In today’s episode, Tom and Tracy Hazzard talk about where to find 3D print files. Not only that, but specifically where to find 3D print files that are good, that are actually printable, and that will work for your printer. They provide examples of where they find some 3D print files themselves and how some of these sites work.
Where to Find 3D Print Files
We’re going to talk where to find 3D print files today because this is a big problem for a lot of people who just really want to get running. Our nephews were visiting because of the wedding that we had last month. They were visiting and they were like, “You have 3D printers, that’s so cool. Can we get some files? Can we print some things?” I was like, “That’s going to take hours to find something that’s printable and you’ll never know if it’s going to be successful to be printable.” This is not an easy thing where you just could go, “I know this is going to work. We’re going to find just what you want.” It’s not an easy way to go. I was like, “No, this is not a quick project.”
That was a little frustrating at the time. It’s because of the subjects, they have their favorite character or their favorite emoji or they have something, a Minecraft thing, whatever. They have something that they’re interested in and they just want to start get printing, see it happen and then pull it off the printer. They don’t have any CAD skills, they’re just visiting, so we want to help them quickly. That was the tough thing, how to do it quickly? There really wasn’t a good way. How to find 3D print files? It’s just as much of a problem as where. It’s a way at which each of these sites operate that you could possibly go to.
It’s not just where to find 3D print files because we all know, if you’ve listened to this podcast for a long time or maybe even if you’re a new listener, you may have gone out to search the files yourself. There’s a ton of sites out there that have files you can download for free. It’s not just where to find 3D print files, where to find 3D print files that are good? Where to find 3D print files that you know are printable and are going to have success? It’s a complicated subject and a few details and this is what I want to talk about today. You might think, “It’s easy, just go find a file and download it.” It’s not always that easy. They’re not always as printable as you think they are. Not every site has that user rating coming back saying, “It worked on these printers,” so it’s maybe not detailed. You have a lot of issues with how to evaluate them.
I’m also going to add into because we have a file uploaded on Thingiverse. Even though we’ve printed and we made sure it was very printable as far as we understood, we do have photos of it up there, the actual printed thing. You know it’s been printed successfully. That’s good. I think in the past we’ve said make sure you see photos of it of people who have actually printed it. I’ve even had other people download that file and give us feedback and say it didn’t print right or it printed at the wrong scale. It was a 3D print coffee sleeve we put on Thingiverse. They download it and it didn’t fit a coffee cup. I’m like, “How can that possibly be?” It’s an STL file. Are you importing it through its scale? I don’t know what was going on but we had people report back that it just didn’t work for them.
We’re really good. We know what we were doing. We took care. We were really thorough and we specified settings in there. There was a whole thing about how we recommended you printed. It still doesn’t always work. Especially if you’re going to do something fun like that and you’re going to spend the day with your nephew 3D printing, you want it to be like fun and successful. In hindsight, I would say first off, think about that. That might be the case and when you’re going to have family over and fun and kids over, maybe you should have some files that you have in your back pocket that you know print really well so that they can have some fun, to prep ahead of time.
Because we have girls at home, we’ve printed a few bracelets and crowns and other things like that. We do have a few of those that we printed in the past that we know we could print again in a moment’s notice if a girl asks us, if our nieces asked us. Here in this case, we hadn’t really though through the nephew part. I guess we could have printed one of our minion chest pieces, but that would have been about. We had that already done. They still take a while to print too because they’re very detailed. That’s the other thing, there’s not also any good thing about how long something takes to print. Most of the sites don’t talk about that at all, about the length of time. Because it’s dependent on your printer, how you slice it, like the whole bunch of things factor that. You’re going to download something and you’re not going to realize it until you go through all that process and then go, “That’s going to take four hours. The kids are going to be totally bored.” That’s not going to be useful.
Let’s talk about where to find 3D print files. What’s really impressive and somewhat surprising to me after a couple of years of this podcast and of this industry, which in some ways moves at light speed, is that still to me, the number one first place that I would go search for a new file is Yeggi. To be honest with you, it’s a consolidator really of searching through all the different file repositories in one place. It’s the Google of file searches. It’s a search engine that searches search engines. Which in terms of going to one place and being able to find all sorts of things, that’s fantastic because I don’t have to log in to that site, search all these different places. You can, in one quick search, go and find stuff.
I just did another one today before we record this episode just to see if there was anything new that I was missing. Our episode yesterday, we were talking about 3D print lithophanes. I said, “Let’s see how many people have put lithophane up there.” Actually, there’s quite a lot up there. There’s an Elvis lithophane, there are all sorts of lithophanes out there. Even if you just wanted to try one out that you didn’t want to download Cura and go and figure out all the settings and print your own and deal with adjusting the photo to get the quality right, you can go find one out there and download it and print it. It’s a pretty quick print. That will be a lot of fun. You can probably find your favorite character, actor, whatever and somebody may have made a lithophane of it that you can print quickly.
