What is it with sketchup and small scales?

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  • Every time i want to model something small in sketchup i have to model it 10-100X larger (and then if i go to print it make sure to shrink it by the same amount)

    for whatever reason sketchup just cant handle complex geometry at smaller scales, wont even allow me to place a circle if its too small.

    why is this? shouldn't everything work exactly the same no matter what? to the program shouldn't the scale just be an arbitrary unit? why can it handle something at a meter but not a millimeter?

    i mean i have my work arounds but jeez it starting to get annoying lol why does it do this and is there any fix for it?

  • :) that's Sketchup. You can set the units you work with and the accuracy, but if you are working on high-rise buildings then you are not going to be interested in modeling the thread of a screw.

    Personally I work in mm and only have to 'blow things up' on a rare occasion when modeling custom decorative assets, but most architectural work I do is in m. When walking around in Enscape, most detail modeled to such a tiny scale is lost so it becomes futile to actually model it accurately - as long as it looks right.

  • Sketchup is great for efficient and fast drawings during design phase, I'd never recommend relying on this program to make complex and highly precise technical drawings - there are different tools for that. Plus this kind of feedback seems to be somewhat misplaced here, it might be more appropriate in the official SketchUp forums (https://forums.sketchup.com/) and not in a 3rd party renderer forum predominantly used for architectural work. Maybe the folks over there might even be able to help you with some advice.

  • (I have had more problems with accuracy in Archicad than I have ever had with SU - and I have also seen highly complex and precise technical drawings produced from SU.

    People tend to gravitate towards what they learned/were taught - and since most places that grant qualifications tend to be bias towards (& against) certain software you will find that the industry as a whole has the same bias.)

    But yes, you would be better asking this in the sketchup forums.

  • Sketchup can't create faces smaller than 1mm2.

    It can however show smaller geometry without problem.

    What I usually do is create a component at the right size and then copy it to the side and scale it up 10 or 100 or 1000 times.
    Then I model in that scaled up component and when done (exit component edit mode first) I just delete it and the small component at the original size will have all the edits in it.

  • why can it handle something at a meter but not a millimeter?

    This is a technical decision that was made very early-on during the design of the software.

    John Bacus (one of the earliest people to work on the development of SketchUp) said that at that time, they thought people would use SketchUp only to model stuff on a building-kind-of scale, not small objects with sub-millimeter features.

    It comes down to how computers work. Computers can only represent a floating-point number of a certain size.

    Here is a simplified representation. Let's say the biggest number your computer can store and represent is:


    And it can have a decimal point anywhere in there, for instance


    You can see that if you want a big number, it can't go very far after the decimal point. But if you want a number with a lot of decimal places, it can't be very large.

    So the SketchUp team decided to have the smallest dimension of 0.001", so that you can have very large dimensions in your model.

    The consequence is that if you have an edge smaller that 0.001", it will collapse to a single point.

    To be honest, I think this is a big mistake. SketchUp uses double numbers, so the maximum size of a SketchUp model is about 25,400,000 km (~½ the distance from the Earth to Mars)

    They could have allowed for a much smaller precision and we would still have a very large maximum size. (eg 0.00001" -> 254,000km)

    But IMO the best solution would be to have a setting to let the user decide where to put the decimal point, so that we could either model a cell, or the solar system.

    • Official Post

    Unfortunately @SedowsGomes is (was) just a spam account. I'll keep this thread open still since it opened up a discussion which may of interest to some others here too.