We are a bit spoiled at Z Corp because as design engineers, we have access to nearly unlimited 3D printing capabilities. When I design parts for the next generation of printer, I print those out at various stages of development to check fit, style and function. But, I don’t always print MCAD parts. We do a lot of testing so we keep the printers running – a lot. We might be testing a new component or a whole new printer. Either way, it gets boring printing the same old set of mechanical parts. So, we often look for interesting models for printing that can be downloaded from the internet. What constitutes interesting to different engineers is, well, interesting in and of itself. My preference is for exotic automobiles, airplanes, or anything I would consider to be a marvel of engineering. To others, an interesting model might be a Ming vase, Michelangelo sculpture or some other piece of art. If you walked through the building you might see a printed chess set, pumpkin, football, holiday ornaments, Darth Vader, a snowman, skeleton of a foot, hand, or skull, buildings, Mount Everest, and a wide array of geometric shapes.
There are many sources of printable 3D data available for free or for purchase on the internet. One great source for MCAD parts is 3D content central http://www.3dcontentcentral.com/default.aspx (because we use SolidWorks here at ZCorp). But there are many sites where you can download architectural content, artwork, medical models, planes, cars, people, and just about anything else you can think of. If you don’t have a 3D printer, your interest in these models may be just for curiosity. If you do have a 3D printer, these sites can be valuable sources of data. Data is available in many formats so you will have to select the format that is right for you. I typically look for VRML (.wrl), but 3DS and STL import directly into our ZPrint® software.
Doing a search for free vrml downloads or free 3D models will result in a large number of sites offering free 3D data. I recommend downloading a few files to determine if the site is worth bookmarking. Below is a sample of sites that I have used.
So, as always, I’m curious. If you download models, what is your favorite site? Do you generate your own models or download models someone else has created? Have you ever paid for a model? What formats have you downloaded. And, what has been your overall experience with downloaded data?
I recently came across the following blog that lists many of the sites that I have used over the years:
Some free sources of 3D data:
There are some very good pay sites also where you can find free downloads.
I am responsible for leading 3D Systems content creation and capture activities and, in partnership with business and functional leaders, developing new opportunities for the company. I have held a variety of leadership positions in marketing and business development and most recently ran a $150MM division of Church & Dwight, a leading consumer goods company. Prior to receiving my M.B.A from Harvard Business School, I was an Explosive Ordnance Disposal company commander for the U.S. Army. I graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point with a B.S. in Electrical Engineering.
- ► 2011 (54)