It’s not coming from Yeggi. I want to make sure that you’re really clear here. You’re not downloading any of these files from Yeggi. You’re going to go to the exact list. Once you are within Yeggi initially to find it, but then as soon as you click on, it sends you out to the file repository that actually has it. Here’s one from Han Solo. When I clicked it on Yeggi, I go out to this site called 3D Print Makers. Here are some information on who put it up here. There’s actually not whole lot information on this site. It does give you some basic instructions and recommendations. It looks like it came from Thingiverse to begin with. It’s got a Thingiverse link to it, “Customized version on Thingiverse.” Somebody has then put one up on Thingiverse but you actually have the one that I was linked to off at Yeggi and you can download it right there on that site.
You find you may hop between sites depending on who’s put it up or what’s different. You just hit download on this 3D Print Maker site. You don’t even have to have logged in or be a member of the site. You just download it and you get a zip file that has the STL in it and you can print it. If you know what you want to find and you want to see all the different variations or options out there in one place, I think there’s nothing better than Yeggi. It’s just really efficient. But there’s no screening of quality there. You still have to go and evaluate each one of the things that you look through. You’re going to spend a lot of time going back and forth through the directory to find what is really useful and what is valuable to you and what you might want to actually try and print.
This is my biggest argument, is that none of the shops, none of the file repositories, the sharing sites, because they’re more geared towards sharing than they are what I would call shopping. That’s different when you go to Shapeways or even i.materialise shop, any of those shops because they’re selling you the service of printing them. They’re there to make you shop through their site and buy stuff, but you’re not buying files there or you’re not even downloading files there. You’re buying final prints. They’re geared towards shopping, but no one else has that model.
I think certain sites do a lot of better job than others in terms of providing you more information to make a judgment, “Is this going to be worth printing? Am I going to be successful?” I think one of those that’s gotten a lot better and I have seen change over the last couple of years is Thingiverse. I’ve been very critical of them in the past. They’ve gotten a lot better. They incorporated a lot of changes and incorporated a lot of the things that we were critical of in the past. You can definitely see some differences here.
There are lots of comments and people can post their photos. How many people made them, how many people downloaded them, they’re giving you all the data, which is nice. You can tell how many people have liked it, how many people have downloaded it, how many have posted that they’ve made one. There are some better information, plus there’s detailed print settings of course and then all the kinds of information that you may need. One of the biggest categories there lately is fidget spinners. It’s exploded on Thingiverse. There’s information about where you could get the bearings, some of them have on there and other things.
There’s a lot more information there, but it’s still more about sharing than it is shopping. I think that makes it difficult to do with what we wanted to do, which was go somewhere where we know that they’re going to be really reliable files, they’re going to work for our particular printer because we know that it’s apples to apples, or the settings are all there and they’re right for our printer. There’s a time associated with it. I think that that’s really a miss in the marketplace still. I’m surprised that it hasn’t gotten resolved. There are sites that curate but they’re so limited. It makes it hard to go there and shop. To an extent, Thingiverse tries to do that and they have their featured collections and they’re constantly changing them. They’re trying to curate to an extent.
There’s the company, 3DShook, who started with designs that they would design in-house, printed and tested and then would provide them with all the data and information. They were really trying very hard to have a fully curated program. What they found was that so much of it ended up being just not worthwhile. People didn’t want to buy it. It wasn’t what they wanted at the end. You can listen to our episode with Hector Berrebi of 3DShook and that’s what he talks about. They went through hundreds of designs that way. There aren’t many that are doing that where they’re actually printing testing and doing all of that to make sure they’re good products. It’s not very successful because there’s not enough money in it right at this moment and that’s part of the problem there. But it’s necessary, there’s still a gap in the marketplace for that.
I think that necessity is slowly becoming the mother of invention here and it will over time. I think it really has to. As the demand increases, I do see it happening in the business world. I think that there is more and more need for local on-demand manufactured product and people are going to need to hire designers to create them and that’s going to shift that way. Whether some of the file repository sites shift with them or they remain in this free sharing world more open source in concept remains to be seen, I’m sure a lot of them will because they’re not built on a revenue model necessarily. But there may end up being different classes of files and products in different distribution channels for them.
I’d like to extend out an invitation to our listeners here. If you are a 3D print designer and you have any design libraries out there or your collections out there somewhere, and you want to be featured by us, we’re always looking for designers to feature. You can send an email to info@3DStartPoint.com or go to the website, 3DStartPoint.com and there’s a form at the bottom of the page. Just submit information on where your collection is and what they’re about. We’ll send you a link to a questionnaire that we have that will help us to evaluate and understand your background and things like that before we contact you.
Along those lines, just to let everybody know we have coming up on WTFFF is we have a great interview with Stephania Stefanakou. She is a fashion designer who is using 3D printing in her fashion designs, really wearable 3D print clothing, very cool. You’re going to want to come back and hear that one and see a glimpse of some of the future. This is a higher end couture type fashion that’s not yet on main street, but we’re going in that direction. I think it’s showing how it’s coming.
We like to feature designers of all levels, artists as well as day-to-day designers, designers having some fun with toys. We’ve done episodes on that before. We’re always looking for new people to feature and we would love to feature you guys, our listeners. There’s no reason for you not to reach out to us. It’s just one of those things where I think more people don’t always ask. You’ll be surprised what can happen if you do. Please go to the website, 3DStartPoint.com and also find us on social media, mostly on Facebook, @3DStartPoint.
Thanks for listening, everybody. This has been Tom and Tracy on the WTFFF 3D Printing podcast.
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