3D Printable Models: Where to get them, Type of Files, and License Terms (Plus Some Extra Tips)


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If you’re wondering where to find 3D printable models, then this comprehensive guide is for you. We will cover all different methods of getting 3D printable models to try out as a new 3D printing enthusiast.

Here’s the fact. Not all 3D printer owners are expert 3D model designers. Especially as a beginner, it’s hard to imagine getting perfect 3D models without previous design experience. But that shouldn’t stop you from 3D printing at all.

In fact, there are sites and even search engines where you can look for 3D models all you want. We will talk about them in more detail in this post. Not just that, we will also talk about different types of 3D model files, scanning 3D objects for printing, and 3D modeling software.

DALL·E 2023 10 26 00.52.41 Realistic photo of a modern design studio. On a large wooden table several intricate 3D printed models are displayed showcasing the diversity and de | 3D Gear Guide

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You probably know this already but there are so many sites dedicated to sharing 3D designs. Many of them have free designs so you can try them out without any cost. Let’s have a look at some of the best ones we’ve found:

1. Printables

Formerly known as PrusaPrinters, Printables is a giant when it comes to 3D printing models. With all kinds of advanced filtering options and a strong 3D printing community, Printables may be the only source your need to get your 3D printable models.

There is a wide range of categories that include Art & Design, Costumes & Accessories, Gadgets, Healthcare, Tabletop miniatures, and tons more. But this is just the beginning. You can also filter based on Files Types, License, G-code filtration, and SLA filtration. This makes it much more convenient to search for specific models quickly.

They hold a lot of 3D design contests which is a great way to attract expert designers and makers. You can join different groups to find like-minded 3D printer owners. Overall, Printables is worth exploring as a newcomer.

2. Youmagine

Not as popular as some other design sites, but Youmagine still has a ton to offer. A lot of open-source makers swear by it while others never use it. It comes down to your taste and preference.

Youmagine is a simple design-sharing site with a large collection. There aren’t many sitewide features like filtering and design categories. However, you can look at models by visiting the Trending, Featured, Popular, and Recent windows. This at least makes it somewhat easier to find great printable models.

All the designs you can find here are free to download and use. These come under the creative commons license which Youmagine is strict about. You can tip the designers if they linked their Patreon or some other tipping platform.

3. Thingiverse

This is the go-to source for many 3D printer owners when looking for 3D models. Owned by UltiMaker, Thingiverse has a huge collection of design files. You can use these user-created models for 3D printing, laser cutting, and milling machines.

Thingiverse has many categories and filters which let you find your desired design fast. Some popular categories include Tools, Gadgets, Hobby, and 3D printing accessories. However, because of the large database of files it contains, it’s still difficult to find a design. And a lot of the designs aren’t really up to the mark. Yet, you can find a decent chunk that is well-made.

Designs are free to download and use. You can tip the designer if you like.

4. MyMiniFactory

MyMiniFactory is more geared toward miniatures, statues, artifacts, and figurines. But that’s not all it has to offer. There are various categories of 3D model files such as Fashion & Accessories, Jewelry, Props & Cosplay, Architecture, and more. There are also PDF files available in the form of RPG Adventures, 5E supplements, and technical guides.

MMF offers premium-quality files that are tested before publishing. This ensures that your prints won’t fail. MMF calls their collections “guaranteed printable”.But that also comes with a high price. Most designs available are not free.

But an interesting thing we need to mention about MMF is “Scan The World”. This is where you can freely share digital, 3D-scanned cultural artifacts for 3D printing.

5. Cults3D

Cults3D is a more modern-looking design files site offering many high-quality models. The great thing to love about this site is it features some of the most well-made and aesthetic designs. One thing we didn’t like though is the banner ads covering a big portion of some pages of the site. This can ruin your user experience.

