Jan 25, 2016 | By Kira

As 3D printing goes mainstream in 2016, more and more users will be looking for new and fun projects they can 3D print at home. To 3D point them in the right direction, we’ve rounded up some of the best websites to download free STL files for 3D printing.

In a way, STL files, and the 3D model repositories that hold them, are what make the 3D printing world go round—you can’t start 3D printing without a workable 3D model (preferably in STL, the most widely used format for 3D printing), and no matter what it is you are looking for, chances are you will find it on one of these top-rated 3D content websites. Better yet, they’re almost all entirely free!

With hundreds to thousands of free 3D printable STL files to choose from, these 3D model repositories are the perfect place to start on your next at-home 3D printing project. If you happen to be a 3D designer yourself, many will also allow you to upload, share, and sometimes sell your custom 3D printing designs, while giving you direct access to the global 3D printing community.

In no particular order, here are the best websites to download free STL files for 3D printing so far in 2016:

1. Free STL Files Download Site for 3D Printing: Thingiverse

Let’s start off with the single biggest 3D content repository of them all: MakerBot’s Thingiverse. Launched in 2008 for the burgeoning and still quite exclusive maker community, Thingiverse has since grown into one of the most important 3D design communities in the world, allowing users of all levels to upload, share and download 3D printable files absolutely free of cost.

In late 2015, Thingiverse reached a mega-milestone, having surpassed one million uploads and 200 million downloads. The site is also well-known for hosting various 3D printing design challenges. Whether you are an educator, professional engineer, artist, or casual hobbyist, chances are you’ll find exactly what you are looking for on Thingiverse.

Featured STL file: 3D printed ‘Mouth Operated Mouse’.

 

2. Free STL Files Download Site for 3D Printing: YouMagine

Though significantly smaller than Thingiverse, YouMagine is also powered by a large 3D printer company—in this case, Ultimaker. The 3D content repository features a couple hundred free STL files for 3D printing, ranging from Ultimaker 2 upgrades to toys and household items. What makes YouMagine stand out is their commitment to protecting their 3D designers. In 2015, the company released a new open source license specifically for 3D printed objects, known as 3DPL.

In addition, the YouMagine recently tapped into its 500+ member community to conduct a desktop 3D printing survey and gain some insight into what consumers really want.

Featured STL model: Simple 3D printed Circuit Board

 

3. Free STL Files Download Site for 3D Printing: Pinshape

Pinshape is another giant in the 3D content world. This 3D community marketplace consists of over 55,000 makers and 3D designers and offers both ‘premium’ (paid) STL files and free STL files for 3D printing. In addition to giving 3D designers the option to sell or share their 3D designs, Pinshape also has a ‘streaming’ option, powered by 3DPrinterOS, that allows users to edit, slice and print a design from the Pinshape platform without actually downloading the design file. This allows designers to protect their source file while still giving fellow makers access to the design.

On top of STL, Pinshape supports OBJ files and ZIP files containing those types. Since it is not owned by a 3D printer manufacturer, the site is also ‘hardware neutral’ in terms of support.

Featured STL model: Fully 3D printable OpenRC F1 Race Car

 

4. Free STL Files Download Site for 3D Printing: My Mini Factory

MyMiniFactory markets itself as “the world’s largest curated 3D object download platform.” The key word here is curated—that’s because every 3D model uploaded to their repository is carefully selected and then tested by members of the community. If it’s not ‘guaranteed 3D printable’, you won’t find it on My Mini Factory.

The well organized and feature-heavy website offers free access to thousands of 3D printable STL files, and if you can’t find what you are looking for, you can request it from a professional 3D designer. My Mini Factory is managed by iMakr, an online store that sells 3D printers and accessories, and the largest 3D printing store in Central London.

Featured STL model: 3D printed Tricky Bricks

 

5. Free STL Files Download Site for 3D Printing: Cults

Cults3D is probably the biggest French online 3D printing marketplaces that offers both paid and free high quality STL files for 3D printing—but don’t worry, you won’t need to learn the language of love to find what you’re looking for. The entire website is available in English, French and even Spanish! Beyond just being a 3D model repository, however, Cults sees itself as a 3D printing community, offering a kind of social network for 3D print enthusiasts where they can find and follow new designers, connect with other modelers, save their favorite 3D models, and more.

