3D printing is a manufacturing process that creates a three dimensional object by incrementally adding material until the object is complete (this contrasts with subtractive manufacturing techniques such as carving or milling, in which an object is created by selectively removing parts from a piece of raw material). A 3D printer is simply a machine that can take a digital 3D model and turn it into a tangible 3D object via additive manufacturing.

It is often cheaperfaster and more customizable to have parts/prototypes/items 3D printed than having to buy such items from the store. The technology is already quite mature and the build quality of the fabricated items is constantly improving.

Fusion Deposition Modeling (FDM): FDM uses a simple nozzle to extra plastic filaments, which cool down into the 3D printed shape. This is the cheapest version of 3D printing, and the kind available to consumers. Since it only needs a box, a nozzle, and a system to turn the digital data into movement, this type of printer can come in many different sizes.

One of the most important parts of 3D printing is to use the right kind of material for the job in hand. Below you can see what type of filament might be best for your application. This will help you to make better informed decisions when buying your 3D printer filaments. Before order anything in 3D, there are a few basic questions you should ask yourself, the main ones include:

  • Strength: How strong does your printed part have to be?
  • Flexibility: How flexible does your part need to be?
  • Accuracy: How important is precision to your 3D part?
  • Special conditions: Any other conditions that apply to your 3D model

ABS 3D Filament

ABS is popular for good reasons. It’s tough, and has impact-resistant properties. It’s this strength and moderate flexibility that makes it such a great choice for printing in 3D. ABS is a great choice for printing plastic automotive parts, moving parts, musical instruments, kitchen appliances, electronic housings, and various toys, like LEGO. It has other applications too, aside from 3D printing. For example, traditional manufacturers use ABS to make plastic wrap, water bottles, and cups, to name a few uses.

PLA 3D Filament

PLA (Poly Lactic Acid) is popular for amateurs and professionals alike. It’s a special type of thermoplastic made from organic materials, namely cornstarch and sugarcane.

PLA has wide-ranging uses. At the professional level, PLA filament uses include medical suturing (stitching). We can also see PLA used for various surgical implants, including surgically implanted pins, rods, screws, and mesh. The applications work thanks to the material’s degradable properties. All the aforementioned 3D printed parts break down in the human body. They can take anywhere between six months to two years, depending on the part and its purpose. At the amateur level, PLA filament is great for producing a whole range of consumer items. Other benefits of PLA are that it prints faster than ABS. Aside from 3D printing, other products that use PLA include food packaging, disposable tableware, and diapers, as a few examples.

PETG 3D Filament

PETG is a variation of the highly popular Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET). PET is one of the most common plastics in the world today, and is being used for food containers, water bottles, and even clothing fibers. Its high mechanical strength, resistance to extreme temperatures, and ability to restrict moisture, has made it and its several variations useful for the food industry, as thermal insulation material, or as precursors for engineering resins.

Adding glycol during the polymerization process results in the formation of a “glycol-modified” PET, or PETG. The addition of glycol results in plastic that is more durable, less brittle, clearer, and easier to use. PETG has been widely used for outdoor signs due to its excellent printability and laminating characteristics. Other applications for PETG include medical and food containers, electronic devices, credit or gift cards, store fixtures, and prosthetic devices.

Wood 3D Filament

It seems strange, but yes, 3D wood filaments are very real. It’s a great material for anyone who wants or needs to be more creative with their 3D printed projects. These filaments contain a careful mixture of recycled woods with a special binding polymer. The output model not only looks like real wood, it smells like it too. There’s no shortage of impressive examples online that illustrate the amazing finish wood filaments can produce when printed to perfection.

What 3D print enthusiasts use wood filament for has no limits other than their creativity. Use it for décor, ornate boxes, tables and chairs, figurines, and whatever else catches the imagination.

Carbon Fiber 3D Filament

Carbon Fiber PLA is an impressive 3D filament. The material contains tiny strands of carbon fiber which results in a material that has an excellent structure. It’s also rigid and has superior layer adhesion. Carbon Fiber PLA shares similar properties with standard PLA but it’s stiffer.

