A third-party customizer service can handle Thingiverse 3D models.
Irv Shapiro is a retired tech worker who now spends his time teaching others how to build desktop electronics and other projects. He operates both a blog and a YouTube channel where you can see many of his educational projects.
Like many in the 3D print community, Shapiro was dissatisfied with Thingiverse. The MakerBot-operated service was the first online repository dedicated to 3D printable models, and continues to dominate the space with more 3D models available than anywhere else.
However, many users have had issues with Thingiverse in recent years. Most of the complaints revolve around reliability of site operation as well as limited functionality. Because of these drawbacks several other parties have launched competing repositories that fill the gap. However, all of them are still dramatically smaller than Thingiverse in terms of model inventory due to Thingiverse’s long hed start. In fact, one of our most popular posts is a list of alternatives to Thingiverse.
One of Thingiverse’s most interesting features is called the “Customizer”. This allows a 3D model uploaded in OpenSCAD format to “customize” the 3D model by specifying certain parameters. In other words, you could make a vase taller, thicken walls of a box or other aspects made functional by the original model designer.
The problem with the Customizer is that is isn’t always reliable. Jobs must be dispatched and they may or may not complete, and sometimes Thingiverse users wait way too long for results.
That’s the problem Shapiro hopes to solve with his new service, models.makewithtech.com. It serves as a layer over top of Thingiverse, where you can search for and access Customizer 3D models.
Once accessed, Shapiro’s site performs that customization, rather than dispatching it to Thingiverse’s servers. The workflow becomes:
- Search for and select a customizable 3D model
- models.makewithtech.com retrieves the OpenSCAD code from Thingiverse and presents the customizable fields
- New values are specified for the customizable fields
- models.makewithtech.com processes the OpenSCAD code and generates a new 3D model in STL format
- Download the STL and print
The system allows the processing to occur much faster and more consistently. Shapiro explains how the site works in this video:
Shapiro makes it clear that he doesn’t want to replace Thingiverse; if you want to download non-Customizer 3D models, for example, his service routes you directly back to Thingiverse to do so. Indeed, his service would not exist without Thingiverse. He’s just fixing a problem that for some reason hasn’t been addressed by MakerBot to the degree desired by the community.
Shapiro said the site’s basic services will always be available to the public at no charge, but he suggests that more advanced features may be developed in the future. To access the advanced services, there may be a future subscription fee.
This looks to be a potentially game-changing service for those interested in using Customizer 3D models from Thingiverse, which to some extent have been inaccessible for many users.
It may also put some pressure on MakerBot, which has more work to do on Thingiverse. To be fair, MakerBot has made some improvements to the site in the past year, but many users are expecting more.
In the meantime, community members such as Shapiro are doing their best to fill the gaps.