a good number of components: the carcase, the drawers and the door. Working on it as it is, could be a difficult task. It’s here that layers help us. Hiding a part of components ease the process and lets us concentrate, in this case, only on the carcase.
To start exploding my model, I apply a multiple selection of all the components that go towards a common direction. To make a multiple selection, hold and keep hold down the shift key. Then I move them at a distance that seems to be satisfying for the external component. In the picture below it is the right side of the carcase. Remember to move always on one of the three reference axis
Keeping the shift key down, I click on the side of the carcase to deselect it. Then I move the selected components to the left, to detach them from the side.
When the carcase is done, it’s time to take care of the door and the drawers. Normally, I wouldn’t explode these in the same scene of the carcase, I’d rather create a new scene for the drawer and one for the door. Anyway, just to do a little exercise, let’s see how it is possible to keep the whole model in the same scene. I open the layers dialog box to show the drawers and the door.
It’s useless to explode all the three drawers, one is enough. I delete two drawers and I move the remaining away from the carcase along with the door. This helps me to determine a correct distance from the carcase. Then I hide the carcase through the layers dialog box.
With some practice you’ll get your exploded model in a snap.