What are Good Alternatives to Thingiverse?
One of the greatest strengths of the 3D printing community is the willingness of its members to share their designs and models openly. Websites that offer free 3D designs are a great way to attract beginners to 3D printing, while more experienced users may get a knack out of taking existing designs and modifying them.
With a collection of designs built through more than eight years, Thingiverse has become the default repository of more than a million free 3D designs. However, it’s not the only site that hosts 3D designs that you can download for free. In this article, we take a brief look at the five other sites that can give Thingiverse a run for their money.
MyMiniFactory is probably the next best thing to Thingiverse if you’re looking for a community-driven 3D printing platform. They currently have a large library of models that are free to download and use. Should you an encounter that can only be downloaded for a free, the price is typically very low and justifiable.
All designs that are submitted toMyMiniFactory goes through a quality control process to ensure that they do not run into any errors when they are used with any 3D printer. This can be quite frustrating for creators of designs since it takes some time before the designs are published, but it enforces a higher level of quality for the site – something that many other 3D design sites lack.
Just like Thingiverse, each design page in MyMiniFactory features comments from users and image contributions. However, the designs don’t always come with recommended printer settings, even basic ones such as infill percentage or resolution. This can be quite frustrating, especially for users who’d rather not waste more time or filament than necessary.
However, MyMiniFactory’s sense of community is one of the most welcoming in the world of 3D printing. They are very friendly to beginners, and most of the experienced community members are extremely helpful. Creators are also encouraged to post their designs in MyMinFactory because of the high traffic that the site receives.
As opposed to Makerbot-run Thingiverse, Pinshape is not a project that is run by a 3D printer brand. This major distinction allows contributors to PinShape to recommend 3D printers from any brand, allowing for more freedom in what information and experiences they can share.
All that being said, PinShape’s community feature leaves a lot to be desired. While the community page has a lot of threads where users can participate, they don’t have an option to form smaller groups according to their shared interests.
Just like any other 3D design platform, PinShape offers both free and paid designs for download. The models you can find in PinShape are of exceptionally high quality, which is a testament to the quality control that the site implements. PinShape also seems to have taken all the measures to ensure that users who download their models are equipped with all the technical details and printer settings that they need to print out the models successfully.
Although PinShape only offers two file formats – STL and OBJ – this isn’t much of a limitation since most users work with just these two file formats anyway.
A standout feature of PinShape is their streaming service which allows you to select a design and send it directly to your printer. This is a much faster way to get your prints going, and you won’t even need to use another software platform. The streaming service is sure to be a hit with designers who would prefer that users not have an independent copy of their models.
GrabCAD’s clean and polished interface reflects exactly what kind of 3D design platform it is. Far from its beginnings as a mere community for sharing of 3D designs, GrabCAD has become the platform of choice for professionals and corporations to collaborate on 3D design projects.
Strictly speaking, GrabCAD isn’t the best site to look for your next 3D printing project. It’s primarily a CAD site, so you’re more than likely to find models that you cannot recreate with a simple desktop 3D printer, such as models for bike frames or high-end sports cars. However, there’s still a pretty good selection of models for 3D printers in the site that are free to download.
The quality of the community in GrabCAD is second to none. After all, it was this same community that led to the growth of GrabCAD to the professional platform that is has become now. GrabCAD claims to have the largest community of professional 3D designers including manufacturers, students, and engineers. Their community members are incredibly helpful and highly experienced – you can’t ask for more valuable community engagement.
A unique feature of GrabCAD is their online Workbench. This is a great collaboration tool that allows teams to work on the same project. Team members have access to the same library of files and parts and work on them together. The platform even allows team members to have conversations within the project itself, making it one of the best collaborative 3D design tools.
The first thing you’ll notice about YouMagine, which is run by Ultimaker, is that it looks a lot like Thingiverse. Navigating around their site should feel familiar, if not even easier than Thingiverse. Aside from the fact that they have a well-designed search and filter function, the selection of models in YouMagine is certainly much smaller than the other big sites, like MyMiniFactory. The designs are very high-quality, though, so we’ll have to give them some kudos on quality control.
A huge reason for why you should be checking out YouMagine is that all the designs hosted on the site are free. No longer do you need to go through the disappointment of finding a model that you really like, only to realize that you can’t download it without paying a small fee.
Despite the quality of the free models, one thing we noticed when looking around YouMagine is that their community is much less active. First off, the site does not have a forum. This means that there is no convenient way for visitors to communicate with each other.
Rarely do visitors to the site leave comments on designs, which could have been a great way for a user to learn from the experience of others.
3D printing is a field that benefits a lot from collaboration and shared learning, so the lack of any strong community features in YouMagine might be one of the major causes for why it has not caught on as much as other 3D printing sites.
CGTrader is a 3D design marketing platform, so you’ll need to manage your expectations. The site was made primarily to help designers who want to sell their models, and most of these models cost at least $50. It also acts as a job marketplace where freelance designers can get in touch with potential clients who need to get a custom 3D design done. If you’re looking to download designs for free or for a small price, then you might have to look elsewhere.
Since CGTrader is a professional design platform, its interface exudes the same level of class and elegance. The interface feels smooth and polished, and their search and filter system offers a lot of qualifiers.
Just to be clear, CGTrader does offer a few hundred 3D models that can be downloaded and used for free. However, the selection is much smaller compared to what other sites have.
If you are considering buying a 3D model from the CGTrader site, just make sure that the model you are getting is compatible with 3D printing. After all, the CGTrader platform hosts 3D models for a variety of applications such as gaming assets or advertising elements. For instance, a model may render perfectly for 3D gaming but may still need some more processing to make it 3D printer-ready.
Repables is a community-driven 3D design platform that is not represented or operated by any 3D printer brand. Simple and straightforward, it is probably one of the most basic sites where you can download 3D models for free.
Anyone who signs up for an account on Repables can upload a 3D model to the site. While this has helped grow the site’s library of 3D models, it also means that there is virtually no quality control on the uploaded models. You should no longer be surprised if the design you chose ends up running into an error once it has been transmitted to your 3D printer.
The page for each design also doesn’t offer many recommendations on the best printer settings to use. This can be particularly frustrating if you’re not the type of user who’s willing to spend time and filament to tweak printer settings and get the best results.
As you can tell, Repables isn’t exactly one of the first sites that we’ll go to for our 3D printing designs. However, if the rest of the other sites don’t have what you’re looking for, then Repables is still worth a look. At least, you’ll have the assurance that everything you find in this site is completely free.
One of our favorite things about 3D printing is the level at which the people within the community collaborate with each other. Through the generosity of people who create 3D models and share them online, 3D printing has become a very accessible field, even for people who have no 3D design experience.
Thingiverse remains the top site for hosting 3D models, whether free or paid. In fact, it’s still the first website we go to whenever we’re looking for a good project to work on. However, you do not have to be restricted by the idea that Thingiverse is the only site for downloadable 3D models. There are about a dozen good ones out there, and we’ve only touched on our favorite ones in this list.