Unwrap and Flatten Faces
Unwraps shapes and lays arbitrarily oriented faces flat on the ground.
Unwrap and Flatten Faces

This extension allows the user to do three things:

  • Unwraps non-coplanar faces (any shape objects, shells etc.) using an automatic (randomized) algorithm and then lays the resulting set of faces flat on the ground. This is done without creating any distortions.
  • Lays any arbitrarily-oriented face or collection of coplanar faces flat on the ground (without distortion). Use e.g. in combination with a manual unfold tool or to make sure faces are perfectly horizontal.
  • Projects a set of faces to one of the three main planes by smashing all faces flat. This creates distortions, of course.

This extension is useful for e.g. producing fabric or sheet-metal templates, laser-cutting templates, as CNC-prep, for texturing, etc.

Usage:

Select one or more connected and ungrouped faces in your model and right-click on them to get the “Unwrap and Flatten Faces” context menu. If you select “Unwrap and Flatten”, then all selected faces will be unwrapped (unfolded/unrolled) and laid on the plane chosen in the settings. This happens without distortions becasue individual faces are folded to the same plane. If you select “Smash (project)”, then those faces will be smashed by projection onto the chosen plane (with distortions, of course).

The original geometry is preserved in this process and all resulting geometry is grouped, which makes manipulation easier. See the screenshots and video below for examples.

You can also find this tool in the “Tools” menu (which is where you can access its settings).

Some Tips:

  • Only developable surfaces (e.g. a cylinder) can be cleanly unrolled. This means that if your object has double-curvature (as may be the case for a shell like the one shown in the first image in this post), then this tool can fail because it may be impossible to find a result. Often, however (as in the case of a sphere), this tool will basically “peel” the surface, which may or may not be a useful result.
  • In some cases it is necessary to turn hidden geometry view on (View > Hidden Geometry) before you select any faces.
  • The unwrapping algorithm doesn’t always work automatically. It basically starts at a random face and tries to line up all of the selected faces in a logical pattern (a “string” of faces if you will). If this doesn’t succeed, then it tries a set number of times to get this right. If it still doesn’t work (you get an error or the results don’t look right), re-try with fewer faces in your selection and stitch them manually. Each run is random, so results can vary between tries.
  • The result may have overlapping faces. This happens when the unfolding process folds one face on top of another. In that case, SketchUp will merge those faces. The result may still be usable, but you will likely have to separate the faces by copying and editing. A better approach is to select fewer faces and unwrap the object in segments.
  • You can adjust the settings to your liking (under Tools > Unwrap and Flatten Faces > Settings):
    • Choose the plane onto which the shape will be flattened (ground plane is default).
    • Set the number of iterations for the solution finding process (1000 are default).
    • You can hide the confirmation dialog (shown by default).
    • You can show all step prompts (hidden by default). Be careful with this setting. It will give you a cinfirmation dialog after each face has been folded.

More Info and Help:

http://www.alexschreyer.net/projects/flatten-faces-plugin/

Reviews

thank you very much it's very helpful :)

Just downloaded and tried out your unwrap extension. Very nice! I'll be using it for sheet metal fabrication patterns.

Thanks!

Sketchup 2017:

Error: #
C:/Users/micha/AppData/Roaming/SketchUp/SketchUp 2017/SketchUp/Plugins/as_flatten/as_flatten.rb:269:in `add_face'
C:/Users/micha/AppData/Roaming/SketchUp/SketchUp 2017/SketchUp/Plugins/as_flatten/as_flatten.rb:269:in `block in smash_faces'
C:/Users/micha/AppData/Roaming/SketchUp/SketchUp 2017/SketchUp/Plugins/as_flatten/as_flatten.rb:268:in `each'
C:/Users/micha/AppData/Roaming/SketchUp/SketchUp 2017/SketchUp/Plugins/as_flatten/as_flatten.rb:268:in `smash_faces'
C:/Users/micha/AppData/Roaming/SketchUp/SketchUp 2017/SketchUp/Plugins/as_flatten/as_flatten.rb:352:in `block (2 levels) in '
SketchUp:1:in `call'

Gabriel G.'s picture

Hello!
I've been using your plugin for fabric and it works quite well, thank you!!
After flatten I always make a scale model to reshape manually but it works.
I have upgraded to the last version recently, and in this version, after flatten, it doesn't erase the flatten pieces like before, leaving it selected.

