What are the steps required to successfully export an entire 3D model (composed of TIN surfaces, 3D polygons, 3D polylines and 3D points) from ArcGIS 10 to Sketchup 8? Preferably, I would like the various components to line up. (Does not need to retain spatial reference)

Gone are the days when I was able to export TIN to Sketchup and easily export polygons, polylines and points with the ArcGIS plugin.

ESRI seems to think the process is a lot easier now... "Up until now this was a pretty cumbersome process. At ArcGIS10, this work-flow becomes much easier."

I respectfully disagree; Up until ArcGIS 9.3.1 it was a simple point and click operation (using the plugin) to select surfaces and whatever layers or selected features in the plugin and export. In fact it even opened SketchUp and loaded everything in and smoothed the surface if the check-mark was ticked off. And spatial reference was retained!

Has anyone tried to export complex TIN surface to Sketchup with the Collada technique? (No direct TIN export functionality now) The Interpolate Polygon to Multipatch using TIN as input surface yields a result that looks nothing like the input surface:

tinenter image description here

As for line and point features it is possible to export to DXF 2007 then import into sketchup. Of course the data is not referenced so every imported DXF is placed in the default 0,0,0 position. I could overcome this by exporting "bounding box" features with each DXF but still - cumbersome....

I know people (myself included) have been asking similar questions but I still don't seem to be able to do this. Does anyone have a solution?

  • Do you use Multipatch To Collada (Conversion) ? help.arcgis.com/en/arcgisdesktop/10.0/help/index.html#/… then import in Sketchup.
    – Mapperz
    Aug 12, 2011 at 15:56
  • for simple surfaces it works ok. Unfortunately, I cannot get the TIN open pit design (above) properly interpolate to a multipatch feature. Aug 12, 2011 at 15:59
  • sounds like a bug then. Have you sent a ticket into ESRI (US)?
    – Mapperz
    Aug 12, 2011 at 16:10
  • If you have FME or the Data Interoperability Extension it may do a better job as it was made for format conversion.
    – blah238
    Aug 12, 2011 at 16:26

2 Answers 2


Since I've posted this question I found out why the rendering of the multipatch created from complex TIN surfaces renders this way on screen. (see above) By default multipatch shading mode is turn to smooth shading. Turning shading mode to flat shading improves the rendering. (Exporting complex and unclosed multipatches to Sketchup ready file types does not work)

As for exporting TIN to Sketchup surfaces, this is no longer possible. ESRI seems to be focusing on allowing users to replace existing multipatches with simple sketchup models in ArcScene and the current workflow is designed around the notion of ESRI users adding 3D elements to closed multipatch features created in ArcGIS (i.e. extruded building footprints). It is possible to substitute 3D symbols with simple SketchUp models and rotate and scale but Its safe to say that ESRI does not support any functionality boyond these simple task. ESRI most certainly does not support the exporting of ESRI features to Sketchup other then closed multipatch.


I know this is an old post but I saw it in the side-bar while answering a current question. A very crude but effective method of exporting a TIN from ESRI, is to open your TIN in ArcScene and export it as VRML.

Yes! I know that VRML is a bit old-school but it works and is readable by SketchUp and most other 3D modelling packages. If you have 3D analyst, you should also have access to ArcScene.

  • Never occurred to me to try this. Thanks for the idea. Apr 11, 2012 at 14:08
  • It's a trick I have used a LOT. ESRI actually dissects large meshes into tiles and will include some LOD meshes as well. The trick to getting a reasonable output is to play with how far away you are from the grid when your press export. Also you might want to set your sun up as well - as that gets exported too (although you can throw that away of course). Texture export is reasonable if you have draped an aerial image on your terrain. However, I found exporting rendered buildings and other 3D items that ESRI lets you view in ArcScene very problematic. Apr 11, 2012 at 15:52
  • SketchUp doesn't import .wrl files by default. What plugin are you using? Apr 11, 2012 at 19:20
  • I am be getting confused - sorry! Only the Pro version of Sketchup has support for WRL. Workaround: Use Blender or MeshLab to import the WRL. Both are free and both are much better than Sketchup anyway. If you must use Sketchup then export from Blender or MeshLab as a Collada or any other format SketchUp can Handle. It's a two step process now but still straight forward. Sorry! Apr 11, 2012 at 21:50
  • I have a Pro version of SketchUp and it does not import .wrl. I like using SketchUp as it is the easiest 3D drafting software available. I tried Blender and dislike its interface immensely. Apr 12, 2012 at 12:57

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