What Are 3D Printing Downloads?
3D printing requires you to not only have a 3D printer, but also something to actually 3D print. Sounds obvious, right? But if you’re just getting into 3D printing, you might not know how the printer actually knows what to print. You’re probably used to normal printers where you could type up a letter or a report and print it off on paper.
But since the entire reason for 3D printing is to actually print a physical three-dimensional object, you need to be able to tell the printer what you’re looking to print. And that comes in the form of 3D modeling and the associated print files. More often than not, these files are known as STL files, which is just the format that most printers are able to read and print from.
One of the reasons that some people are hesitant to get into 3D printing in the first place is because they don’t know the first thing about 33D modeling. And we know, 3D modeling is not a skill that’s very easy to pick up. It can take upwards of a year to really learn how to be good at 3D modeling. And to get to the point that you can design and model just about anything that you can think of will take even longer.
Thankfully people that are really good at 3D modeling all over the world have created repositories where they dump their STL files. From these sites, you can easily grab some print files and start printing physical products out right away, without knowing the first thing about 3D modeling yourself.
Even if you don’t want to print off exactly what the file has, you can use these print files as a great starting off point. Make a few tweaks here and there to create whatever you’re actually hoping to make, and you’re off to the races.
Why Do People Share STL Files For Free?
The fact of the matter is that nobody has to share any of their print files for free. In fact, it might be surprising to you at first to hear that there are nearly endless examples of STL files out there that won’t cost you a dime. You could quite literally print around the clock for the rest of your life and never run out of free print files to download and print.
So why do people do it?
Just like anything else, some people just decided to do it. They started sharing their print files for free in the early days of 3D printing, and the world of online repositories for STL files has exploded ever since. The idea behind sharing print files for free is likely just that many people that want to get into 3D printing don’t know how to do the 3D modeling aspect.
These repositories give the 3D modelers a place to dump some of their STL files while simultaneously giving people the ability to get into 3D printing without having to learn how to use CAD from scratch. More than anything, it really just comes down to people being willing to share with one another. And that’s really all there is to it!
Should You Pay For STL Files For 3D Printing?
Even though there are nearly endless examples of free STL print files on the web that you can choose from, you might want to pay for print files from time to time. The most common reason that you would want to pay for 3D print files is if you want to order something custom or specific.
There is actually a pretty big market out there for that, where you would basically hire a 3D modeler to take your idea and model it for you using CAD software. Once they’ve finished the design and it’s to your liking, you simply pay them for the STL files and you’ll be able to print off whatever you were looking to get from the comfort of your own home.
In other cases, you might see something on one of the print file repositories or marketplaces you really want. And the person who created the file knows that it’s desirable, so they can put a price on it. Just like any other marketplace out there, you just simply pay the seller for the file so that you can print whatever it is.
What Are The Best Sites For 3D Printing Downloads?
Now that you have a bit better of an idea of what 3D printing downloads are and what you can do with them, let’s get into what you’re really here for. Here are 12 of our favorite places online to find downloadable 3D print files that can get you printing right away.
One of the biggest up-and-coming 3D printing repositories on the web is the French-based site known as Cults. With nearly 350,000 3D models and files available for download on the site, you’ll have plenty to choose from — and it’s estimated that over half of them are free!
On Cults, you can also follow designers and set it up to get notified when they post a new design. It’s a sort of combination between a standard repository and a sort of social media site. So if you’re interested in joining the 3D printing community, start with Cults!
If you have spent any time 3D printing in your life, chances are high that you’ve heard of Thingiverse. It’s the number one resource on many things 3D printing related when it comes to STL files, design ideas, and more.
In short, Thingiverse is the biggest repository on the internet for 3D printing related materials that you can download. With over 2 million STL files on the site, you could download files from only Thingiverse and you’d never run out of products to print!
If high-quality prints are your thing (and who doesn’t want the highest-quality prints?), then you’ll want to check out MyMiniFatory. A smaller community and repository than many of the other options in this list, MyMiniFactory has around 150,000 3D printer files available for free or for purchase.
But the kicker with this site is that the designs are created by professional 3D modelers and all designs are guaranteed to have been quality tested. So if you download or purchase anything from MyMiniFactory, you can rest assured knowing that you’re only getting the best of the best.
As the name of this site suggests, Free3D is best for those who want to find free 3D designs and models. Like some of the other repositories that you’ll see on this list, Free3D is not only for 3D printing, so you won’t find all sorts of 3D print files here.
But if you take the time to look through the relatively small number of 3D print files (under 10,000), you can find some unique stuff that you might really want to print. And since the files on Free3D are free to download, you’ve got nothing to lose!
This might seem a little out of place among many of the other repositories on here, but Instructables is actually a great resource for 3D printing! Known for its instructional videos on just about any topic out there, you can use this site to learn how to 3D print from scratch.
As you’re learning and going through the various lessons and modules, you’ll also come across all sorts of downloadable print files to get you started. So this is the perfect site to start if you’re just getting into 3D printing. You’ll get access to free STL files while simultaneously learning how to print. It’s a win-win!
If you’re the type of hobbyist 3D printer that likes to have the best possible equipment, then you might be one of the lucky ones that use a Formlabs 3D printer. If not, we’ll suffice to say they make some of the best 3D printing-related stuff on the market. And Pinshape is a marketplace owned and operated by Formlabs.
As a relatively new repository, you’ll find under 100,000 STL files on Pinshape, which is still more than enough to keep you busy for a while! Pinshape is best known for miniatures, toys and games, jewelry, art, and things like that.
You can also buy and sell premium 3D printers on Pinshape as well; so if you’re looking to upgrade equipment and find some great downloadable content to print, this is the site for you!
If you are interested in 3D modeling in general more so than only 3D printing, then CGTrader is the site for you. Acting as a marketplace for 3D designs of any kind, CGTrader is full of all sorts of 3D models and drawings for you to buy, sell, or download for free.
There are over a million 3D models and designs on the site in total, and it’s estimated that nearly 30% of them are deemed 3D printable. So even if you’re only interested in 3D printing, CGTrader still has all sorts of things to offer you.
As the single biggest repository on this list when it comes to 3D models and designs in general, GrabCAD boasts nearly 5 million designs on the site. But the vast majority of the files you’ll find here are not for 3D printing, but rather other types of 3D designs. The site was created as a way for engineers to collaborate with one another and create complex parts and designs together.
That said, you can still find some 3D printable models here. But of those nearly 5 million 3D designs, less than 10,000 of them are actually tagged as being 3D printable. The ones that can be printed, however, will be some of the most complex free STL files you’ll find anywhere. So you can get some really cool stuff!
This one might seem like a bit of a random inclusion on this list, but NASA is actually a great resource for getting some free print files. Yes, we’re talking about the space agency here! NASA has a whole 3D printing area on their website where they provide all kinds of neat print files.
We’ll give you one guess on what the main focus of the downloadable content you’ll find on NASA’s site is. That’s right, space! So if you want to get into printing some space-related stuff, check out the number one resource on space in general and head to NASA’s website.
If you’re a fan of 3D modeling and 3D designs, then you might’ve heard of TurboSquid in the past. This is the oldest site on this list and focuses on 3D design and models of all kinds. But if you only care about files that can be 3D printed, there are better options on this list.
TurboSquid is chock full of all kinds of 3D designs, but the site typically focuses more on augmented reality, virtual reality, and other types of video games. However, you can still find well over 50,000 printable STL files on the site. And most of the designs you find on TurboSquid will be top of the line, so it’s worth taking a look.