Many entrepreneurs are seeing opportunities in 3D printing marketplaces. Offering a service to amateur designers for selling their 3D files seem to be the big deal. For now, market size is very questionable but as a 3D designer you might want to give it a try, even more if your designs really rock.
There are 3 types of marketplaces for 3D print files:
- 3D printing services: offer designers to open a store on their platforms and take a commission each time a 3D print is ordered. No download available, only the print. Examples: Shapeways, Sculpteo, i.materialise, Kraftwürx
- Free sharing: These are the platforms specialized in Creative Commons and Public Domain files.
- Home 3D printing: the boom of new marketplaces is more specifically in this field. They are designed for people with home 3D printers who want to download files (usually for FDM machines). Exemples: 3D Burrito, Layer by Layer
- Hybrid: some websites are offering download of the file and service 3D printing as well. Cubify, MakerShop
- Meta search engines: they agregate 3D files coming from multiple websites. Exemples: Yeggi, Fabforall
They are ordered alphabetically. No jealous!
123D is a set of online 3D tools for modelling and 3D printing. It comes with a gallery of designs shared by the users that can be downloaded after signing up on the website.
3D Burrito is a 3D designs marketplace focused on hobbyists and amateur designers. Customers buy the files of the designs. There is no detailed information about the file and how to 3D print it properly. As a user, you really have to trust the creator of the file. Sellers decide their price and 3D Burrito takes a 30% fee on each sale. Free designs are also available.
3D Part Source is the search engine for industrial 3D parts and suppliers launched by Industri.es. Its particularity is to enable a search by shape. You can drag and drop 3D files on the website and find parts that have similar shapes.
Azavy is a 3D printing marketplace based on a bidding system. Designers upload their files and get compensate when someone 3D print their file. 3D printer owners bid for taking care of the requested 3D prints. The website just went public but is still in beta version. There is only a handful of 3D designs available and no 3D printing offer available at the time.
CADyou is a repository for public domain and creative commons 2D and 3D models. 20 000 models are available but not many files for 3D printing yet. The search filter for “stereolitography” files (.STL) doesn’t give any results yet!
CGTrader is a marketplace for 3D designs where you can buy, sell or request designs. As one of the biggest 3D designs repository on the Internet, CGTrader is not focused exclusively on 3D printing. But you can use a search filter for “print-ready” files that will show you a very decent amount of results compare to most websites. Many details on the file available, but it goes with a price.
CNCKing is a repository for 3D printing files (as well as files for CNC laser, router and plasma products) that counts only 35 files. But the website has been evolving a lot recently and we might expect some more designs coming soon. Designers can sell their designs for free on the website but have to go through a selective process.
Create This lets designers sell STL, SCAD and 3DS files. The platform takes a 30% commission fee and you get paid by check. Minimum sale price is $1.49. The website is in Beta version, so pretty slow and basic. Except the possibility to browse by file format, not much information and guarantee about the designs is provided.
CubeHero is a 3D designs repository specifically focused on 3D printing that is offering an integrated versioning system. Users are able to see changes that have been made to a 3D file, share source files and even their bill of material. Designs are hosted on GitHub. About 88 models are available so far. Service and files are free.
Cubify is the website that goes with the Cube 3D printer made by 3D Systems. The marketplace shows about 1200 designs available for sale, which have to be 3D printed by 3D Systems. Home 3D printer users can also download some files for free for 3D printing on their machine. 84 files are available so.
Cuboyo is another one of these startups promising that the 3D print is going to be very easy. Product page is a bit more sexy than others but miss detailed information on the files too. Prices start at $1 per file.
Fabforall is a meta search engine for everything related to 3D printing. It agregates 3D printing websites so you can search for a file throughout multiple repositories at once. The results we got during the test was not really successful and it’s pretty hard to find something in it (mostly due to a lack of filters). Work in progress.
Forme It launched in May 2013 under the lead of John and Vanessa Barlow. Their vision is to enable the creation of complex 3D prints by offering designs that can be transformed into more complex pieces.
GitHub, the well-known code repository is also a place where many users of 3D printers share their designs. GitHub integrated a 3D viewer for .stl files a few months ago. Almost 20 000 files are already shared. To find the files, search by .stl extension.
This custom search engine provided by Google aggregates many 3D printing repositories. Results are mostly showing files coming from Trimble Warehouse (ex Google Sketchup repository).
GrabCAD is the biggest free 3D models repository. But without a “3D printing” filter, it’s really hard to know which designs are ready for 3D print. Use the “3D printing” tag to browse into files related to 3D printing, you’ll get some interesting results.
Grain 3D is an other marketplace for 3D prints. The website also takes 30% commission on each sale. Designers get paid at the end of each month. About 60 designs are available yet. Interestingly, Grain3D launced recently a sub-reddit for letting users request 3D prints.
