There are a number of marketplaces where 3D models for printing can be put up for free or for sale. I've been hunting for a good one for a while and so far I haven't found one I liked. But two new sites have appeared recently, PinShape and 3DaGoGo, and I'm going to try them out for a while and see if either of them stick. And I've got the perfect models to start with.
I modeled some Spelunky inspired models a while ago and I've been holding on to them because I wanted to explore getting a small batch of food safe inserts for the kapala cup and sell them on Etsy. However my local plastics shop with a vacuum former has flaked on me, so screw it, here's the models. You can download the Golden Idol on Pinshape or 3DaGoGo, and the Kapala on Pinshape or 3DaGoGo.
After the cut is my long-winded thoughts on the various 3D Printing Marketplaces and where you can find 3D models...
For a 3D Printing Marketplace to be successful it needs only one thing; a paying audience. Which technically is gestalt so that's many things, but you get the point. And in order to get a paying audience they need content worth paying for, keeping in mind that they're competing with the free alternatives out there like YouMagine, CubeHero, Thingiverse, and others. In order to get content worth paying for they need to make things as easy as possible for the designers. Then they need to make things as easy as possible for the audience. Then they need to make it easy for the audience to find them. This is all very complicated so for the most part I'll let someone else deal with it. All I care about is something that is simple and streamlined for me to use so I can get back to making cool things, and the assurance that the people on the other end are making the rest of that stuff happen.
Oh, and I'm totally against streaming. Or I was. I'm less now than I was before. More on that later.
So with this in mind the first site I found that I really liked was Ponoko. I had found a few others like 3DBurrito (which appears to have receded back to beta since I used it) and 3DLT, but Ponoko was the first site that allowed me control of the models, prices and storefront. It was great. Only problem was Ponoko's focus is on laser cutting, so their ease of use on my end was because of apathy on their end. And since they weren't really focused on the 3D printing aspect of their marketplace they don't really make things easy for customers. Plus their uploading process was more than a little clunky. Plus once you've uploaded a model you couldn't edit or update it later, which is kind of a pain. These negative points led me to search for other outlets.
Then I found CGTraider and after Intel gave them a huge money infusion they got much better oriented to the 3D printing process. Then I sold a model with them (yay!) for bitcoin (yay?) that I couldn't use to renew the listing (boo?) which ended up costing 2/3 of what I got for the listing (boo) which locked up my account so no one could buy or download anything (double boo). All this I chalk up to growing pains, and they got it straightened out, mostly. But then CGTraider made a big announcement that they were going to start streaming models and I got upset and took all my models off in a huff.
Streaming is a bad idea. It's DRM, or copy protection, and all digital copy protection has ever done in the past 30 years is create it's own competition. See, the problem with streaming is you're selling the model per-print. But what if a print fails? What if the user doesn't like the way you sliced the model in your tidy little streaming service? And how are you going to control those of us who put our prints on SD cards and can print as many as we want? One day, maybe, when 3D printers become the replicators on Star Trek the Next Generation then, maybe, a streaming service will make sense, like iTunes for things. But we are not there yet. We're not even close enough that we should be considering streaming yet, and yet we are because some idiot content creators think they're making things when really they're making the templates that can be fed into a machine to make a thing. But I digress.
However, upon further examination it seems that CGTraider's streaming solution is (1) a 3rd party solution (2) that many similar sites are using, and (3) is entirely optional. This changes things since it's up to the designer and (hopefully) the market will show how bad an idea it is. So I should go back to CGTraider with my hat in my hand and give them another shot.
Meanwhile I was invited to try PinShape. Pinshape has an intersting model. It's a bit of a mix between shapeways and CGTraider. You can download or buy a model there and you can also order a print from them. This presents a number of problems that I didn't consider when I started using them. Things like listing multiple versions of a file, like I would on YouMagine, so people can pick and choose, doesn't quite work when they're trying to calculate how much a print will cost. Also listing single copies of things that you'll need 2, 3, or 4 copies of likewise makes calculating price difficult. What if you want to scale it down or up? You should be allowed to do all these things. And I will get to express this to the CEO of pinshape when we talk in a few weeks as he's looking for feedback from the early adopters. So that's good. Still growing pains, but good.
And then their's 3DaGoGo (don't forget the "a"). I heard about this on the 3D Printing Today podcast and I've got to say I like it. For some reason it failed the first impression with me, but I can't for the life of me tell you why. It's got a beautifully streamlined upload interface, smoother than anything I've used before, even thingiverse. It just lays everything out like butter for you. You can upload directly from Google Drive, which is where I backup all my 3D models to. My critism of 3DaGoGo is that they have an evaluation period that appears to be a human approval process, like myminifactory. That's fine for now, but it won't scale if the site ever really takes off. But I suppose that's a problem for the future.
At the moment I'm really favoring 3DaGoGo, but in truth I'm going to keep spreading out my options until i find the one that will translate to the biggest audience, even though that means a lot more work for me, uploading in triplicate, not to mention filling out the back log.
I tried to weave every repository site that I'm aware of into this narrative. If there's one that I missed let me know in the comments.