Even though 3D printing is just starting to become more of a mainstream technology, it has been around for a while now. Users can print many different items, pieces, and parts, ranging from medical supplies to personal collectables. There really is no limit to what this technology is capable of doing.
If you’re already in the 3D printing game, then you have a decent idea of what you want to print and how to go about printing it. But what if you need some new, fresh ideas? That’s where platforms like Thingiverse come into play.
What is Thingiverse?
For those not familiar with Thingiverse, it’s a platform that provides various 3D printing designs to its users. These are designed by other 3D printing users and shared on Thingiverse. The site launched in 2008, however at that time it was a companion app to the MakerBot website.
Those who like to use their 3D printer need clean and professional layouts. With Thingiverse, they not only have printables with these requirements met, but they also receive helpful information while learning more about their craft.
The problem nowadays is that Thingiverse is a victim of its own success. Due to its popularity, users on the platform wind up waiting for a while, even if all they want to do is check out a few models or printables. Unfortunately, this leaves the user with a poor experience.
But don’t worry! Thankfully, you’ll find a wide range of alternatives to Thingiverse. These options offer high-quality designs along with a wide collection of choices. We’re here to break these down for you, so you know exactly what to expect from each one.
So, let’s get started. Here’s our list of the best Thingiverse alternatives.
3Dagogo – Best for Beginners
To be completely honest, I put this one first because I think the name is fun. But don’t let the name fool you, it’s an excellent platform that provides prints in a wide variety of categories. Whether you want to pay for the designs or need free ones, you’ll find great choices with 3Dagogo.
The designs available on the platform range from artistic pieces to aesthetic designs, so you’re sure to find something appealing. Also, with 3Dagogo, if you find and pay for a printable that isn’t compatible with your printer, you can request a refund as long as it’s been less than 14 days.
3Dagogo works together with Astroprint to provide creative 3D printables, which can be downloaded from any device that has internet connectivity. Or, if you prefer, you can download them to the cloud for safekeeping until you’re ready to print.
Chances are good that you’ll like using 3Dagogo. It’s easy to use, even if you’re new to 3D printing. The platform is categorized, so you can quickly find what you’re looking for and there are plenty of designs so you’re sure to discover something that you like.
MyMiniFactory – Best for Those Who Like Community Engagement
Next up on our list of Thingiverse alternatives is MyMiniFactory. Started in 2013, this site has grown from the ground up into the platform it is today. It started as a testing ground for selecting and shared 3D designs.
Eventually, the site became so popular that it began collaborating and working with 3D designers, giving them a way to share their designs with others. Users can find roughly 60,000 prints throughout the site that are either free or ask for a small fee.
However, where MyMiniFactory sets itself apart is through its vetting process. The platform says that all files must pass a software verification check that is also verified by the community before published. This helps in reducing errors in printing and ensuring all files are valid.
In an effort to gain more traction, the site opened an e-shop in 2018. This platform offered members of the MyMiniFactory community the ability to earn money from their designs. The site also has competitions, allowing users to enter their designs to win prizes.
This type of interaction with its users means the community stays engaged with both the platform and with one another. Plus, MyMiniFactory has an easy to use interface that makes navigation simple and engaging.
Pinshape – Best for Those Who Like to Have Fun
It might be a little unorthodox to put it under the category of “Those Who Like to Have Fun,” but Pinshape has the word in its mission statement. It wants to make 3D printing fun and simple for everyone.
Pinshape touts itself as a marketplace for designers who want to be connected with those who want to use their 3D printing designs. With this platform, designers can showcase their work in an engaging environment, interacting directly with those interested in what they have to offer.
Along with a wide range and variety of designs from which users can select, Pinshape also offers a feature that sorts projects by various filters, such as popularity, maximum price, and free designs. There are also categories users can sort by to browse by sections relevant to their search.
Further features include a very impressive hub that focuses on education for users. This area provides information related to hardware and software projects, tutorials provided by experts, and additional data that addresses post-processing techniques and processes.
Users will find extensive detail within the education section, which provides a lot of value. Also, part of the Pinshape platform is the review section. In this section, users can find reviews and information on various 3D printers.
Within the review section, users will get an idea of what to expect from certain 3D printers, how to select the right model for their needs, along with advice for which brands are more reputable and reliable.
3DExport – Best for Educational Tutorials
3DExport is arguably one of the longest established options on our list of Best Thingiverse Alternatives. The platform originated in 2004, and since that time has grown to support more than 200,000 different designs and over half a million members.
One nice feature that 3DExport offers is its educational projects. This area offers quality tools that provide in-depth looks into 3D printing subjects and how they relate to areas such as physics, engineering, biology, math, and many other fields.
Users can select from a drop-down menu that allows them to sort by free or paid designs to find one that works for them. Additionally, 3DExport provides a step-by-step guide that will walk users through various 3D printing processes.
With this feature, users on the 3DExport platform can replicate exactly what they need to do when printing their design. Along the way, they can stop, pause, and rewatch anything they aren’t sure about until they’ve mastered the project.
3DExport also offers a great incentive to designers for using their platform. They’ll retain nearly 85% of all their sales, which is competitive when compared with other sites offering the same services.
Plus, users are free to sell their designs on other platforms, should they want to. For other users who are having difficulty finding the design or file type they need, 3DExport provides a method to convert files.
