In my posting Dimensions from photographs with perspective I noted that SketchUp is a tool that needs a trained user. Well, I stopped putting off training myself and within a few hours I was quite comfortable with the basics of it. I know enough now to be able to create a building similar to the one photographed in the previous posting, for example
The yellow roof is there to help me orientate myself when viewing the model in elevation only. I also only use parallel projection for all work in 3D.
With the model finished, I used the Flattery plugin to take each face of the model and lay it down on to the XY plane to create a printable template from which to construct the building in the real world. I also experimented with the Unfold plugin and the brilliant Pepakura Designer application, but for my needs Flattery was just right. (Note that Flattery does not yet work with SketchUp 2015.)
I assembled some parts of the building so as to understand first-hand some of the issues that arise from this process. The first issue is simply keeping track of the parts; I would like to be able to automatically number each face so that once flattened I have a reference to the 3D model in place. A consequence of this is that the template should be printed upside down so that the markings are on the back of the face and not on the front. Doing this also leads to the idea of applying the template to patterned materials. I should note that I am not interested in printing features onto the faces -- such as brickwork, shingles, window frames, ivy, or "rising damp" -- as these models will be enhanced with moulded windows, doors, and other dimensional findings, and then painted.
The template was printed on thin card stock and so material thickness was not an issue in assembling. However, the material I plan to be using -- for example, chipboard, plywood, and MDF -- does have thickness and so I am now learning how to incorporate this construction element into the SketchUp design. I found the videos "Sketchup and Laser Cutting: Making Teeth and Slots" (parts one & two) to be very helpful in getting started with adding dimension. (I am not interested in the interlocking teeth as my models will be glued.) The second video also shows how to flatten the model and to adjust the faces to account for material loss during laser-cutting.