3D PRINTING RESOURCES

3D Printing is an incredible space that's now expanding from industrial and commercial uses to new venues including schools and homes. There's much to learn and we'd like to help by collecting lists of the best resources on the web right here.

CAUTION: These lists are works in progress and are incomplete. If you'd like to suggest an addition or change to the list, feel free to contact us here. Thanks in advance for your help!

 

ABOUT 3D PRINTING

So you want to know all about 3D Printing? Of course we'd love it if you read our blog regularly, because you'll pick up what you need to know. Meanwhile, you might consider the links below that talk about the technology in general:

 

DO IT YOURSELF OPTIONS

It is possible to build a personal 3D printer from freely available open source plans using commonly available (and inexpensive) parts. Just be aware that while you'll save money using this approach, you'll need some level of mechanical and electronic building experience.

  • B9Creator - Produces kits for an open source resin-based personal 3D printer 
  • eMAKERShop - Produces RepRap kits and parts for assembly 
  • Eventorbot - Produces designs and parts for a low cost, self-reproducible personal 3D printer 
  • Fab@Home - An open source project providing instructions (and sometimes parts) for an extrusion-based 3D Printer
  • Fabbster - A personal 3D printer kit using unique injection-molded plastic filament 
  • MakerGear - A longstanding 3D printer kit option with accessories and supplies
  • MakersToolWorks - Produces kits using their MendelMax design
  • MakiBOX - Very inexpensive personal 3D printer kits 
  • pwdr - An open source 3D printer using a  fused powder approach instead of a plastic extrusion process
  • RepRap - The academic and open source research project focusing on the application of new technology for inexpensive 3D printers. Their objective: to make a machine that can replicate itself
  • SumPod - A low cost unit combining CNC and 3D printing in one box 

 

HOBBYIST 3D PRINTERS

You don't have to spend a lot of money for a 3D printer. It is quite possible for you to acquire your own assembled 3D printer at reasonable cost from one of these sources. 

  • A1-Technologies - Produces the Maxit, designed for the education market
  • Afinia 3D printer - An assembled plastic extrusion personal 3D printer
  • Bits From Bytes - Produces the RapMan and related 3D printer products, primarily addressing the academic and home markets. Now part of the 3D Systems family of companies
  • CB-Printer - Produces a very robust, all-metal personal 3D printer in kit or assembled form 
  • Choc-Edge - Makes a 3D printer specifically designed to print chocolate, the Choc Creator 
  • Cubify - 3D Systems' line of already-assembled, easy-to-use personal 3D printers
  • Deezmaker - Makes the Bukobot, which features an expandable build volume
  • Felix Printers - Produces the Felix personal 3D printer 
  • Formlabs - Produces a very popular high-resolution resin-based personal 3D printer
  • Imagine - Produces a syringe-based personal 3D printer, capable of printing food and other squishy substances 
  • Leapfrog  - Produces the popular Creatr plastic extrusion machine, and a larger version, the Xeed
  • Lulzbot - A reprap-based open source design, but fully assembled and ready to print
  • MakerBot - A growing manufacturer of popular 3D Printer kits based on the RepRap approach. All designs are open sourced
  • MakeMendel - Produces kits or assembled versions of the RapidBot 3D printer
  • Maker's Tool Works - Makes the MendelMax multi-plastic 3D printer
  • Pirate3D - Markets the Buccaneer, one of the lowest cost personal 3D printers
  • PP3DP - Manufactures the "Up!" micro factory personal portable 3D printer
  • re:3D - Produces the GigaBot, a massively sized personal 3D printer
  • Solidoodle - A robustly made personal 3D printer
  • Type A Machines - Produces personal 3D printers with large build volumes
  • Ultimaker - Ultra-fast RepRap derived 3D printer

 

COMMERCIAL 3D PRINTERS

For serious commercial applications, including building prototype parts for manufacturing, envisioning architectural models or any large-scale use, you might consider investigating one of these big-time firms:

  • 3D Systems - One of the largest companies in the space, with wide holdings in printers (incl. ZCorp), software and services
  • Arcam - Produces 3D printers capable of printing in metal 
  • Dimension - Stratasys's line of commercial 3D Printers, from large to small
  • envisionTEC - Produces a variety of specialized 3D Printing equipment and materials
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  • EOS - Makes a line of 3D printers capable of printing in a wide variety of materials
  • ExOne - Produces metal and sand industrial 3D printers 
  • FORTUS - Stratasys's line of industrial production manufacturing machines
  • Lithoz - Produces the Cerafab, a high-res ceramic printer
  • MCOR - Makes the MCOR Matrix 300, the only 3D printer that uses plain paper as its print material
  • Objet Geometries - A leading 3D Printer manufacturer with several interesting product lines with unique features
  • Optomec - Produces large industrial metal 3D printers
  • Stratasys - The owner of Dimension, Fortus and RedEye on Demand
  • VoxelJet - Produces commercial 3D printers with massive capacity
  • ZCorp - Makes a line of very popular color-capable 3D printers, often used by 3D print services

 

POPULAR 3D PRINT SERVICES

What? You can't afford your own 3D Printer? You need quality or materials not available on your 3D Printer? The answer is quite simple; use one of these 3D print services, who operate much like Kinko's. Send them your model (or select one from their repositories, if they offer one) and print it for cash. They'll ship the resulting object to you when it's finished.  

