Nowadays, 3D printers are becoming more. Over the past few years, the printers have become more accessible. Today, 3D printing is increasingly being used not only by professionals but also hobby consumers and even kids!
To create a 3D model, you need not only the printer and the material for printing, but also a 3D model. The model should be in a special format that the 3D printer can read (usually GCode) and print. If you already have a 3D printer, then you may be wondering where to get models for 3D printing.
If this is the case, read on.
Where to Get 3D Printing Files
In this article, we will look at the main sources of 3D models for printing. We will also highlight resources with ready-made models. But first, a primer on 3D models.
What is a 3D Model?
In layman’s term, a 3D model is any object in three-dimensional space. This object can be both physical and schematically represented on any medium (e.g. electronic, drawing, etc.). However, specifically for this article, we will refer to 3D models as the prototypes that have to be printed by a 3D printer.
There are various file formats that can be used to record an electronic file model. The most common and universal formats are STL and OBJ. However, there are also others such as PLY, 3DS, FBX, DAE, STP, IGS, PRT, WRL, etc.
Different file formats imply different ways of encoding information about a model. However, for a general understanding of the topic, you do not need to delve into this issue. Instead, you can read our guide on the common 3D Print File Formats.
Now that we have decided on the concept of a 3D model that will will be referring to, let’s find out where to get 3D printing files.
Where to Get 3D Printing Files
There are three main ways in which you can get 3D printing files. These are:
Create a 3D model
In some aspects, the method is more complicated compared to the next option. To create your own 3D model files, you need certain skills. However, the indisputable advantage is the ability to create a unique and necessary model, and for free.
Download a finished 3D model
On average, this is the easiest and fastest way to get a 3D printing model. This option is most suitable for printing non-specific parts.
Ordering an individual 3D model
In some ways, this method is similar to the previous one. However, when ordering a model on the platform, you will have to spend some money. On the other hand, a professional performer can create a model of a level of complexity that is beyond your power at the moment.
Now let’s move on to specific examples of sources of 3D printer files.
1. Creating a 3D Model
This method can be more complicated than getting free STL files for 3D printing on various websites. However, sometimes creating a model on your own may be necessary (e.g., when you need a unique part, etc.).
In any case, the skills of creating a 3D model for printing are indispensable. The skills can also come in handy when you want to refine an already downloaded model.
Let’s find out the the environments for creating 3D models.
3D Modeling Software
To make a 3D model yourself, you will need some kind of 3D modeling software. This is special software with the functionality that can help you create the model you need.
Not all programs are the same. 3D modeling software can be different from another in terms of functionality and complexity of tools. The toolkits can range from simple shapes to combine into objects, to powerful professional functions for creating the most complex details.
However, for everyday modeling, complex 3D modeling programs used at a professional level are not necessary. Moreover, the more complex 3D-modeling software is, the more the likelihood that you will have to pay for it.
Below are the most popular paid and free 3D modeling programs.
Paid and Free 3D Modeling Software
While it may seem too simple and even childish at first glance, TinkerCAD is an excellent option for learning 3D modeling. The software is both useful for beginners and professionals.
To use this free program, you only need a browser. There are a few training videos you can watch to get started Tinkercad. The software’s interface is simple and straightforward.
Autodesk 123D Design (free)
If the functionality of the previous program is too simple or not enough for you, then 123D Design will be an excellent option. This program is also free and fairly easy to learn. However, it has more powerful tools and, therefore, can be used to solve more complex problems.
Unfortunately, Autodesk has discontinued support for this product. However, you can download it online without any problems.
Blender is a powerful tool for 3D modeling. This software is widely used in creating models for games and cinematography. The popularity of the software means that there is a large community using it. Therefore, it will not be too difficult to learn the functionality of the program.
3DS Max (free trial; paid subscription)
3DS Max is perhaps one of the oldest and most powerful 3D modeling software. The program has a huge toolkit and potential for use in all kinds of spheres. Unsurprisingly, the program is quite expensive. The good news is that Autodesk offers a free trial period of 30 days.