Is it possible to install the previous version of the plugin?

Thank you for your help!

Vallahi bravo nefis birşey...

Hello
I have installed this extention but can't find it in my toolbar!! what shall i do?

You must limit the number of surfaces that its members want and then press the right mouse button and press the anwrap and faltten faces option

Great, many thanks !... I used it for a cut cylinder (mug shape) and it worked perfectly with camera/standard view/bottom (translatted from french) before unwrapping and flattening.

Rafik A's picture

it does not work with 2014 , just it groups one of faces i did as example with (Dodecahedron) shape .......i explode any grouped shape , but the same resulte

Kristaps P's picture

Hallo, thank you for your super programm what hepled me a lot befor, but now on new 2017 sketchup its not working anymore, what can I do? I can not export my model to 2016 and I stucked.

alexschreyer's picture

I know about the 2017 issue and will be working on a fix next week. For the time being, you can install SU 2016 besides 2017 and install the extension there. You can then save a SU model to the 2016 version (save as...) and work on it in 2016 before opening it again in 2017.

kelly m's picture

It's wonderful when you find an extension that does exactly what you need. For me, this extension is it. Thank you, alex schreyer.

P.S. Don't you love it when people compalain about something that you've made available to them for FREE! Well, I appreciate it.

alexschreyer's picture

Thanks for your feedback. It's much appreciated!

Hello
getting a blocked message on the plu-in through Extension Warehouse... any thoughts?
Thanks,
Brian Sikes

Fahmi S.'s picture

This extension, when it works, it works wonder. But when it doesn't (like 38/40 times), hoo boy, I really want to pull my hair out. Sorry for complaining.

alexschreyer's picture

I hear you, but to some extent it has to do with what's unfoldable and what is not. Make sure you only select parts of your model that can actually be unfolded, not the entire model. And then progress "strip by strip". With simple geometry, it can unfold entire shapes, however, in one go (see http://alexschreyer.net/sketchup/unwrapped-orange/).

MrShrimpkin .'s picture

Installed it from the extension warehouse but it doesn't work. No options with a right click.

alexschreyer's picture

You might be right-clicking on a group or component. This tool only works on ungrouped faces.

It won't allow to download/intall it... it comes with an error :(

It will not download or install. I am logged in and when I go to install it opens a window with some text that says redirecting and logout. that screen goes away and the home screen pops up and I am logged out. Is there a fix for this?

Same problem for me

Jesse H's picture

This is incredible. I couldn't be happier to have found a plugin that does exactly as I need. I make many notches in tubing for off-road chassis fabrication and this lays out the notches I draw in SU for perfect weld fitment. I may even find a way for it to work for offset compound bend fitments.

Sky S's picture

This works perfectly for me, however, when I try to export the flattened shape, it exports it in the "view" im using. So if Im looking at a square shape from an isometric viewpoint, it exports a diamond. Is there a way to export the flattened shape so I can use it in 2d software?

Antonio M.'s picture

sky you need, when exporting, set parallel projection and do top view, then minimize your frame of view and then export.

alexschreyer's picture

That is by design. To make sure you are looking "down", for example, switch the camera to parallel projection (camera menu) and pick "top" from the default views. Then export again and all will be straight.

Jarod M.'s picture

Maybe I'm doing this incorrectly, but I can't get SketchUp 2016 to recognize this. Downloaded from the link above (on this page), extracted with 7zip, copied and pasted the folder and .rb file into the Tools folder of SketchUp 2016 and didn't find anything new in the Tools menu. Any help would greatly be appreciated.

EDIT: I had an older .rb file, I think from earlier in 2015, maybe the first version that I didn't successfully delete prior to pasting in the new .rb file. Looks like I didn't overwrite it like I thought I had. FYI for those that may have the same issue I did. Hopefully no one will though.

alexschreyer's picture

The best way to install is actually: in SU go to Window > Extension Warehouse, then browse to this extension, then log in using your Google account. Finally, click on Install and OK any dialogs. That automatically installs the extension and you get update notifications.

