Profile Builder

Profile Builder
Posted by on August 4, 2016
Posted in: software, tips and tricks

Hello! My name is Hunter Kirkland and I’m the summer intern at Fat Pencil Studio and an architecture graduate student at the University of Oregon in Portland. Part of my time here has been spent learning a new and exciting SketchUp extension, Profile Builder. When I first started investigating this extension at Joshua’s request, the idea of parametric design inside of SketchUp was intriguing but sounded painful. Turns out it really isn’t, thanks to Profile Builder 2.

Profile Builder 2 brands itself as “light speed modeling of smart building materials using parametric profiles and assemblies” that is able to “build, edit, and qualify intelligent models of real building materials,” meaning it is capable of parametric design along a path and has the ability to quantify the components. This is achieved through a fairly straightforward interface that is split into three main parts: profiles, components, and assemblies (see below).


A profile is basically the typical Follow Me tool idea of a shape extruded along a path. A component is something that can be repeated along that same path. An assembly is when the two are combined. If you visit Profile Builder in the extension warehouse or on their website, they have a ton of profiles already created: things like typical steel and wood sections, and even some assemblies are available for use (a railing system, spiral stairs, railroads, etc.) What makes the extension fun, however, is the fact that it’s completely customizable! You can create your own profiles and components within SketchUp, or download them from the 3D Warehouse, which can then be used in assemblies you can create with Profile Builder 2. This allows for a lot of exploration as you also control the position, frequency and spacing of components.

Here are a couple of simple but effective assemblies I was able to come up with. They could be tweaked and improved upon to become incredibly useful tools in the future. The first is the rail assembly. Rails, in my opinion, are the easiest to create using Profile Builder 2. The steps are as follows:

  1. Create or download your vertical components. (Make sure that you are using a component! If not, you will not be allowed to load it into an assembly). You can take this time to create your profiles as well if you don’t wish to use a standard profile.
  2. A-1-01
  3. Open the assembly dialogue, click “select from model” then select your component. (If your balusters are laying on the ground you just need to change the axis of your component so that it’s length is parallel with the blue axis). Right click the component and select “change axis” (see fig. 2). [Note: The steps are the similar for loading and using a profile, just select the profile tab, select your profile face and then hit the “+” you can name one you’ve made and reuse it.]
  4. A-2-01
  5. Now you have a Component and a profile in the assembly, you can use the parameters in the dialogue box to arrange them (see below). This can get tricky and I recommend hitting the button in the bottom right to test a stretch of your assembly, any time you make changes you can hit the third button in that sequence (the one with a green check) and it will update any assemblies you have selected.
    example profile parameters

    example component parameters

  6. Repeat while adding desired components and profiles, in this case add more profiles adjusting the elevation and you’ll have the safety cables you need for railing (see above). Again everything is customizable and you can cycle through a lot of options very quickly by adjusting your parameters and using the green check button to update your built assemblies. [Note: checking the “Max” box when setting the parameters for your component spacing will ensure exact spacing. If this box is unchecked Profile Builder will adjust the components to fit the line while staying close to the desired spacing.]

You have a parametric rail assembly now! Save it and use it over and over.

For this tutorial I wanted to touch on one more feature of Profile Builder 2 that pairs nicely with a rail assembly: the Smart-Path Select tool. The Smart-Path Select tool will select a complex series of connected edges. For an example I created a bit of topography and projected a circle onto it.


6. Have a series of connected edges and an assembly you want to follow those edges? Find the Smart-Path Select tool and select the edge (see above). I often find it easiest to double click and the extension will guess the edges you want. If your edges are connected to other edges you don’t wish you select you can simply click the starting edge and then follow the path you’d like.

7. Once you have your path selected simply click the button to the right the assembly button. This will fit your assembly along the complex series of edges!



After learning the basics of Profile Builder 2, Joshua challenged me to use the same process to generate parametric city blocks in one click. Well, it takes more than one click, but its still pretty quick. Here goes:

    1. Create a corner condition, a curb cut or bulb out. (Make sure that you are using a component, if not, you will not be allowed to load it into an assembly!) You can take this time to create your sidewalk profiles as well, create a small section of what you desire in a sidewalk (see below).
    2. B-1-01
    3. Open the assembly dialogue, click “select from model” then select your corner component. (If your component isn’t laying flat on the ground you need to change the axis of your component. Right click the component and select “change axis”). [Note: The steps are the similar for loading and using a profile, just select the profile tab, select your profile face and then hit the “+” you can name one you’ve made and reuse it.]
    4. When looking at your component, uncheck infill and check start. The preview should make more sense now (see below). In my case I had to offset the component the width of the sidewalk and rotate it to face outwards, proper placement of the axis will avoid this. [note: my preview window includes components not yet covered. Don’t worry if yours looks a bit different].
    5. B-2-01
    6. Now, using the preview window, adjust the parameters so the component and the profile line up, making sure the axis is on the inside edge of the assembly and that the curb cut is not the starting point, instead make the profile of the sidewalk your starting point (see example parameters below). These Parameters will change depending on the dimensions of your corner condition and sidewalk. For the assembly to be effective it must create the sidewalk on the outside of the the line you draw and the corner condition should not be the starting point, the profile or back edge of the corner condition should be the assembly’s starting point. You can use the start and end setback parameters to ensure these conditions (see below).


You have a basic sidewalk assembly now! Save it and use it over and over. To make a complete block follow each individual length (assuming its a square). You can add components such as trees, benches, and recycling bins from the 3D Warehouse or create your own.

6. Load your favorite tree, or make it (just make sure its a component). Load it into the assembly and adjust the start and end set back to keep them away from the corners. Adjust the spacing to your desired spacing dimensions (see below for). Voila, street trees!




7. Find, load, and adjust the parameters for any other components desired. Possibly benches, recycling and waste bins, signs or lights even!



If you wish to explore Profile Builder 2 even more check out this handy manual.

About Hunter Kirkland

Hunter Kirkland is an intern at Fat Pencil Studio.