The site also extends a full refund on all purchases made on the site, given that it is requested within 24-hours of the initial purchase. Overall, 3DExport is a simple and easy to use site that’s great for anyone who wants to learn more about 3D printing.
CGTrader – Great for 3D Printing Hobbyists
The CGTrader platform was established in 2011 with the intention of providing an online market for those who wanted to sell their 3D print designs. On the platform, 3D designs were sold and purchased, providing instant value for the designer.
One cool feature available with the CGTrader platform is the ability to take 2D designs and turn them into 3D content. With this feature, users can create designs that pertain to many different areas which can in-turn make them more appealing to buyers.
CGTrader also has a very high number of high-quality designs available on its platform. Users can select from over 950,000 free and paid designs, which means there’s essentially something for anyone who pays a visit to the site.
The site also offers a cool feature it refers to as its “Trader Loyalty Discount.” Users can put this discount toward designs that are marked with an icon in the shape of a piggy bank. The intention behind this type of program is to reward users who purchase multiple designs over time.
CGTrader is an easy to use platform that tries to make itself project-oriented. There are plenty of designs from which users can choose, and the site tries to make navigation as simple and straightforward as possible.
For example, there are various subheadings beneath each drop-down menu that will allow users to find exactly what they want. Although, fair warning, you may end up hours browsing in an area that sounded interesting and completely forgot what you were looking for in the first place.
Users will also find plenty of community interaction, as CGTrader offers different challenges they can participate in. There are plenty of opportunities for both novice and experienced printers, so finding one that fits your needs shouldn’t be an issue.
YouMagine – Best for Creating 3D Designs
If you’re the type of person that likes to create 3D files, then YouMagine is the platform for you. This site focuses on providing its users with a way to take existing designs and ideas and turn them into 3D printing designs.
However, something to bear in mind is that the site takes its content seriously and protects original content. So, if you have something on the YouMagine platform, you can rest assured that the site will investigate anyone who tries to copy your designs.
While there are only around 16,000 designs from which users can choose, YouMagine does provide a spectrum of genres that make it a solid contender as an alternative to Thingiverse. On the platform, users can filter by certain categories such as featured, recent, popular, and trending.
The site also provides manuals for various 3D printers. These manuals include helpful maintenance tips, along with some tutorials that will help newer users get started. The manual section is technical, which is ideal for users who want to bring their 3D printing game to the next level.
YouMagine offers support to educational partners and developers as well. The platform is dedicated to helping students learn more about 3D printing and wants developers to feel welcome in an effort to encourage them to use YouMagine as often as possible.
You’ll also find a blog on the site, which is helpful if you’re looking for the most recent information about 3D printers. This will include things like new designs that have recently been added, 3D printer reviews, and a wide range of articles.
Overall, YouMagine is a solid alternative to Thingiverse, even if it doesn’t have any many designs for users to choose from. It’s easy to navigate and provides help to those who are new to the world of 3D printing.
Cults – Best for Those Who Want a One-Stop Shop
Last on our list of the Best Thingiverse Alternatives is Cults. This independent 3D printing marketplace is a great place for anyone who likes promotions. More on that in a bit.
First, you should know that there are over 80,000 members on the site who have shared more than 85,000 different designs. Those are pretty impressive numbers for a site started in 2014 and managed by a small team.
Aside from the number of members and designs available, there are also a few neat features that make Cults a little different than other Thingiverse alternatives. For starters, Cults offers discounts on 3D printer accessories like filament, blue tape, and more.
Plus, more often than not, the site is running a discount or promotion on these accessories. You might also stumble across some discounts on 3D printers if you’re lucky. This is perfect for anyone who likes to have everything they need located in one central location.
Additionally, Cults hosts many different competitions throughout the year so users can challenge one another in various types of skillsets. Prizes are offered on a regular basis, so if you join this platform, be sure to keep your eyes peeled.
Lastly, the site is clean and streamlined so users will have no trouble navigating the platform. It’s a pleasant user experience for anyone looking to further their knowledge about 3D printers while finding anything they want.
Here are a few of the more often questions asked about alternatives to the Thingiverse platform.
How strong is PLA plastic?
While PLA is a biodegradable material, it is still remarkably durable and strong. PLA is harder than other materials you’ll find in the 3D printing market, such as ABS. But, since it has a lower tensile strength, ABS is usually more the more brittle of the two.
What are some fun things to print with a 3D printer?
There are all sorts of exciting objects you can print with a 3D printer. The sites mentioned here will give you a good idea of just how many designs there are out there. Some fun items include a carabiner, keyholder, and bowls, and much, much more.
What type of files are 3D printing files?
The industry standard file type for printing 3D files is STL, or Standard Triangle Language. Nearly all modern Computer Aided Design (CAD) software allows you to create an STL file and export it. This file type is then translated into machine code through slicing, which makes your 3D model ready for printing.
No matter what you need for your 3D printing design needs, it’s fair to say that there is more than likely a platform that will work for you. Whether you’re a novice or a professional, there is no shortage of options available.
I really like Pinshape, if for no other reason than the site promotes fun, which is something I believe 3D printing should be. Sure, there are serious reasons to use 3D printing, with serious printing needs, but sometimes it’s nice to just kick back and have a little fun.
The platform also offers educational resources for those that want to broaden their knowledge base, so it’s more than just a playground for 3D printers.
It’s tough to go wrong with any of our choices, so find one that works for you and happy printing!