You are trying the long way, which also works: Download the RBZ file, then in SU go to Window > Preferences > Extensions Tab. Click on Install Extension... and browse to the RBZ file. No need to copy anything for newer SU versions.

Jarod M.'s picture

Thanks. I'm glad my comment led to this so others will know exactly how to install. Maybe it's not as counter-intuitive to others as it was me. Thanks for the quick response. This extension is amazing.

João's picture

Alex, excellent plugin, thanks for sharing with us!

Would it be very hard to allow a mode where the user select the first face to unwrap?

And what about allowing the user to click on the first face and then the face he wants next and so on!

alexschreyer's picture

Glad to hear you like it. For manual unfolding, look at the Flattery plugin. Just Google it.

Kristian K.'s picture

This is not working on a very simple house shape. Are there other tools available?

alexschreyer's picture

Worked fine for me:
http://screencast.com/t/xcodIalR

It only works on ungrouped faces. Make sure you either explode a group/component or run this within the group/component. If that doesn't solve your issue, send me a picture of your model.

Braden B.'s picture

I love the plugin and it's working for my purposes, but once unfolded, as you mentioned they seem arbitrarily oriented - not flat on a specific axis (as far as i can tell - I am new to this). is there a way to correct that and also, how do you print to scale once they are flattened?

alexschreyer's picture

If the resulting faces are not flat, just explode them (right click > explode), select them and run the plugin again. Should be all flat after that.

Charlie K.'s picture

honestly, how to install this plugin ?

doesn't work in my mac
doesn't show in the sketch up

i am using sketch up 2015 and OS X

alexschreyer's picture

Did you download it from the Extension Warehouse directly? If so, restart SketchUp and then look for a menu item called "Unwrap and Flatten" under the Tools menu.

Bad C's picture

Downloaded

Scott B's picture

Very Cool! I can’t wait to try this!

Scott B's picture

Very Cool! I can’t wait to try this!

Mohammad S's picture

hello "alexschreyer"
i'm a civil engineer from iran and i know english not well !
i use sketch up 2014 and i'm looking for a plugin to flat 3d shapes that i designed with sketch up . can i ask you to help me ? where can i find that plugin ?
i work with mdf sheets and make some decorative for fun !
you can see my works here : http://www.instructables.com/member/msh1353?show=INSTRUCTABLES
thanks and best wishes.

alexschreyer's picture

You have some very nice CNC work there! My extension works well for simple shapes and parts of complex shapes (some stuff just can't be unrolled in one go. Do you have an example of a shape that you would like to flatten?

k0bretty@hotmail.com's picture

if i open the download it starts with sketch up 8 . i can't start with sketch up 2015. help !

alexschreyer's picture

Have you tried installing it from within SU2015 using the Extension Warehouse instead of downloading the RBZ file?

Sorn B's picture

works very well on 2014 mac, thanks a million!

Lancer 5's picture

There isn't any unfold.zip on the server. There's a 415 error when attempting to download it, and a 404 error when going to the link that says "download moved"

So when will v2.0 be out of review?

I have a very complex 3D model with hundreds of faces, and manually flattening them and then having to manually stitch them together would take months.

The old unfolder that was in Sketchup 8 was the best one. Wonder why they took it away?

Probably so they could force us to buy something that less capability, It is all about the money now.

alexschreyer's picture

2.0 is out now. It has a bug for SU8 and 2013, but 2.1 will be out in a few days. When you unfold many faces at once, make sure you pick a set of them that can easily unfold into a single plane without overlapping on itself (see the video for details).

shannon h's picture

thanks bro ....but it wasn't working with the 2013 version so i install it on th e2014 version and now it works ...god bless you

alexschreyer's picture

Glad you like it. 2.1 (out soon) will work with 2013 and 8.

Omar S's picture

good for creating phisical models

Ricardo S's picture

does not show on sketchup...what now?

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Unwrap and Flatten Faces (2.3); December 12, 2016
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I am a Senior Lecturer at the University of Massachusetts and author of the book "Architectural Design with SketchUp". My favorite topics are SketchUp, AEC-CAD/BIM, Wood Engineering, Web Design, and Photography.