ZBrush (free trial; paid subscription or license purchase)
ZBrush is used for virtual “sculpting” of a model. This software is suitable for creating figurines, decorative elements, key chains, etc.
We can continue this list, but we have already identified the most common and popular programs. If interested in more software, check our guide on the best 3D modeling software for 3D printing. Alternatively, watch the video below.
Learn How to Create a 3D Model
You can learn how to create 3D models through various courses or tutorials online.
For simple guides on the software you prefer, free videos on platforms like Youtube are quite suitable. It is not difficult to find them. Also, most software have manuals or links to tutorial videos.
On the other hand, if you intend to learn how to create 3D models professionally, you will have to take a whole thematic course for a good result.
Here is a list that we recommend that are related to 3D printing:
- Complete Blender Course: Beginner to Expert
- ZBrush to 3D Printing: Bring Your 3D Models to Life
- 3D Modeling with 3DS Max: The Quickest Way
Of course, you can also “poke around” the softwar.e However, you should still take time to get acquainted at least with the basics of the functionality. After that, your skills and imagination will come into force.
Creating 3D models is one of the ways to get a model for printing. Now let’s move on to the second item on this list.
2. Downloading a Finished 3D Models
Free Sites with 3D Models to Download
This is probably the most popular site with 3D models for free download. The choice of models is very diverse. However, there is also a fairly large number of unnecessary and low-quality models. This issue is common with nearly all sites with free resources.
This handy tool is a search engine for 3D models. On this site, you can search for a model and the site will find 3D models online that match your request. You will then see a preview of the models and links where they are found.
Yeggi is similar to the STLFinder search engine, but has a slightly more complex interface. Because this is still a different site, the search results for the same queries are also different. Therefore, it is worth trying both sites.
In addition, there are many other free resources, such as Pinshape, YouMagine, Grabcad, Sketchfab and others. If necessary, it is not difficult to find alternatives to the options described above.
Paid Sites with 3D Printing Models
The sources presented below may also be partially free. However, there is usually a charge for downloading a 3D model on these sites. Therefore, we will list all the sites listed below as paid.
This is a popular site devoted to the general topic of 3D printing. Here, you can find a variety of content and information on 3D printing , as well as purchase quality and proven 3D models in the catalog.
From the name, you can guess what CGTrader is about. This is a platform that allows the purchase and sale of 3D models. At the site, you can not only find the model you need for 3D printing, but also put up for sale the one you have created. Therefore, if you have modeled something worthwhile, you can make money on it, and not only on the CGTrader platform, but also on similar ones.
Another very interesting site with paid models is 3DShook. The main emphasis on the 3D models here is the variety of design elements and details. Therefore, this resource is well suited for creative people who create real works of art on a 3D printer.
Finally, let’s look at the last method of obtaining a 3D model for printing.
3. Ordering 3D Models
With this method, you pay someone a fee to create the 3D model you want.
How to Make an Order
First you need to find a designer on a trusted platform. Consider the rating and reviews of the designer you want to hire. Generally, the more skilled a designer is, the higher the fee you will pay. Therefore, it pays to compare different professionals to find one that is within your budget.
Before ordering, you should know what you want to get in the end. The more specific information you have about an object, the better.
For details, provide a neat and accurate sketch or drawing. Alternatively, provide an object in form of a photo of video file that you want created. Also, you can try to explain to the designer what you wish to have.
Make sure you read the terms and conditions of the platform where you want to hire a 3D modeler from before getting started.
Freelance 3D Modeling Sites
Freelance sites are suitable for single orders of 3D models. At the sites, professionals offer 3D modeling and other services at a wide range of prices. One place we recommend for hiring 3D modelers is Upwork.
3D modeling is a very popular service, so many sites have separate places for this.
Best Free Models for 3D printing
As we come to the end of this guide, let’s take a look at some of the most popular free 3D models for printing according to the Thingiverse website.
3. Mini Trap
8. Egg Stand
9. Key Holder
10. Universal Hinges
Now you know how and where to get 3D printing files. No go ahead and print your first item. Make sure you tag us on Instagram (3DTechValley) with your creation.