I am not a particularly “crafty” person. Yes, I do have ideas all the time, but I need someone else to bring them to life since my designing skills are close to zero! I envision what I want to create, but when it comes to actually drawing it, somehow, my hand doesn’t connect with my imagination. No matter if the paper is palpable or digital, I am lucky if I can draw two straight lines. My preconceived idea about 3D printing was that if you can’t design your own models, there is little point in buying a printer, since it would only sit around catching dust. But boy oh boy, was I wrong!
If You Can’t Design It Find Someone Who Can!
As I was doing my research on 3D printing, I found people who were just as clumsy as I was when it comes to designing. But contrary to my mentality of throwing in the virtual towel, they actually pointed to solutions which were more than welcomed. I didn’t count on the tens of thousands of “netizens” who would come to my rescue.
I should have known better just how big a playground the Internet is. There are a bunch of websites filled with 3D object models which are at your disposal as downloadable files – either for free or for a price. The categories range from kitchen appliances to jewelry – there is something out there for everyone. Do you want the Winterfell castle from “Game of Thrones” on your desk? Or perhaps to see the T-800 Terminator Exoskull take shape right in front of your eyes? There are such designs available online and I will present some of my favorites below.
Thingiverse is a 3D design sharing community with over 100,000 3D models at your disposal. What I like about this website, apart from the free sharing aspect, is that it gives you the opportunity to remix designs already there and take them to the next level. This means that if you want to try your hand at 3D designing, but you don’t want to start from scratch you can use a design already available for download, licensed under a Creative Commons License. Another great feature is that users can review and comment on the models, so that you can determine just how “do-able” they are. Thingiverse also uses its own app called Customizer where you can create your own template for your desired 3D design, which encourages not only the sharing of 3D designs, but also their creation, no matter what your level of expertise is.
Shapeways is pretty much the Ebay of 3D printing. It’s a huge market, with online shops you can buy your designs from. The models are split into categories like gadgets, accessories, jewelry, games, art and home to make the browsing easier. What makes it stand out though is the option of having designers for hire. If you have a cool idea and you know how you want the model to look, but not how to make it look that way, on Shapeways you can find a list of designers that you can contact for the job. Listed there are their specialties and the services they offer, but if that’s still not good enough for you, you can post your request on the Shapeways forum and hope that someone will pick your project up.
This is a website strictly for the 3D printed furniture enthusiasts, with over 145,000 architects and designers listed. If you saw something you liked and you’re interested in that architect’s work, you can simply drop them an e-mail. Or, if you don’t have a specific name in mind, you can find one in your area, with search options like country, city, languages, specialty and years of experience. There are also a couple of free collections available for download including beds, sofas and chairs. Also impressive is the gallery of textures you can download, from basic ones (wood) to more complex ones (stucco). If you think your furniture needs a cheap makeover, this is your one-stop website.
I don’t think you can get search results more accurate than on Turbosquid, which is another website with a huge variety of 3D models (over 400,000). Search options include compatibility, quality level, categories (animals, architecture, vehicles, etc.) and price, just to name a few. The good news is that you can in fact choose a price range and avoid getting results which go way over your budget. And if your budget is $0, you’re in luck because Turbosquid offers a huge variety of 3D models for free under a Royalty Free License. Even though you can search 3D models of a specific file format as well, you don’t need to worry too much about incompatibilities because the Turbosquid team offers free format conversions at no cost. The website is labeled as a professional 3D design market and you can tell that by the industry’s standard CheckMate certification which is used to grade all the available models.
There you have it! Even though the concept of 3D printing has been around for decades, in-home 3D printing is relatively new. However, this didn’t get in the way of the creative people from all around the world who have gathered together on tons of websites dedicated to the 3D designing cause so they can share their talents. I barely scratched the surface reviewing a couple of these websites, but hopefully, those are the ones you’ve been looking for.