HomePrototype.org is currently being developed by RepRap users that are trying to find a way to share designs openly. The website is under development.
i.materialise is a 3D printing service based in Belgium that offers many materials, techniques and finishing techniques. Designers can open their stores on the website in order to show and sell designs. They decide on the fee they want to take on each 3D print on top of i.materialise price.
iMakr.com – also part of iMakr.vc – is a 3D printing store based in the UK, that sells everything related to 3D printing, from 3D printers to material, 3D scanners and training classes. They also have a full category dedicated to 3D objects with only 17 objects so far.
Instructables is the DIY projects repository that doesn’t really need to be presented. Many 3D printing projects are available. Instructions come with .stl files. User the “3D printing” tag to find projects for your printers or to send to a service.
Kraftwürx is a 3D printing service that focuses primarily on designers’ stores. Almost 18k 3D printing models available but they have to be made by Kraftwürx (who work with 3D printing partners all around the world). Many materials available.
Layer by Layer seems to be much more in phase with the current state of home 3D printing. Designs sold on the website are pre-sliced and guarantee to work on a Makerbot. The team even imagined a neat little label in order to improve customers trust.
The company developed a software called L2L that lets you manage your 3D print queue. Downside is that it only works with Makerbot printers so far, and no version available yet for Linux users.
MakerShop is a website in beta version where designers can sell their 3D designs. If you want to start selling your designs, you will have to get the $5/month plan. So far, the website looks really like a first draft of the project, I would recommend to wait for a better version before to commit to a monthly plan.
Mixee Labs is a spin-off from Shapeways that let users customize 3D designs and sell them on the platform. Customers don’t buy a file but the 3D print itself. Shipping cost starts at $6.50 for the US so it makes more sense to order a few prints. The team checks each creation to be sure it’s printable. All prints are made at Shapeways. Designers can choose their payment system: profit split, product licensing (percentage on the retail price) or simple commission on top of production price.
Modelyst is a California-based website for selling and converting 3D designs. It’s also possible to request a model for 3D print by email to the team (even though strangely, you can’t attach a file). Modelyst is the only marketplace paying attention to licenses. They develop their own license derived from Creative Commons ones – but links don’t work!
My Mini Factory has been launched in June 2013 by Sylvain Preumont, a French entrepreneur based in UK who is also the founder of iMakr.vc, an investment fund exclusively dedicated to 3D printing. The team of 3D designers working with My Mini Factory have created 3D designs specifically for the website. You can download 5 of them for free as soon as you give your email, and more if you spread the word about the website. You can also upload your design on the website and have this rather strange license choice between “open-source” and “commercial”.
Rinkak is a japanese website still in pre-launching phase.
Sculpteo is a 3D printing service based in France and the US that offers designers to open stores to sell 3D prints. Stores can be embedded into any website. Designs have to be 3D printed at Sculpteo in different materials. They can also be customized (customers can add a text, a texture, change the object’s size) if the designer enables this option.
Shapeways is one of the biggest 3D printing service, based in the US and in the Netherlands. The service focuses primarily on designers’ stores and makes it easy to open a store. Models have to be printed at Shapeways.
Sketchfab is one of the most beautiful way for sharing your 3D designs online. You can embed Sketchfab designs on any website, in the same way than a YouTube video. It’s not possible yet to filter by “3D print-ready” files but the tag “3D printing” gives about 100 results.
Initially focused on 3D models for architecture and interior design, the 3D Warehouse of Trimble Sketchup is still mostly about buildings and home appliances. Most models are not designed for 3D printing but you might find a few of them.
Since the creation of its “physibles” category, many new 3D designs have been uploaded on the Pirate Bay. The 3D printed gun seems to be pretty popular on the website.
Thingiverse is the most popular website for sharing creative commons 3D files for home 3D printing. Packed with great designs in creative commons for your personal 3D printer.
ThingTracker has a much more interesting approach than many 3D printing marketplaces that claim being “decentralized”. It’s a tracking system for your 3D designs, which means that you can get a permalink for each of your 3D prints. 3D printing marketplaces and small repositories can add the ThingTracker system to their website. Users can then track where the 3D designs have been posted and share the link more easily. ThingTracker is more of a concept than a functional tool yet.
Like GrabCAD, Turbosquid is a huge 3D models repository that is not specialized in 3D printing. No search filter for print-ready file. The tag “3D printing” gives about 400 results only on almost 300k models available. 3D printing models are usually less than $100.
Yeggi is a meta search engine for 3D printable files. It agregates content coming from 3D printing repositories such as Thingiverse.
This huge amount of 3D printing marketplaces can be a bit overwhelming. In order to choose the right ones for your projects, start by defining your goals and ask yourself a few questions:
- Is my priority to make money out of my designs or to improve them with the help of the community? In the first case, prefer a 3D printing service or a home 3D printer store, in the second case choose a free sharing one. (Many design boutiques do both, such as Nervous System, Wearable Plants or Bathsheba Grossman)
- Do I want to embed my designs in my portfolio or sell on my own website? Choose a service that allows embeds.
- No specific goals at all? Try them all and let us know in the comments what you think of them!
See you soon,
Credit photo in the homepage: Wooly Sheep by pmoews