  • 3D Printing Price Check - Compare prices for a given 3D model among six different services
  • 3D ProParts - One of the largest 3D Print Services, owned by 3D Systems
  • Figulo - A 3D print service specializing in Ceramics
  • i.Materialise - 3D print service focusing on individual and personal applications 
  • Impression-3D - 3D print service based in France
  • Industrial Plastic Fabrication - A UK based 3D print service offering a variety of capabilities
  • KraftWurx - A comprehensive, distributed 3D print service

  • Materialise - Another large 3D Print Service, offering a variety of capabilities focusing on industrial applications
  • Ponoko - A distributed manufacturing service, offering 3D printing as one of its many features
  • QuickParts - A large custom parts service, owned by 3D Systems
  • PrintTo3D - A small custom 3D print shop
  • RedEye On Demand - The services arm of Stratasys, offering a wide variety of capabilities
  • Sculpteo - A consumer-oriented 3D print service offering some customized design services 
  • Shapeways - A unique, consumer-oriented 3D Print Service with a vast library of objects and large selection of print materials

 

POPULAR 3D PRINT RELATED BOOKS

Many currently available books relate to 3D printing, modeling, designing or simply how society may change as a result of this technology. Here are some of the most popular among our readers. 

 

3D PRINT CROWDSOURCING

Your 3D Printer sits idle? For shame - you should plug into one of these networks to match you with someone that needs something printed. Make money with your 3D printer!  

  • 100K Garages - Community of fabrication workshops 
  • 3D Hubs - A very large community of distributed 3D printers offering local services
  • KraftWurx - A comprehensive, distributed 3D print service 
  • makexyz - A participative 3D printing network 
  • MakerFactory - Auction-based matching service
  • WhatCanIMakeForYou - Generic making site matches makers to buyers 

 

NOTABLE 3D PRINT ARTISTS

Artists always explore new media, and 3D printing is no exception. There are a number of fascinating artists that are engaged with 3D printing to produce startling works of art. Here are some of them.

  • .MGX - Shop for amazing furniture artwork created with 3D printing technology 
  • Bathsheba Grossman - Explores 3D mathematical artwork, often using 3D Print technology 
  • Freedom of Creation - A design house that produces amazing works for consumers using 3D technology
  • Janne Kyttanen - 3D artist who often uses 3D Print technology in his amazing works
  • Laura West - Operates RPSculpt, which attempts to create art using new rapid prototyping tools and approaches
  • Robert Geshlider - Amazing limited run composite sculptures made from multiple 3D prints 
  • SMArchitecture - Experimental design using advanced fabrication tech
  • UNFOLD Design Studio - A wide variety of interesting designs, some for sale

 

COMMERCIAL 3D MODELING SOFTWARE

If you have the ability, you might consider creating your own 3D models for printing - but it takes quite a bit of skill, particularly for more interesting objects. These tools can help you do the modeling - if you have the cash to pay for them, and some are quite expensive.  

  • 3DS Max - High-end commercial 3D modeling tool
  • Arnarkik 3D Design - Amazing haptic-based 3D modeling software (requires haptic input device)
  • AC3D - Inexpensive multiplatform 3D modeling tool 
  • Alibre - Comprehensive but lower cost 3D modeling system
  • AutoCAD - Well-known 3D design tool
  • Cheetah3D - Easy to use 3D modeling tool for OS/X 
  • FormZ - Commercial product offering not only modeling but comprehensive import/export functions
  • GeoMagic - High-end 3D modeling, haptic and reverse engineering software
  • Maya - High-end commercial 3D modeling tool
  • Magics - Software for the rapid prototyping and manufacturing professional
  • NetFabb - Commercial product focusing on preparing models for 3D printing (Free Basic version available)
  • RapidForm - High-end 3D reverse engineering tool
  • Rhino3D - Commercial 3D modeling tool
  • SolidWorks - High-end commercial 3D modeling tool
  • ZBrush - High-end commercial 3D modeling tool

 

FREE 3D MODELING SOFTWARE

If you have the ability, you might consider creating your own 3D models for printing - but it takes quite a bit of skill, particularly for more interesting objects. These tools can help you do the modeling - and they're free!  

