No matter if you’re new to 3D printing or have printed hundreds of components, Thingiverse, has become a popular website for finding free, open-sourced, 3D printing files.
However, relying on just one source for information can be risky, and Thingiverse may not have the exact model you’re looking for. That’s why in this article, we’ve put together a bunch of Thingiverse Alternatives to inspire your next 3D printing sprint.
While it is helpful to know how to create 3D models using CAD, not everyone has the time nor the skill to sit down and draft.
Plus, a lot of the fun in having a 3D printer is 3D printing. Imagine that!
In this article, we’re going to explore the top alternatives to Thingiverse that you can use when you’re looking for your next file or project to print.[level1]
What is Thingiverse?
It wouldn’t be a list of Thingiverse Alternatives without mentioning Thingiverse first. Thingiverse (pronounced Thing-e-verse) is owned by Makerbot and has thousands of open-source, and community-submitted projects. The majority of the projects based around 3D printing, but you can also find an assortment of woodworking and craft projects.
“In the spirit of maintaining an open platform, all designs are encouraged to be licensed under a Creative Commons license, meaning that anyone can use or alter any design.”
Why should you reinvent the wheel? With sites like Thingiverse, you don’t have to.
The goal of Thingiverse is to encourage makers to create 3D models, submit their projects, and allow others in the community to remix and alter the designs. This is helpful because it creates a network of 3D printing enthusiasts and a repository of files that can be reused for the same or similar projects.
1. Pinshape: Thingiverse’s Cousin
If Thingiverse doesn’t have what you’re looking for, or you’re looking for an alternative site to use, check out Pinshape. Like Thingiverse, Pinshape is owned by another 3D printer manufacturer, Formlabs.
There are over 70,000 Makers and Designers who have shared their designs on Pinshape.
You can use Pinshape to download free and premium 3D printer designs, sell your designs, and learn about 3D printing.
It’s a growing community that offers contests, forums, an ambassador program, and a blog. If you’re looking for a 3D printing community to join, you’ll want to check out Pinshape.
2. GrabCAD: Thingiverse for Professionals
On the other hand, if you’re looking for complex CAD models, components, and free designs, check out GrabCAD. Out of all of the sites on this list, GrabCAD is more of a “hardcore” CAD modeling site.
If you have a complex design or you’re looking for a very specific part, then GrabCAD probably has it (or something very similar). Typically the designers on GrabCAD are more experienced and the models are better quality.
“[GrabCAD is] the largest online community of professional designers, engineers, manufacturers, and students.”
GrabCAD boasts over 6.8 Million users with backgrounds in professional design, engineering, manufacturing, and education.
If you’re looking for a site that will provide free models, quality CAD tutorials, and professional design challenges (sponsored by NASA, GE, Stratasys, and the like), then you’ll want to join the GrabCAD community.
4. YouMagine: The “Thingiverse” for Ultimaker Printers
Next on the list of Thingiverse Alternatives is YouMagine. This community is Ultimaker’s attempt to step into the 3D printing community space.
YouMagine is a community of mostly Ultimaker customers and projects printed on an Ultimaker printer. There are over 16,000 designs, making it a lot smaller than some of the other sites out there.
However, if you have an Ultimaker printer, it makes sense to join a community-driven around the Ultimaker brand.
“YouMagine wants CAD & 3D files to be as easy to create, adapt, share and change…”
As most of these online communities, the goal is to create a platform where it’s easy to collaborate, remix, adapt, and share 3D printing and CAD files. YouMagine is very intuitive to use. First, create an account, then upload your designs. Add multiple designs to collections. Right now, YouMagine doesn’t have 3D printing or CAD tutorials, but you can easily find these on the Ultimaker website. (Or at any of the other Thingiverse Alternative websites.)
5. MyMiniFactory: 100% Independently Operated
A lot of the online 3D printing communities are owned by 3D printer manufacturers. MyMiniFactory is 100% Independent, which means it’s run by people who aren’t trying to sell you their 3D printer.
MyMiniFactory started in 2013. They handpicked 3D designs, personally tested each 3D print and sold models out of their office space. It’s since evolved into a growing online consortium for designers and makers to buy and sell 3D models. Nowadays, MyMiniFactory has plans to improve printability and provide incentives for businesses to increase sales. Their goal is to create a decentralized ecosystem for 3D printing.
“Enable a decentralized ecosystem for 3D creatives that promotes freedom through our shared values.”
Some of their shared values are Sustainability, Purposefulness, Inclusiveness, and Freedom. You can read more about MyMiniFactory’s values here.
As someone who’s looking to make some extra income from 3D printing, MyMiniFactory, is an interesting community to check out. You can offer your designs for free, for a fee, or with a contribution button.
If you’re just looking to download files, it’s a great way to find quality 3D printer files, while supporting the designers and creatives behind the files.
6. Cults3D: A Giant 3D Printing Community
Cults3D was founded by three motivated French guys (Hugo, Pierre, and Sunny) and is the first independent 3D files marketplace.
That means you can find both free and premium 3D printing files for download.
And, you can interact with others using Cults’ social networking features. Cults has over 85,000 3D printing designs and 8,000 designers who specialize in 3D printing. It’s a huge network of over 800,000 3D printing fanatics.
So, if you’re looking for a network that has a lot of history, members, and designs, then you’ll want to check out Cults. You don’t need to be a 3D CAD modeling wizard, either. Everyone on Cults has a mix of skills, from makers to professional designers.
7. Treatstock: Offer & Get Manufacturing Services, Too
Treatstock is a multifaceted website that provides tools for 3D printing and CNC machining.
If you don’t own a 3D printer or mill, and you need to get a model printed, you can upload your file and have it professionally manufactured.
Another interesting feature of Treatstock is the ability to offer services, yourself. You can become a manufacturer and offer services through Treatstock. If you have a 3D printer and you want to fulfill other people’s 3D printing requests, you can set up a shop, and start selling manufacturing services. Treatsock also offers a collection of 3D printing files for download, too. Check out Treatstock, here.
How to find STL Files with Search Engines
We’ve all been there. Opened up any number of 3D printing websites with the hopes of finding a very specific design or an STL file.
After hours of searching these sites, there are a ton of files, but nothing is remotely close to what you’re looking for.
And then you’re stuck.
Fortunately, there are many STL search engines that you can use to find designs directly. No need to join a community, or wait for Thingiverse to load.
Give these STL search engines a try, next time you’re looking for a CAD model.
Lastly, you can try going directly to the part’s manufacturer to see if they list the CAD model. McMaster-Carr is notorious for having CAD files in just about every file format, for just about every part.
What are you going to 3D print today?
In this article, we explored a bunch of options for finding 3D printer and STL files online. With a wealth of options out there, you should be able to find inspiration for your next 3D printer project.
What do you plan on printing? Leave a comment below.
And, if I missed your favorite resource for open-sourced 3D printer files, be sure to let me know there as well!