On the web you can find millions of projects that can be turned into real things from the comfort of your own home, using your 3D printer. Where do you get inspiration?
A few words about the history of 3D printing
3D printing technology — such as stereolithography (SLA) or selective laser sintering (SLS) — dates back to the 1980s. Until roughly 2009 or less, it was limited to expensive professional solutions used by a small group of professionals.
Change came with the 2000s – that’s when the whole world heard about 3D printing. This was shared by Adrian Bowyer with Project RepRap, a self-replicating 3D printer, and Cody Wilson with his Liberator gun, which can be completely printed with a 3D printer. There was a boom in the so-called low-budget 3D printing industry, which was the peak of its popularity in 2013-2015. At the time, consumer 3D printers were within reach of financial citizens (well, those with better earnings), and even stars not previously associated with the tech industry, for example will.i.am, the Black Eyed singer joined in promoting 3D printing. Dimensions.
People interested in the history of the industry should definitely watch the documentary “Print the Legend” on Netflix.
In the years that followed, the bubble of gaiety around added printing technologies fizzled out a bit – sentiment cooled and 3D printers became one of the devices anyone could have at home – whether for entertainment or practical purposes. Although this does not mean that they should …
Can anyone buy a 3D printer?
On Asian e-commerce platforms you can buy a very cheap 3D printer (for example, Easythreed Mini K7 for just over 320 PLN on Aliexpress, it is advertised as a children’s 3D printer), but you need to take into account the fact that its assembly and configuration It may not work. Be simple. It should also be noted that despite the relatively high availability of 3D printers, these are not devices for everyone and what they can actually produce may not be as efficient as envisioned. In amateur applications, printing is often limited to small, monochrome and simple plastic objects, the surface of which will not be beautiful and smooth.
But if buying a 3D printer really makes sense for the user, if he wants to spend money and time on this device, and has specific ideas about what will be printed on it, then it is worth following the blow. And many online resources will tell you how to embrace it all and suggest millions of inspiring projects.
The primary file format used in 3D printing is STL. An STL file (Standard Mosaic Language or STereoLithography) is a format that describes the surface geometry of a 3D object – without color, texture, or other attributes. It uses a series of connected triangles to recreate the surface geometry of the 3D model. The more triangles used, the higher the accuracy of the 3D model.
Nothing prevents you from designing a 3D object yourself and saving it as an STL file. A number of free programs can be used for this purpose, such as Blender 3D, AutoDesk TinkerCAD, Google SketchUp and others. But if you do not trust your imagination, do not have a penchant for creativity, or using 3D modeling programs is black magic for you, then the Internet will help you. More specifically, dozens of pages with thousands of ready-made designs that you can download and print for free (or for a fee).
It can be divided into two groups. The first are global platforms, with designs of 3D objects of many categories, of an entertaining and useful nature:
The second group is more specialized platforms, intended for people with specific skills or interests:
- NIH 3D Print Exchange – A set of medical models (models of organs, particles, viruses, prosthetics, etc.), provided by a US government agency.
- NASA 3D Resources – Free shared files that allow you to print historical objects in the history of space exploration – such as the Apollo 11 landing site, Curiosity rover, and Hubble Space Telescope, as well as models of spacesuits and rockets.
- CGTrader – Share and store 3D models and other digital resources (eg textures). The site is primarily used for animation, not 3D printing, so most 3D models are available in many different formats like FBX and OBJ, but there are STL files as well.
- TurboSquid – a store designed for professionals, offering more than 300,000. Templates for game developers, special effects, news agencies, architects and advertisers. TurboSquid is also responsible for another 3D file repository, Free3D.
- GrabCAD – a specialized website for people looking for models from the engineering industry and the largest online library of CAD models (more than 4 million files). Files are provided in CAS-specific formats such as STEP and IGES (but also STL) for free.
- SketchUp 3D Gallery – A site dedicated to professionals, highly regarded in sectors such as architecture and design.
- SQUIR – a service that specializes in selling 3D models of cars, motorcycles and other vehicles (or objects)
- Hum3D – A platform that sells 3D models that can boast the largest collection of 3D models of cars, electronics and weapons.
Niche search engines can also be useful for those looking for ready-made 3D designs:
The above platforms and services are of course not all the places on the web where you can find ready-made 3D model designs. It is just a personal choice of the most popular portals that people starting their adventure with 3D printing should read.
Thingiverse – The largest platform with free 3D printing models
- More than 2.8 million projects
A site that all 3D printing enthusiasts know. Thingiverse is a web platform with millions of 3D files, built by a growing community of users. It was created in November 2008 by Zach Smith, in collaboration with FDM 3D printer manufacturer MakerBot. You can find everything there: tools, jewelry, tools, spare parts, as well as toys and figurines. In addition to 3D printing enthusiasts and hobbyists, all kinds of DIY creators will find their way here, and educational projects are being carried out to arouse the interest of school students in this technology.
The popularity of Thingiverse is due to several factors. First, it is completely free. Secondly, the platform has created a vast and interactive community where users can like, comment and describe 3D models. Third, it allows you to easily search for resources (protected under Creative Commons licenses). Pictures are provided showing which items are printed, what model of printer they were printed on, and there are also tips on optimal printing parameters. Fourth, the forms can be downloaded for free – they are exported in STL format, which makes it possible to print them very easily.
- About 568,000 projects
- Price: mostly paid
A website created in 2014, that describes itself as a marketplace that connects designers with people who want to create items using 3D printing technology, but also with CNC and laser cutting machines. It is an independent platform in the 3D printing file market that hosts thousands of original high quality collections of the best models uploaded.
- Cost: Free and paid
The platform was founded in 2013 and acquired by Formlabs three years later. It allows you to view and download STL files, provided by a community of over 70,000 designers and creators. Although it is not specified how many projects are currently in the repository, the site features a large selection of free and paid files, from Star Wars-inspired thumbnails to jewels.
Noteworthy is a comprehensive search engine that allows you to use various criteria, including models printed with a specific 3D printer or projects with specific licenses. Pinshape also offers several 3D printing guides and articles to learn more about 3D printing technologies.
- More than 1,600 products and over 6,000 3D models
- Cost: Paid (Free part after registration)
The service is available in several languages, and offers a subscription service to access more than 6000 print models in 42 categories. Some files are available for free after registration (Experience Gallery). The platform also boasts that the shared designs were created exclusively for 3D Shook – not found in other 3D printing file repositories. Moreover, it should be tested for printing on consumer printers. Subscription price starts at $8.33 per month.
You will discover
- Cost: some free projects, some paid projects
A French website founded in 2012 with the goal of creating an online community repository of 3D models. It not only allows users to post and share their designs for download but also provides premium files.
- More than 137 thousand projects
- Cost: Free and paid
A large repository of 3D-printed models, developed since 2013. MyMiniFactory describes itself as a platform that aims to increase collaboration between 3D modelers by allowing them to freely share their work. It assures that each of the files uploaded to the platform is tested and printed before being released, and the creators receive 90% of the profits from the sale of projects.