Thingiverse user experience and performance was always a provocative discussion as it is known that in some moments it simply lacks in many viewpoints. After their recent update, lots of people are complaining about the search feature that barely works and only shows 5 results. Another bad viewpoint is the huge loading time, to load a project you have to wait for ages.
Why Thingiverse is so popular is unknown, maybe because all models are free and that it simply gained traction and people started using it as the main way of sharing projects. Even if it’s the most known platform to find STL files for 3D printing it isn’t the only one and for some of you, there are far way better alternatives than Thingiverse. You will find that some will accommodate your needs better. So let’s examine each site and learn what makes every one of these unique.
I will be dividing my favorites in search engines, which are websites only for searching STL files on all known platforms, and websites that host a community and add creative value to their platforms.
Websites like Thingiverse
In this section, I’m going to present some Thingiverse alternatives that are more engaging and aren’t just a place for sharing 3D printable files.
Fast and reliable! This is the only way I can define this site. It is well organized and has lots of categories. Cults it’s known also as a platform to sell creations so it is not uncommon to see paid projects, but this also makes cults a better platform than Thingiverse as it has lots of unique projects. Another cool feature is the random button. If you feel uninspired you can simply click it and it will show you a random project. The collection category is essentially made by the “best of” sections of the main categories and subcategories which helps you filter most of the unrelated projects. The community around this site is great, the presence of skilled designers improves the quality of the designs and its easy to get in touch with persons to ask for projects. They also engage people by hosting contests. In this way, people are more active on the platform, and users can challenge themselves. The makes section is another great way to find inspiration and see other people’s creations.
Another great marketplace is my mini-factory. It originated around 2013 and has a collection of over 60.000 STL files. They offer a great variety of categories and the user experience of the web site is great. The platform is focused on 3D printing so they guaranty that all files are printable. They are focused on creating a better world with 3D printing and a great community. They engage users to create their own designs by starting initiatives and hosting competitions. They also provide a tool to create customizable designs. My mini-factory brings together people with common interests and helps them work together to create more awesome things. Their objective is to spread the benefits of 3D printing and they are engaged in several important projects such as Scan the world where users can scan statues creating the biggest database of 3D statues. Also, they have a category dedicated to prosthetic devices. My mini factory is a place for the functional printer, it has lots of improvement projects for the house or garden. Also, they host a category for printer upgrades and guides on how to build a printer from scratch. In my opinion, this is a great place not only for downloading 3d models but also to learn more about 3d printing and to challenge yourself.
Instructables is a little bit different from the other pages we saw here. You can find lots of interesting projects on their 3D printing category, and when I say projects I mean tutorials and guides where people explain how to create something. There are lots of projects for people that are passionate about electronics but also there are lots and lots of learning courses for beginners and experts. The courses on the platform go from 3D printing basics to 3D scanners and how to use them. They provide lots of free knowledge for everybody and the platform is great if you love to build stuff.
Free3D is another place where people buy and sell their work. Their portfolio is huge and you cand find a huge variety of every kind of 3D model. The site offers any kind of 3D related work including animations. This site is a great way of finding real-life objects and reproductions of every possible object you can think. Note that not every model is 3D printable so you have to filter the results using the 3D printable button.
STL search engines
STLFinder is just another search engine for STL. It is a great tool when looking for a certain project, and a faster way to scroll through models from various sites without too much pain. The user experience is great. When looking at the results you can see the name of the project and the site where it’s hosted, when clicking on the result it will bring you on a page with more pieces of information and the download link. The homepage provides some recent search terms so you can scroll randomly on their site by clicking them.
Yeggi is very similar to stlfinder.com but I find it a little better on the user experience part. The navigation menu is better and the homepage shows the most downloaded and searched projects so you can look around on the most printed objects on the web. They also have a random button to help uninspired persons. The feature that makes this search engine great is that they specify if the 3d model is free or not. So you can easily exclude paid projects if you’re not disposed to pay. You can create an account and start your own list to share with others or you can use the shop button to buy a 3D printed object from their website. It is no doubt that this is the best search engine for 3d files.
This one is my personal favorite. The fastest and easiest way to search for an STL is on google image search feature. It’s fast and reliable just simply put your search term inside followed by STL and you’re going to find every kind of model on the web. Google does this for many years and continues to do it very well. The image search feature lets you see the preview and the source before opening the link.
Going through all of those websites I’ve found that each one serves a purpose, so don’t hesitate to search for a project on multiple platforms!