  • 123D Design - Autodesk downloadable software offers great basic 3D modeling capability
  • Art of Illusion - Open source multiplatform 3D modeling tool 
  • Blender - The most widely used Open Source 3D modeling tool, but beware, it has a steep learning curve
  • FreeCAD - Comprehensive, but experimental open source CAD tool offering 2D, 3D and scripting 
  • K-3D - Open source multiplatform 3D modeling tool
  • MeshLab - A very useful Open Source multiplatform Mesh management tool. Fix broken models! 
  • MeshMixer - A 3D tool permits drag and drop recombinations of and repairs of STL files
  • MiniMagics - Free .STL file view and repair tool (Windows), includes English, German and Japanese versions
  • NetFabb - Commercial product focusing on preparing models for 3D printing (Free Basic version available)
  • OpenSCAD - An open source CAD program; uses a programmatic interface, not a visual interface, typically used for designing mechanical or engineering parts
  • RapCAD - An open source project attempting to build on OpenSCAD
  • Sculptris - Free Windows-based free-form 3D modeling tool
  • SketchUp - Another widely used multiplatform 3D tool; it is easy to learn but the free version has limitations

     

    WEB-BASED 3D MODELING TOOLS

    Afraid of installing 3D software? Don't fear, there are solutions in the cloud for you.  

    • 123D Design - Autodesk web software offering basic 3D modeling capability
    • 123Catch - Autodesk's photo-to-model service. Converts several images into a 3D model
    • 3D Tin - Online 3D modeling tool, offering an easy building-block design style 
    • Tinkercad - Online 3D modeling tool with some interesting capabilities

     

    FINDING 3D MODELS

    Can't design your way out of a wet paper bag? Why not simply use a model created by others? There are huge numbers of 3D model repositories on the web, and a few specialize in printable 3D models. 

    • CG Trader - Designer-populated respository of 3D models, searchable by "Printable"
    • CNC King - Commercial repository of tested 3D models 
    • Ponoko Product Plans Buy a design, modify and upload to Ponoko to make it 
    • Shapeways 3D Parts Database Creative-commons licensed downloadable 3D models 
    • Thingiverse Open source 3D model repository, very active with new models appearing every hour 

    While there are many other 3D model repositories, virtually all are focused on rendering, not 3D printing and thus many 3D models found in those repositories will be unprintable - or even 2D flat models masquerading as 3D! When searching these repositories, please ensure your model is printable before you buy/build. 

     

    3D SCANNERS AND SCANNING SERVICES

    If you can't design the right model, or cannot find something suitable to print in a repository, you might consider scanning a real object to capture its shape, which can then be converted (hopefully) into a 3D model suitable for printing. 

    • 123D Catch - Free web-based 3D scanning service
    • Creaform - Makers of the highly capable HandyScan handheld 3D scanner
    • Cubify Capture - Free web-based 3D model capture
    • DAVID-Laser Scanner - Is an Open Source 3D scanning solution
    • Laser Design - Provides laser-based scanning systems - and services, too
    • NextEngine - Manufactures an inexpensive 3D scanning system
    • ReconstructMe - Low cost software for 3D scans using Microsoft Kinect sensor
    • Skanect - Low cost software for 3D scans using Microsoft Kinect sensor

         

        3D PRINT MATERIAL AND ACCESSORIES

        You might own a 3D Printer, but where do you get parts, print material and add-ons? There are many shops you can choose from. Recently some manufacturers have moved toward proprietary cartridges as the only valid material for their 3D printers. However, for source-agnostic 3D printers there are a great many sources of plastic filament, far too many to list here. Here are a few notable sources. 

        • 3DHacker - A multipurpose site offering parts, material, information and other good stuff
        • Bucktown Polymers - Sells liquid polymers for photo-cured resin 3D printers
        • Fabberworld - Swiss-based 3D printing shop
        • Faberdashery - Sells a wide variety of colorful PLA filament by the meter or in spools 
        • FormFutura - Offers a good selection of plastic filaments
        • MakerBot - MakerBot's store offers a huge selection of plastic filaments
        • MakerGear - Focused on 3D printer kits and parts; sells several types of plastic
        • Orbi-Tech - Sells print material, including an amazing flexible PLA plastic 
        • Plastic Webshop - ABS and PLA filament in multiple sizes and colors 
        • RepRapCentral - RepRap-based equipment & material, including full 3D printer kits 
        • RepRapPro - RepRap-based equipment & material, including full 3D printer kits 
        • RepRapSource - Sells a variety of items for RepRap-based equipment, including full 3D printer kits
        • Ultimachine - Sells parts, kits and plastic, focused on RepRap equipment