eDrawings, a popular mechanical CAD (MCAD) cross-platform viewing tool, has released a free plug-in, eDrawings for Google SketchUp. The new utility allows a SketchUp user to share models so that others can view them—with full zoom and rotation—in a Web browser without other supporting software.
To share a model, a SketchUp user must first download and install the plug-in, which works in both Google SketchUp and SketchUp Professional 5. The model owner must select whether to convert the SketchUp model to a stand-alone executable (.exe) file, or to HTML. The executable version requires no external software. For HTML viewing, Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.5 or later is highly recommended. When used for the first time, the browser will request to download an ActiveX Control. It is possible to view the converted model in the open source Firefox browser, if you follow a set of detailed instructions.
eDrawings, from Geometric Software, has been used for several years in the MCAD market, where it supports several popular 3D file formats, including SolidWorks, CATIA, Pro/Engineer, Unigraphics NX, Autodesk Inventor, Solid Edge, CoCreate, and the STL format for stereolithography. The format was created by SolidWorks (a division of Dassault Systèmes, maker of CATIA) with ongoing development by Geometric Software Solutions of Bombay, India. A separate version of eDrawings from SolidWorks works with AutoCAD DWG and DXF files.
The advantage of publishing SketchUp models with this viewer is that the creator can publish models in a read-only mode. An online catalog, for example, could have downloadable models that the receiver could look at with in 3D but could not modify. In addition, file sizes are significantly smaller; my tests showed an average compression of about 50%. For other CAD formats, eDrawings averages a much greater compression ratio, sometimes as high as 95%.
Many tools listed inside the eDrawings tool are disabled, because Geometric plans to release a professional version of the tool in the near future.