Thingiverse is really quite a necessity in the 3D printing world, but we decided to make an ultimate guide to alternative places to look for cool 3D printer ideas and some of the best 3D models available online.
There’s so much you can do with a 3D printer! Even before buying, cool 3D printer ideas start flying through your mind. However, there’s a lot of work between the idea and the print bed. Whether you are not comfortable with a 3D design yet or you just want a little inspiration, Thingiverse is always there to help with a massive selection of 3D models, clean organized interface, and social aspects.
When someone talks about sharing or downloading models, they are generally referring to Thingiverse but it doesn’t have all the models on its server. It’s not so much that everyone needs all the models ever made, rather one day you’ll run into a situation where the beloved repository just doesn’t have that one design you really want. For that, there are other quality model archives to look over.
Not in any particular order, the first one on our list is Cults3D. Cult’s models range anywhere from a plethora of free to around 300$. With an open access upload, this is also just the first of many that you can sell your greatest designs on, such as this clean low poly pegasus.
Cults3D has a minimal social interface with external link sharing, basic comment, and Like mechanics, and sign in by email. Even so, most of the models are very high quality and has been covered by the press such as 3D Print Magazine and MetroNews.
While you can have an account to upload to YouMagine, you don’t need it to download files. The site states:
There’s something for everyone. Browse through over 12,000 open source designs that are ready to print.
And there’s a relatively large selection that mostly seems to be cool 3D printer ideas such like functional keychain phone stands and Arduino casings. With an active community encouraging artist and designers to add to their model information like materials and methods, and additional documents like videos on the making, post process, or use of the model, as well as post print feedback. Files on YouMagine are available for free and the website can connect you with 3D Hubs services if you don’t have a printer.
My Mini Factory
So you think you’re getting good at your 3D modeling skill? Maybe contests are for you! My Mini Factory is just the place to try new modeling and pit them against others in the competition.
When you’re not going for bragging rights and meeting other talented designers, you can find a wide span of categories for new models to give a try. Everything from bearing holders in accessibility and educational prints such as complete engine, to upcycling projects. Factory contains free models, paid content, and even merchandise.
While it’s just as many instructions on using your printer or post process, Instructables does have some really neat models ready for download too. Chances are if you have trouble, the one who made the instruction will give you feedback on how to finish your project. If you don’t see enough of your type of project, it can always be a great way to spark inspiration for your next one. Instructables does support social media login, so you won’t need another password to find and make this quirky spoon with a head on it!
Run by the industry giant Stratasys, CrabCAD is a great source for 3D models designed by professional engineers from all over the world. Most of the designs are very complex and difficult and require a lot of experience to manufacture. This is why the site also offers tools to transform them into successful prints. GrabCAD features many 3D models of various guns too.
This site is much more of a store than a free repository, however, you can look through all of its cool 3D printer ideas for days. Functionality has always been important to me, so this screwdriver ring was really impressive! If you have a little engineer or artist in you, Shapeways can be a great way for your models to repay you for all the time you spent on them with your own little shop.
Shapeways seem to be one of the few places that allow public upload in a sense, that best organizes your models under your name or your brand. It has more than just that, though, under the community tab is a forum, blog, scheduled events, a place for designers to find work, a student’s program, and 3D scanner network.
Though it may be mixed between models for animators and designs for printers, Sketchfab can be summed up with one word: quality. It’s exactly what you’d expect from a website that has a whole section dedicated to pros. Don’t get discouraged, though, the models that are downloadable are incredible. Take this Spanish fountain for example.
One great thing about this massive database is the feature to search by 3D Printable-Ready. This may not include commercial use only models, but it is still by no means a short supply, most of which are free and easily downloadable in most formats. With such a huge collection, you may want to learn how to properly tag any models you upload to TF3DM, however, if you’re browsing the chances of not finding something at least close to what you’re looking for are very slim. My personal favorite was this free Iron Man model with moving parts.
If any of these and their marketing seems slightly intimidating, then a great place to start would be Designfutures, especially if you’re looking for a friendly community where the pros love to interact with you as it is the official ZMorph community. It’s also dedicated to multi-material and multifunctional projects that can be fabricated with 3D printing, CNC milling, and laser engraving. Available through Voxelizer software as well, the multitool 3D printer manufacturer will help you improve your printing game with easy to print aftermarket parts, and amazing models to try out, like the brave astronaut model.
A place for models you may not have thought about could be staring you in the face quite literally. Cool 3D printer ideas bring something great into the physical world, but sometimes we need to simply make another of something. Digital models are all around you if you take the effort to convert them over. While printing may be going from digital to physical, Autodesk’s 123D Catch takes the physical into digital. Use this vintage Kodak from 1913 and try touching it up with Voxelizer to see if scanning is your new niche.
3D File Market
Finally, we have the 3D File Market global community. It’s unique in both the aspect of a global community just as much as the on-site model builder. While it may not be as powerful as TinkerCad or Voxelizer, this is another amazing starting point for a new print hobbyist. Including CAD files, print-ready models, software, materials and uploads from each country across the globe. Once you feel ready to distribute or market your own models, this could very possibly be the widest reaching site to use. Something I’ve only seen on 3D printing File Market is model streaming.
So many cool 3D printer ideas out there!
Thingiverse really is amazing as it has become the easiest to use standard for 3D model repositories, however not everything will ever be available all in one place. Which also goes to say that there are many of helpful, amazing print hobbyist exclusive to their favorite community. It can be highly beneficial to pick a few sites that best meet your needs, maybe one outside your comfort zone, and go make some accounts. Find new printing methods and tricks, meet unique hobbyist and broaden your horizons. You might even find a way for your hobby to pour funds back into itself or more.