Cults has nice filtering features and contains some good categories like Jewelry, Games, Tools, gadgets, etc. There’s an “Ideas” section from where you can take inspiration for your next print. If you’re not sure what to make next, you can either explore the top STL files or go to Random for a random suggestion.

There are both free and paid designs available. So if you’re a designer, you can sell your designs on Cults. They have a commission-based revenue-sharing model. So you don’t need to pay any fees.

3D Printable Models

How to Find FREE 3D Printing Models Using 3D Search Engines

As if websites weren’t enough. You also have search engines to directly search for 3D models on the web. They work just like any other search engines you’re familiar with—Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo.

You visit the search engine, type in the model you want to search for, and then hit enter. You will get a bunch of results about the model you searched for. These results are mainly from various design-sharing sites. This may be a faster way to find a 3D model than visiting each website and searching. Some search engines also allow you to filter.

Some 3D search engines you can try out are:

License – Terms of use

When downloading 3D design files, you should always check what kind of license it falls under. Generally, you have 3 license categories. Public Domain, Creative Commons, and Commercial.

Public Domain means you can use and modify the designs freely and use them even commercially. Create Commons, which you find with most free designs, puts some restrictions on what you can do with the design. You can create derivatives from the work but you need to give credit to the original creator. No commercial use is allowed. Commercial licenses allow the use of a 3D model for commercial purposes

Type of Files and using them – The Slicer

File types are important for 3D printing. The slicer, which is the 3D printing software you use, only supports specific types of files. These files are then converted to g-code which is a set of instructions given to the 3D printer to print stuff.

The most common 3D design files types you will find are:

  • STL
  • OBJ
  • AMF
  • 3MF
  • VRML
  • X3G
  • PLY

Scanning 3D object for 3D printing

3d printer scanning 3d object

Did you know that you can scan a 3D object and 3D print it? Sure, the quality and details won’t be the same as creating a 3D model from scratch. But it’s a quick way to get a model ready without knowing how to design it.

First, you have to set up the necessary equipment. Prepare the object by using temporary matte powder. This improves scan accuracy. Even good scanners are unable to scan transparent surfaces.

Then capture the 3D scan of the object. This involves taking multiple photos and scanning from different angles. After that, use software like Meshroom to combine them into a single 3D model. After you create the 3D model, you may need to do some modifications to it in your software. This process removes any mistakes you did while scanning. You can use Meshlab, Meshmixer, or Blender for that.

Lastly, export the 3D model in a format suitable for 3D printing, such as STL or OBJ, and printed using a 3D printer.

File Formats: .stl versus .step

You will find both file formats being used in the 3D printing world. But which one should you pick?

STL files represent a 3D model as a collection of triangular surfaces while STEP files represent a 3D model as a whole body. This means that STEP files are better suited where each detail is crucial while STL files are better for simple geometries.

STEP files are typically more accurate than STL files, as they contain more detailed information about the 3D model. This makes STEP files the better choice for applications where precision is important, such as in engineering and manufacturing

Where the STEP format fails though is when you are printing something that can’t be expressed as solid geometrical shapes.

Software and their uses to create 3D printables

Last but not the least, you can create your 3D printable models using 3D modeling software. As a newbie in the 3D printing world, you can’t expect to create pixel-perfect models on the first try. Expert designs you see online take many years of practice to create. But everyone has a starting point.

There are so many options out there. Some of your favorite 3D modeling software are:

  • Fusion360
  • Blender
  • FreeCAD
  • OpenSCAD


There are abundant sources for finding and collecting 3D models. Whether you use design-sharing sites or search engines is up to your choice. But in the long term, the best decision for you may be to learn to create your 3D models. This means you don’t need to depend on others and that you have the power to print anything you want.

What’s your favorite place to find 3D models? Let us know in the comments below.

Shamim Ahmed
Shamim Ahmed
I’ve been an innovator in this space for years and am really excited to share my knowledge with you. I’m an entrepreneur and love helping others achieve their goals by teaching them how to build a business around the newest innovations in technology.

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