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Free 3D Printing: Files, Software, and Printers

Free 3D Printing: Files, Software, and Printers | 3D Printing Spot

Updated by

William Stone

/

September 16, 2021

3D printing is hugely popular among the maker community that comprises enthusiasts, hobbyists, and students. The makers are high on passion but low on spending capacity. What if we say that there are tons of free resources available for you to explore? 

Users can find a wealth of free 3D printing resources online but they just need to look in the right direction. We focus this article on accessing free 3D printing files, software, and 3D printers. Yes, you read it right, free 3D printers. 


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Table of contents:

Free 3D Printing Files 

Every 3D printing process starts from a design and so, first, we will focus our attention on how to find free 3D printing files to 3D print. 

Thingiverse

Thingiverse is one of the world’s largest 3D printing communities of designers and makers for discovering, making, and sharing 3D printing STL files. It is an open platform where almost all designs are free to use and alter. It is owned by desktop 3D printer manufacturer MakerBot which in turn is a subsidiary of Stratasys. 

Such a resource is a boon to the maker community as they require designs for their school projects, pursuing personal projects, learning the technology, replacing broken household items, etc. According to Thingiverse, makers have uploaded more than 2,037,210 3D models on the platform with new designs added each day.

MyMiniFactory

Similar to Thingiverse, My Mini Factory also is a community and a repository for 129,000 3D printing STL files. My Mini Factory has thousands of free files but also has paid 3D printable files that are made by professional designers with guaranteed quality output.

Through its ‘Scan the World’ cultural heritage theme project, it has created an extensive collection of free STL files. Users can now find a wide range of heritage idols and monuments that can be 3D printed at home. For paid files, 

Designers can join this community to upload their designs like an e-commerce store to promote their work and at the same time sell their designs to earn revenue. 

CGTrader 

CGTrader is also one of the world’s largest sources for licensed 3D printing models. It is a marketplace for 3D models and showcases a staggering 1,130,000+ files. The 3D printing community itself is 3.75 million users strong.

CGTrader allows users to freely download 3D printing files to download for 3D printing on any printer. Of the more than 1 million models found on CGTrader, around 229,000models are guaranteed 3D printable. This assurance is essential for the maker community to know whether the file will surely print or not and also to compare the final results. 

Free 3D Printing Software

Any 3D printing process requires two types of software; CAD Software and Slicing Software. We share free 3D printing software resources for both types.

CAD Software

Tinkercad

Tinkercad is one of the most popular free online 3D modeling software. This Autodesk software is one of the best free CAD software available for beginners to try their hand at creating unique design models. The user-interface is quite simple, easy to understand and navigate, and has a small learning curve. 

Tinkercad has a host of basic tutorials targeted at new users to learn the software. With the help of tutorials, anyone with even no knowledge of designing can get started. This tool can easily attract all new learners, enthusiasts, students, and even kids for that matter.

SelfCAD

SelfCAD is a relatively new entrant in the free online 3D printing software arena but has quickly risen through the ranks with its unique and quality features. The company has created a perfect blend of features to target both the new learners as well as professionals who look to develop complex models. 

This web-based CAD software is highly intuitive and easy to use. It can be as efficiently used for solid modeling as it can be for advanced industrial models. To make the 3D printing process easier, SelfCAD has incorporated modeling, sculpting, and preparing the model for 3D printing (tools like repairing fixing geometry, and topology). 

The powerful free 3D printing software is well-known for its professional features with the simplest user-interface.

Fusion 360

Fusion 360 is one of the newest generation cloud-based 3D modeling software developed by the multinational software corporation - Autodesk. As the name suggests, Fusion 360 fuses all aspects of product design like CAD, CAM, and CAE. It is a perfect new product innovation platform that integrates all development stages from design to manufacturing. Users can perform 2D drafting, 3D modeling, sculpting, rendering, simulation, animation, etc.

Fusion 360 is compatible with all types of modeling including sketching, direct, surface, parametric, mesh, and freeform modeling. It is used for designing products for additive as well as traditional manufacturing processes. 

Besides many of its benefits, it has special features for designing products in extrusion-based and metal additive manufacturing technologies. Lastly, it also has a generative design feature.

While not all features are open for free users but the free version has enough power to help users learn and develop complex products. 

Fusion360 offers a 1-year free license for qualifying non-commercial users.

Slicer Software

Cura

Ultimaker Cura is the most famous and widely used free slicing software for 3D printing. Initially developed as a tool for Ultimaker 3D printer users but was quickly open-sourced and expanded to include other printers too. Today it has grown into a behemoth in slicing software. 

Cura is regularly updated, it has the most active community and includes numerous features that cater to all types of user’s including first-timers and professionals. Through its partnerships with global 3D printer and material manufacturers, Cura creates dedicated profiles for 3D printers and materials or their combinations to ensure users 3D print with the ideal conditions and get successful results each time.

Slic3r

Slic3r is one of the first open-source slicing software that has a cult following and a reputation for developing the most unique and now universally standard features for slicing software. Features like honeycomb infill was an innovation by Slic3r. 

Its solid community constantly develops new features. The community is immensely active and the forum is extremely lively. It is regarded as one of the best free slicing software available for advanced users. 

Free 3D Printers 

We understand that you may be eager to read this section on free 3D printers and we too are excited to write about it. So just dive in.

Contests

The simplest way to get a free 3D printer is to join online contests on popular platforms. Earlier Pinshape and later My Mini Factory regularly feature Brand-run contests where the first prize is a 3D printer. The competition mostly is about modeling but often it is also about 3D printing a part and post-processing it. The best work gets the 3D printer – Free of cost. The perfect way to get a ‘Free 3D Printer’. 

Giveaways

A few companies while launching their new printers or new upgrades on existing printers conduct a giveaway. These giveaways are mostly promotional tools to increase their presence, brand recall value, and brand impression on social media but they do giveaway free 3D printers. So the point is to always be on the lookout for giveaways (mostly announced through media channels). Companies like Lulzbot, MatterHackers, and or a few YouTube channels are known for giving away 3D printers.

Social Media Review Channels

The third approach to a free 3D printer is unique but it is a booming market. If you are an expert in 3D printing technology and can deliver reviews on YouTube, then you are in for a treat. The YouTube review market is booming and if you are good then companies will send free 3D printers, materials, and equipment’s to test and publish a review for their products on your YouTube Channel.


About THE AUTHOR

William Stone

William Stone

William has spent 20 plus years in the custom manufacturing industry as a COO, CEO and Owner of various custom product businesses. His experience has exposed him to all types of manufacturing from die cast, die struck, injection molding, CNC machining, laser etching, engraving and of course 3D printing.

Learn more about William Stone

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Free 3D Printing: Files, Software, and Printers

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