Where Do You Find Models To 3D Print?

3D Printing & Imaging
3d printed mechanical iris

Printables

My go-to site when I’m just looking for a file to send to the printer. It’s really community-focused with regular design contests that enable a growing ecosystem of new and creative 3D prints. There’s a reward system that encourages both designers and users to participate by publishing models or uploading “makes” of files they’ve printed.

Printables has hundreds of thousands of users and 300,000 models and it continues to grow. Currently all the files are free, but Prusa Research has said that there are plans to add monetization features in the future.

MyMiniFactory

Make: Magazine Volume 84 cover
This article appeared in Make: Vol. 84. Subscribe for more great articles.

If you’re looking for models for a session of D&D, MyMiniFactory is the best repo for you. A lot of the models here are different characters and architecture designed for various tabletop games. Unlike Printables, MyMiniFactory has both free and paid models.

One thing unique to MyMiniFactory is their Customizer — you can upload a bunch of models in a group so people can modify and choose which parts they want. This is a really easy way to personalize models before you print them. And for designers, this makes it a lot easier to upload multiple variations of a single model without having to make and export them one at a time.

MyMiniFactory also has a Scan the World project (see page 115 of this issue) that aims to create an ecosystem of 3D scanned cultural artifacts, and lots of other community elements that allow creators to write stories, monetize their designs, and take part in competitions.

Cults

For more art- or jewelry-focused STLs, I usually turn to Cults. As opposed to more functional parts, the designs on Cults are generally more aesthetic and fun. Cults also has both paid and free models.

Head over to the Top STL section to check out what’s popular. Without fail, there’s always something that catches my attention.

Thangs3D

Thangs is the newest repository, but it’s growing incredibly fast. There’s a ton of great, free designs from awesome makers like ChaosCoreTech and 3dprintbunny.

Not only does Thangs search its own models, it also searches external websites — almost like the Google of 3D printing. You can even upload a model and search for others with similar geometry.

There’s also a built-in collaboration system so you can work on projects with others and keep track of changes through a version control system.

Thingiverse

Thingiverse is the largest and longest standing STL repository. Started by MakerBot back in 2008, it was the first great place to find free files and engage with others with similar interests.

Despite the large collection and giant user base, Thingiverse has its issues. The biggest one for me is the broken Download All function — for designs with a lot of parts, I have to download each one individually. Ads are now put in with the models, a subpar experience. Not to mention the data breach that made the personal information of many users publicly available.

[feature image: print-in-place mechanical iris by Caleb Kraft] 

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Sumit Basra

maker, video producer, and engineer. He loves taking projects from initial ideas to finished

View more articles by Sumit Basra

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