Alternatives to Thingiverse, 2018 Edition

By on September 21st, 2018 in models

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 There are dozens of 3D model repositories [Source: Fabbaloo]
There are dozens of 3D model repositories [Source: Fabbaloo]

There are plenty of sites to find fabulous pre-made printable 3D models.

One of our all-time most popular posts was made in 2014, entitled “Alternatives to Thingiverse, For Upset Designers”. There’s a bit of a story behind that post.

At that time Thingiverse was by far the biggest public repository of (mostly) 3D printable objects. It was commonly used as the first stop for those exploring the then-new world of desktop 3D printing to find items to print. The problem then, and now, is that the majority of the public simply doesn’t know how to design their own objects due the complexity, learning curve and cost of CAD tools. Thus a repository was a terrific workaround, and Thingiverse ruled.

However, at that same time there were many in the DIY community who were very upset with MakerBot. The company began as a fully open source company in 2009, attracting a large contingent of fans from the open source / DIY world. These folks sometimes participated by providing enhancements to the MakerBot machine designs. Happy times!

But then MakerBot’s new investors and management realized that their open source approach allowed Asian manufacturers to literally clone their designs – as is legally permitted under open source rules – and offer mostly identical equipment at far, far lower prices. These ventures undercut MakerBot’s margins and capitalized on their then-massive PR operation.

MakerBot made a key decision and switched their subsequent products to closed source mode to protect their investment. But in doing so they alienated most of their customer base, particularly those that had provided enhancements. As a result some designers felt that Thingiverse was no longer an appropriate location for their models and sought alternatives. We came up with a list of places one could use instead of Thingiverse.

Since then that post has been incredibly popular. However, today, four years later, it’s also incredibly out of date. Today we produce an updated list of 3D model repositories of note. Enjoy!

There are several categories of repositories. While some offer 3D models for free download, others charge fees to do so. Some offer a combination of both. Most sites have a theme where they target particular groups, such as industrial parts, hobby applications or perhaps particular types of objects.

Most services offer a way for the public to upload models to contribute to the repository, and some allow sales of uploads, with the service taking a cut of the transaction. Many popular designers simply place their designs on as many services as possible to grow visibility of their works as large as possible.

A few services offer “certified” 3D models where the models have actually been tested on real 3D printers to ensure feasiblity, while most sites simply accept “any” upload creating a “downloader beware” scenario.

3D Printable Dedicated Sites

Mixed 3D Printable and Visual Sites

Repositories Offering 3D Print Services For Designs

3D Design Tools With Associated 3D Model Libraries

3D Model Search Utilities

And of course, Thingiverse still stands as one of the largest repositories of printable 3D models.

If you have suggestions, please add in the comments below.

By Kerry Stevenson

Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" has written over 8,000 stories on 3D printing at Fabbaloo since he launched the venture in 2007, with an intention to promote and grow the incredible technology of 3D printing across the world. So far, it seems to be working!