With 3D printing patents expiring, the industry has exploded at home.
An endless number of 3D models are now available online, with everything from D&D letters to washing machine parts.
With a host of design sharing sites out there, both paid and free, here’s what you need to know about where to look for the best models for 3D printing.
What to look for: 3D models, file format, shredder, and G code.
There are hundreds of thousands of 3D models online and it can be a bit confusing.
Websites that cater to 3D printing models are especially useful because the files available for download will be in the correct format. Some sites will even check contributor designs, making sure they are actually printable.
Since a lot of these websites are community based, you can read reviews or see photos of completed project by other people.
The files must be in STL or OBJ format, so check that out first before downloading. Once you have the files, use the ‘slicer’ to convert your file to G-code.
All you have to do next is copy the G-code file to your SD card and insert the card into the 3D printer. Good to go, right?
Before using the design
One thing to note is whether the 3D model has a creative license.
On the Thingiverse website, for example, the Creative License is shown under the heading license On the left side of the form home page (below the tags), like Classic Benchy model.
click CC – Attribution – No Derivatives It will open a link explaining the status of reproduction, including for commercial use.
Lots of hours are devoted to 3D model design. So, making sure you credit the designer, if you’re publicly sharing your work, is a good way to support them.
Depending on the site, the designer may include a link to where you can donate, or in some cases this option is built into the website. For sites with payment options, you can either pay directly for the designs or sign up on the website for more discounts.
Every site is different, so check what percentage of the revenue goes to the designer if you choose to support them.
Now that you have an overview of what to look for, dive into the websites below for some of the best 3D printing models out there.
A popular and well-established site, Thingiverse started as a companion site for a DIY 3D printer kit manufacturer.
What is great about this site is the education section in it. Here you can find 3D printing projects related to the class theme (think T-Rex skeleton figures or Lego Renaissance).
Within the form page, you can then find lesson plans, their activities, and background information about the topic. If you are a teacher in a classroom, this could be a great way to introduce 3D printing technology to young people.
Besides manufacturing 3D printers, Prusa Printers also hosts a website for design sharing.
Under a section called Makes, people can submit images when a project is finished, which is very useful if you want to check the quality of the build first.
The unique feature of this site is the map that indicates the location of world events, workshops or printing laboratories worldwide.
On YouMagine, designs can be grouped into groups, which is another way you can search for new projects.
Collections range from 3D printing machine modifications to medical mask models.
All you have to do is hit the download button to get a design. When you do this, a popup will appear giving you the option to donate to the designer if you choose.
For something a little different, in Tangs you can search for models based on similar geometric shapes. To do this, upload your previous STL file to the search box, or simply type a shape into the search engine; For example, a cube.
On each form page, elegant display options can be changed to view the form from different angles, and with rendering modes and colors, before downloading files.
Interestingly, this website also allows you to limit your search for models to the Tangs website only, or open your search to other sites on the Internet.
Combined with the free STL file library, MyMiniFactory ensures that every file is printable by checking the software and making sure it’s printed by its community.
In the MyMiniFactory Store, you can purchase designs to support artists, or choose a paid subscription to the site to receive discounts on designs, among other things such as in-house print materials.
Another site that allows you to pay for designs is Cults. It contains both free and paid designs with add-ons for donating to designers.
When browsing the community builds, you’ll notice that a lot of people are using GIFs to display the 3D object in the library, which will help you get a quick overview of the 3D model.
Cults also claims that the files available on their site are guaranteed to print, so you can at least expect the correct file format.
Did you know that NASA has a resource page dedicated to 3D-printable models of space-related artifacts?
You can find models of famous robots such as Curiosity Rover and Perseverance, or detailed models of supernova remnants.
If you have a child who loves space, or you yourself want to combine two of your favorite hobbies, check out what’s in this NASA resource.
A world of 3D models to explore
Each design sharing website is a little different than the next, but you are guaranteed to find the design you like in one of them.
Whether you’re finding a free or paid model, checking out the creative license and uploading an image of your printed model will help support the growing community of 3D printing enthusiasts.
And who knows, maybe one day you will design and upload your own templates? Contests are becoming popular, so check your favorite website to see what you can win by building your own 3D model.
If you are 3D printing for the first time, minor mistakes can lead to poor prints. Here’s how to avoid these mistakes.
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