Where to find free STL files for 3D printing? There are many repositories and the number of STL and other files is getting bigger and bigger. Such platforms, together with the free and paid files to download, sometimes offer extra features. Let’s take a look at them.
This Guide Covers
- File Repositories
- 3D Model Search Websites
- More Ways to Find Quality Files for 3D Printing
File Repositories – Free and Paid Files for 3D Printing
Not all file repositories were built in order to provide free or paid STLs for 3D printing in the first place. Such repositories as Sketchfab or CGTrader, for example, have a different focus. However, their vast collections contain a big amount of 3D printable files nevertheless.
Cults – The Best for Designers
Files: STL, OBJ, other.
The high popularity of print in place articulated dragons pushed Cults to the first place in our ranking system. We labeled the website as “The Best for Designers” as we witnessed the real success stories taking place there. A few talented designers managed to earn a substantial amount of money by selling their designs. This gives hope to independent designers for 3D printing and encourages them not to be afraid to put a price tag on the models.
– GIFs. When browsing through Cults, you can find a lot of models displayed with the GIF animations. Such GIFs make the models, like Flexi articulated, for example, better presented. Some designers have all of their designs animated with the GIFs.
– Best 3D Designers. On a specific page, Cults list the designers who have a big number of followers, likes, sales, and downloads. After a brief research, the pages may give a great insight into niches and demand in design for 3D printing.
– Selling. Cults is the most convenient and straightforward platform to sell STL and other files for 3D printing. It is known that the open-source-driven 3D printing community is reluctant to pay for the STL files, but the models with the $1-2 price tag are doing quite well. Check the profiles of Top 100 Best Designers (in Sales).
– Competitions. Sponsored by various 3D printing-related manufacturers.
Printables – The Best for Community
Files: STL, Gcode, other
Joseph Prusa and Prusa3D team have been assuring the community that their file repository would be more neutral and less brand-related. They kept their promise and the big rebranding happened recently. PrusaPrinters became Printables. Another update on Printables is the introduction of gamification.
– Badges & Prusameters. Gamified leveling and reward system. Designers and makers can level up their profiles by earning various badges. Publishing models, sharing makes, generating likes, and other activities reward members with Prusameters – points, that can be exchanged for real products, including filament.
– Gcodes. A rare and brave case when the Gcode file sharing is encouraged. We would recommend to use such files (FFF-tagged thumbnails) with an extra caution and make sure that you use the recommended 3D printer and filament.
– Competitions. Open to everyone and, in rare cases, for a specific 3D printer or filament only.
MakerBot Thingiverse – The Best Open Source
Files: STL, OBJ, other.
Part of the MakerBot’s ecosystem.
– Open Source. Thingiverse encourages to publish the files under Creative Commons License. Under these terms, such files are not only free but also can be altered in any way. This approach greatly benefits open source movement.
– Remix. In relation to the previous point, Thingiverse has the best system for remixing the existing models. In some cases, remixed versions get even more attention than the original versions.
– Groups. These are worth mentioning. Thingiverse groups have a slightly limited functionality compared to the traditional forums but the goal is the same. Similar to Facebook niche groups.
Incidentally, probably as a victim of its own success, Thingiverse had significant outages (long loading) in 2018-2019.
Files: STL, OBJ
– Crowdfunding Campaigns. MyMiniFactory helps to run fundraising campaigns. In the volume sense, they are not a rival for Kickstarter, but it is clear that they are growing their share in the TableTop Gaming and “Print & Paint” market niches.
– Scan The World. MyMiniFactory is home of a wonderful initiative. With their community curating every uploaded file, all 3D scanned historical and art objects are 3D printable without further editing.
– Stores. A marketplace for advanced designers.
– Competitions. Sponsored or in connection with various crowdfunding campaigns, including Print & Paint-type competitions.
– Tribes. The tribes are mini-communities with creators and their followers within the MyMiniFactory ecosystem. Anyone can start following and supporting a tribe of their choice. 3D models with their original stories which are produced within the Tribes are best optimized for resin 3D printers.
Format: STL, OBJ, other
– 3D Viewer. This is an outstanding feature. In fact, at the first glance, it looked like a browser-based 3D design software.
– AR. Models can be downloaded to Android and iOS devices as the objects for augmented reality.
– Search. Thangs’ search engine can show 3D models from other file repositories.
– Workspace. Sharing and collaboration.
Other STL Sharing Platforms
CrealityCloud, Pinshape, Youmagine, CGTrader, Sketchfab, Turbosquid, Free3D, GrabCAD, Hum3D, and more to come …
More to Come
Please let us know if any particular file repository should be added to this list. If there is an outstanding feature or great user experience for the desktop 3D printer users (STL, guaranteed 3D printable, etc.) we will feature it.
3D Model Search Websites
Sometimes it is hard to find a desired STL even on a comfortable file sharing platform. In these cases, we would recommend trying the specialised 3D model search websites like Yeggi or STLfinder, for example.
Files: 100+ Formats
Another interesting search engine is 3dfindit. It offers free downloads in 121 CAD formats and consists of more than 5,000 manufacturers’ catalogs. Architects, designers, and engineers find this platform with intelligent search valuable in their work. There they can download free CAD & BIM data.
More ways to Find Quality STL and Other Files for 3D Printing
– Patreon. Often talented designers, after publishing their first designs for free, turn to such crowdfunding platforms as Patreon. Premium 3D printable files and special packages are available after purchasing an upgrade to the specific tiers.
– Kickstarter. Another place to look for the quality files for 3D printing. Some of the Kickstarter crowdfunding campaigns are real bargains.
We hope our guide will help you to navigate and find the needed files for 3D printing. Please contact us or leave a comment if you have any suggestions.
3 thoughts on “The Best STL Repositories 2023 – Free and Paid Files for 3D Printing”
Very good and useful list. I would also add 3dfindit.com
I’ve been using 3dsolved.com as my main source for finding STL files. It’s somewhat similar to yeggi, but also aggregates more interesting sources and yields better results IMHO.
Update: I removed the link as 3D Solved doesn’t have a model search engine anymore.