Featured STL model: Maison & Objet 3D printed Paris-inspired home accessories

 

6. Free STL Files Download Site for 3D Printing: GrabCAD

GrabCAD is more than just a generic 3D content site—rather than focusing on household items, decorations or doodads, GrabCAD is a 3D printing community by mechanical engineers, for mechanical engineers, helping them access well-designed parts to help them build their products faster, without having to ‘reinvent the wheel’. Owned by Stratasys since 2014, GrabCAD boasts a community of over 1 million engineers, and over 1,130,000 free CAD models (some are available in STL, others can be converted).

However, that’s not to say GrabCAD isn’t useful for us non-engineering folk. The 3D model library contains everything from jewelry to furniture to Star Wars goods and more.

Featured STL model: 3D printed Jet Engine Bracket, available on GrabCAD here

 

7. Free STL Files Download Site for 3D Printing: Autodesk 123D

Undoubtedly one of the biggest names in CAD design software, Autodesk not only launched their own 3D modeling site, with over 10,000 free 3D STL models for 3D printing, it also released an entire suite of free 3D modeling apps for those who want to get started with 3D modeling themselves, regardless of their current skill levels.

Autodesk 123D allows users to browse through a library of 3D models, download or edit them, and upload their own creations. And Autodesk 123D’s apps include 123D Design, 123D Sculpt+, TinkerCAD, 123D Catch and many more. Not sure where to start? Here is a tutorial for 123D Design, a beginner’s 3D creation and editing tool that supports several 3D printers.

Featured STL model: 3D Printed Night Light

 

8. Free STL Files Download Site for 3D Printing: 3Dagogo

Owned by a small team of hackers, designers and ‘hustlers’ that are clearly very passionate about the subject of 3D printing, California-based 3Dagogo is another site that allows users to buy and sell 3D models, while also offering a large selection of completely free STL files for 3D printing. What makes 3Dagogo so great is that every single 3D design uploaded to the site is “proven-to-print,” and each one even includes a picture of the finished 3D printed model included for non-believers.

3Dagogo is also the developer behind AstroPrint, a suite of cloud-based 3D printing software and services, and, as of last year, the company partnered with Airwolf to support the development of the HD-R 3D printer and develop a Wi-Fi upgrade kit called WofWare, based on the AstroPrint platform.

Featured STL model: 3D printed custom Harley Davidson by Maurizio Casella

 

9. Free STL Files Download Site for 3D Printing: 3DShook

3DShook’s marketplace model is a little different from some of the other websites on our list because, while there is a Free Trial Gallery, they actually offer a subscription print-on-demand service for users who find themselves frequently 3D printing new items and want to get the most bang for their buck. 3DShook offers package deals, ranging from $10-$50, as well as monthly, educational, yearly and commercial subscriptions. With a catalogue of over 1000 ready-to-3D-print STL models sorted into more than 40 categories, 3Dshook will let you find everything from tools to toys, with a focus on items that are useful and functional.

 

10. Free STL Files Download Site for 3D Printing: Instructables

Instructables is much more than a mere 3D model repository, however we had to include it since it is a trusted and fantastic maker resource, featuring thousands of user-created, richly detailed, step-by-step DIY projects, in everything from woodworking to cooking to electronics. There is also a massive channel dedicated to 3D printing, where users will upload detailed instructions for intricate 3D printed projects, and more often than not provide downloads for their free STL files. Today’s maker community would not be what it is if it weren’t for Instructables, and we definitely recommend you check it out.

Featured STL model: 3D printed Six-Flask Cold Coffee Brewer


The above are just our picks for the top 10 best sites to download free STL files for 3D printing, however there are many, many more to choose from—even after 3D Systems announced that it would be closing its Cubify 3D printing marketplace for good. Alongside a host of 3D model search engines, there is Repables, Threeding, 3DVIA, and many sites that focus more on paid 3D content, such as TurboSquid or CGTrader. There is no shortage of excellent, high quality and totally free 3D printable content online—you just have to find it and start your 3D printing adventures.

What are your favorite sites for free 3D printing STL downloads? Let us know if we missed one of yours in the comments, Facebook or on Twitter.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Applications

 

 

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