Free 3D Models – Where to Go and How to Get Them
Getting started with 3D printing can be challenging. It’s a large investment up front and getting started is a bit intimidating. For starters, what do you print? If you haven’t invested in something like MyStemKits.com and our library of ready-to-go 3D STEM models, gaining access to quality models is sometimes a bit tricky. Especially when you start looking for 3D models, but can’t find ones designed for 3D printing and find all these strange file formats.
But don’t worry. We want everyone to have access to all that is available, so we’ve assembled a list of places you can go to get 3D models completely for FREE! And many of these sites are specifically designed with 3D printing in mind, which makes using the models a whole lot easier. This list has been arranged in such a way to indicate usefulness for an educator looking for printing these 3D models. So, start at the top and work your way down. Some of these you may have heard of and others may be new to you. Well, what are you waiting for? Let’s Go!
Sites that offer free 3D models:
- Dremel Education – Dremel has assembled a library of 3D models for education. (You do not have to print these on Dremel printers.)
- Thingiverse – The most established collection of free 3D models specifically for 3D printing. Has a very large, diverse library. These models are not vetted, but the community is very active. Reading the comments is a great way to get an idea of whether the kit works as designed. It’s also good to look at if they’ve shown a picture of the object actually printed or if it’s only showing computer renderings. Finally, we suggest looking through their “Challenges.” There have been a number of educational-themed challenges.
- SketchUp’s 3D Warehouse – A collection of mostly architectural models, these are designed for use with SketchUp. For more on that software, see our previous blog post here.
- Autodesk 123D – Featuring a lot of scans and licensed character models – be sure you’re just looking at the free models, as they have ones for sale as well.
- Pinshape – Another library of for-sale and free models, make sure you’re just looking at the free model selection. These models also come in limited file formats. Make sure it has a file format you can process. If you don’t know, make sure it has .obj or .stl.
- The Free 3D Models – An open site with over 15,000 free 3D models, you can search by file type or category. Most of these are designed for animation and/or architecture and are more for building characters and environments than to be 3D printed. Again, be sure to search within file formats you can adapt for 3D printing: .obj or .stl.
- Oyonale – Oyonale is an online forum dedicated to digital art. Like The Free 3D Models site, most of their models are not designed for 3D printing, but if you look for the models available in .obj format, you should be able to prepare them for printing.
- Sketchfab – Marketed as the world’s largest 3D model repository, Sketchfab offers free downloads for over 120,000 models.
Though these sites offer free models, their selections are limited, so you may have to search multiple sites to find what you are exactly looking for. And most of these sites are not specifically focused on education, so you’ll have to dig through a lot of useless models to find something you can use in your classroom.
Once you find something, you may be wondering how it works. Some of these sites may require you to sign up for a free account, while others allow you to just navigate the site and download the models you desire. Once you download the model, you have to bring it into your printer’s software and prepare the model for printing. Models often require supports or other tweaks to be ready for printing. Once you’ve prepped the model, use your printer’s software to slice it and get printing! It takes a few steps to use these free 3D model sites, but it allows you to access a wide range of models that you didn’t have to create. And sometimes they won’t work as advertised, but with some creative engineering you can get most any of the free models online ready to print.
A little bit intimidated by all this? That’s fine, too. It takes work to find the really good models that are available for free. That’s why we’ve built our library of vetted and tested 3D models. To make it simple. And to make things even simpler for you, here are a few free 3D models we wish we’d thought of first:
Fillet Gauge (corner measuring): http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1184315
Drafting Set: Protractor, Compass, etc. http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:152531
Mathematical Shape Molds & Polygon Cookie Cutters: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:966700
These sites are great resources and they allow the art of 3D printing to be accessible to everyone. Now you have a list to begin with to get the 3d models you desire, so get out on the internet highway and collect your FREE goods.
Know of any other good educational models available for free? Share them in the comments!
Ready to bring 3D printing into your school in a meaningful way?