Carbon fiber PLA filament is a great choice for producing high quality and strong objects. This includes items like protective casings, various mechanical parts, and many other high durability uses.

The maximum size is dependent on the selected print process and if your model can be split-up into multiple pieces and glued together. Single piece prints are typically limited at 235mm x 235mm x 250mm.

If you intend to have a model 3D printed, that doesn’t mean you always have to start designing from scratch. There are tons of websites out there that offer (both free and premium) 3D models to download and have printed. We have listed the best sites for you to find your desired print and get a price quote to have it printed by us.


Cults 3D

Cults offers its users the perfect range of 3D models – from maker-inspired 3D files all the way to professional high-quality designs. Cults checks each 3D design for printability and organizes them into different groups such as fashion, art, jewelry, home, architecture, or gadgets. The mix of a modern visual interface, a well-arranged database, and a focus on smart, useful & beautiful designs makes browsing through their website a lot of fun. While many models come for free, others come at very affordable prices.

Cults is a great place to find & download 3D models for 3D printing.

Cults is a great place to find & download 3D models for 3D printing

Cults facts:
Focus on 3D printing: Yes
Price: Free and Payable
Target: Hobbyists & Designers
Size: 5,000 Models



Pinshape offers its visitors the opportunity to browse through a great selection of more than 13,000 (free and payable) STL files. Finding great 3D printable models on the website is child’s play: both the visual representation and logical organization of the website are top-notch.

Pinshape is a popular database for 3D printables files.

Pinshape is a popular database for 3D printables files

Pinshape facts:
Focus on 3D printing: Yes
Price: Free and Payable
Target: Hobbyists & Designers
Size: 13,000 Models


Thingiverse is probably one of the biggest and most popular databases. It has a very active maker community behind it and offers free-to-use STL files only. You don’t even need to open an account in order to download a 3D model from their site. Sometimes the database can seem slightly less organized than the cleaner and simpler design of sites like Pinshape and Cults.

One of the most popular places to get 3D models: Thingiverse.

One of the most popular places to get 3D models: Thingiverse

Thingiverse facts:
Focus on 3D printing: Yes
Price: Free
Target: Makers
Size: 9,000 Models



Last but not least we want to mention Yeggi, a search engine for 3D printable models. Yeggi scans all the databases mentioned above, and many more, for 3D printable files. So if you want to search the ‘Google’ of 3D models, this might be the right website for you.

Yeggi, the search engine for 3D models.

Yeggi, the search engine for 3D models

Source: https://i.materialise.com/blog/

With 3D printing, people have the ability to quickly turn concepts into 3D models or prototypes (a.k.a. “rapid prototyping”), and implement rapid design changes. It lets manufacturers produce products on demand rather than in large runs, improving inventory management and reducing warehouse space. People in remote locations can fabricate objects that would otherwise be inaccessible to them.

From a practical standpoint, 3D printing can save money and material versus subtractive techniques, as very little raw material is wasted. And it promises to change the nature of manufacturing and now letting consumers download files for printing even complex 3D objects—including, for example, electronics devices—in their own homes.

People use 3D printers to quickly create product models and prototypes, but they’re increasingly being used to make final products, as well. Among the items made with 3D printers are shoe designs, furniture, wax castings for making jewelry, tools, tripods, gift and novelty items, and toys. The automotive and aviation industries use 3D printers to make parts. Artists can create sculptures, and architects can fabricate models of their projects. Archaeologists are using 3D printers to reconstruct models of fragile artifacts, including some of the antiquities that in recent years have been destroyed by ISIS. Likewise, paleontologists and their students can duplicate dinosaur skeletons and other fossils.

Physicians and medical technicians can use 3D printing to make prosthetics, hearing aids, artificial teeth, and bone grafts, as well as replicate models of organs, tumors, and other internal bodily structures from CT scans in preparation for surgery. A good example is Project Daniel, which 3D-prints prosthetic arms and hands for victims of the violence in Sudan. Also, 3D printers being developed that can lay down layers of cells to create artificial organs (such as kidneys and blood vessels) are already in the R&D phase. There’s even a place for 3D printing in forensics, for example to replicate a bullet lodged inside a victim.

Source: PCMAG – Tony Hoffman

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