Should You Pay For 3D Print Files?

3D Printing & Imaging Maker News
Should You Pay For 3D Print Files?

Two major websites for finding 3D models for 3D printing have just launched the ability to pay artists for their models. and have announced subscription services.

Lets take a quick step back and look at what 3d model repositories are, and why this is happening. These sites are huge databases of 3d models that you can search, filter, and browse. Typically, these models have all been free. You find something you like, download it, and print it.

From stealing to licensing

One problem we’ve seen in the community since the very beginning, is that folks will download these free models and then go sell them at craft fairs or on etsy. This is often a direct violation of the non-commercial licenses that they were published with. Even if an artist decided to allow folks to sell something, there was no way to claim your cut of the sale.

licensed models being sold on etsy

To attempt to tackle this, there have been a few approaches. Some sites let you list your models with an up front fee. The person pays and downloads the file. Many artists decided to opt to go to patreon, offering a tier that gives permission to re-sell the items. A great example of this is Cinderwing, who started offering a reseller tier on patreon for articulated dragons, and now you see them all over.

Driving quality through compensation, does it hurt the library?

Gradually over time we’ve seen skilled artists delve into the area of paid models. It makes sense to me that the added motivation of some financial compensation would drive people to spend more time on a model. I personally like to give things away, and I do all the time. However there are many ideas I have that I just do not make because there isn’t the motivation to sink the time and effort into them, only to give them away. The ability to get paid for those specific models is a good thing in my opinion.

There are some that argue that these repositories should remain 100% free. That the heart of the open source 3d printing movement relies on everything being shared. I personally disagree that free should be an absolute requirement. I can totally understand the frustration of browsing through your favorite site and finding something you like, only to find out it costs more than you’re willing to spend – on a site that used to be totally free.

Prusa addressed this topic in their announcement blog post with an approach to filtering that defaults to free files only. I suspect that this method will change over time, as folks get accustomed to options requiring compensation.

I feel this is a good move, and I think this will increase the quality of items you can find. However, I’m interested to hear what others think about this direction. Join us on our Discord and let us know what you think.

Discuss this article with the rest of the community on our Discord server!

I get ridiculously excited seeing people make things. I just want to revel in the creativity I see in makers. My favorite thing in the world is sharing a maker's story. find me at

View more articles by Caleb Kraft


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