A CAD file is the first step towards the 3D printing process. But not many people are skilled in designing a CAD model but a lot of emerging 3D printing communities are offering CAD files which are free to download and print. We look at some of the most popular, interesting and unique sites which offer such free STL files for 3D printing.
Thingiverse is maker community managed by MakerBot. It is probably the world’s largest 3D printing community with a huge collection of 3D designs (more than half a million). All of their designs are licensed under a Creative Commons license, meaning that anyone can use or alter any design. It has a great feature where you can customise the designs on the website itself before actually downloading it.
Pinshape is a community marketplace for encouraging makers, designers, manufacturers, etc. by sharing and selling 3D printing files mostly for Free. The community is pretty strong and growing rapidly. The blog section is also really great to learn through simple and interesting articles. It regularly hosts contests and awards free filaments, 3D pens and even 3D printers to designers. Pinshape was acquired by Formlabs in April 2016.
MyMiniFactory started in 2013, is a social platform for 3D printable objects. They consider themselves as the YouTube of 3D printing. All the prints are guaranteed to print on any desktop printer. It has some really unique categories like Upcycling, Spare Parts, Scan the World, and even build a 3D Printer.
Gambody is a premium 3D printing marketplace where you can buy and sell 3D files of video game and comic book models. All the models are highly detailed and are optimised for all 3D printer. Gambody is trying to cash in on the craze people have for famous characters from comics, movies, and games.
GrabCAD is the largest online community of professional designers, engineers, manufacturers, and students with 4 million members sharing the CAD files, designs, tips, and downloading the CAD files. GrabCAD offers a great solution for all the available Stratasys 3D printers. It offers a Free CAD library, tutorials, and design challenges.
YouMagine is an Ultimaker community, an open source 3D printer manufacturing company. It aims to provide a complete end-to-end open source software solution. With over 10,000 ready to print designs, this is a small community in comparison with some others but it is undoubtedly one of the most active and responsive communities of them all.
It is simply a search engine for 3D printable models. They collect data from all 3D printing communities and marketplaces and offer it to the user like a regular search engine. On searching for a particular product, the Most Searched and Most Clicked models are shown at the top followed by others.
It is like any other 3D printing community bringing together the makers, designers, and manufacturers by sharing free designs and offering the community to buy and sell premium designs. Interesting fact about the name is that the name Cults is an anacycle: read backwards it becomes St. Luc, patron saint of artists and sculptors.
There is an interesting story behind this community. They simply wanted to print everything there is to print and that is the reason why everyone should buy a 3D printer. With this motivation, the community offers thousands of reasons to buy a printer. Most of the modes are free but they also offer a subscription package ranging from $10 to $50 as well as monthly or yearly subscription, educational subscription, and a commercial license for selling their products.
Not many people know about this offering from NASA but it has some really cool site for downloading some of NASA’s spacecraft’s, shuttles, satellites, astronaut figurines, accessories and many more. The interface is really dull but just get over it and explore the content.