Thingiverse — An Online Platform for Free STL Files
If you are an additive manufacturing and 3D printing enthusiast, you’ve heard of Thingiverse. It is an online platform with millions of 3D files, designed by a growing community of users. These models are exportable in STL format, allowing you to print them very easily, and are generally protected by Creative Commons licenses. Thingiverse is arguably one of the most important file-sharing sites in the 3D printing market, marked by a strong interaction between its users who can like, comment on and describe 3D models. In addition, the platform also owes its popularity to being completely free. Available in free access on the Internet, Thingiverse is now used by many enthusiasts and amateurs of 3D printing.
Thingiverse was created in November 2008 by Zach Smith, in partnership with the manufacturer of 3D printers FDM MakerBot, acquired in 2013 by the giant Stratasys. During all these years, the site has acquired millions of files, whether they are gadgets, tools, spare parts, or even toys and figurines. You should know that Thingiverse is not exclusively reserved for the additive manufacturing market: other design techniques can be used to create the downloaded models. This is also why the platform is used in particular by makers and DIY enthusiasts of all kinds. But reducing the Thingiverse community to DIY enthusiasts would be a mistake. For example, the platform offers a section dedicated to education and youth on its site. In this category, several projects aimed at training novices in 3D printing are available, regardless of the age of the user, from elementary school to university.
How to download STL files for free?
In order to access the full functionality of the Thingiverse database, you must create an account — everything is free. The Internet user can then save their 3D files, organize their designs, add favorites and simply download the models they want to make. On each 3D file, you can find photos of the final part, printing advice (extrusion temperature used, plate, printing speed, etc.), the model of the 3D printer used: everything has been thought to make it easier for the community in the end. And in order to simplify the process as much as possible, for the majority of projects, the creators of the 3D models specify the steps to be followed so that the printing goes without a hitch.
Thingiverse is divided into several categories that should make searching easier: 3D printing, art, fashion, gadgets, hobbies, housewares, learning, models, tools, toys, and games. However, we tend to say that, even if the site is organized and has a search bar, it is not always easy to find what you are looking for. The different models are sometimes poorly referenced or even defective and during a search, one may find oneself in front of files that are not relative to the request or which are quite simply deficient.
Thingiverse, too open?
From its inception, the open-source side of Thingiverse was a point put forward: anyone can upload their 3D files and anyone can download them as long as they respect the licenses when they are indicated. In principle, this is rather good news because it invites sharing, creativity, etc. but ultimately, there is no control over the uploaded file and its quality. How do you know if it is really 3D printable? In addition, Thingiverse is home to nearly 1,700,000 3D models which makes it difficult to choose whether to download a file. And logically, among this important database, there are many duplicates. Finally, note that the site is only in English which may represent a barrier for some users.
Thingiverse remains the largest database and satisfies millions of users today; be aware that there are other alternatives to download 3D files such as Cults or YouMagine. Not all of them will be completely free but it will allow you to compare what exists on the market!
Go to the Thingiverse platform to find your favorite 3D models! Do you use Thingiverse? Let us know in a comment below or on our Linkedin, Facebook, and Twitter pages! Don’t forget to sign up for our free weekly Newsletter here, the latest 3D printing news straight to your inbox! You can also find all our videos on our YouTube channel.