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50 Useful Links to get You Started in 3D Printing

This is a list of resources that I find useful in my 3D printing work.

I’ve often shared various forms of the list via email with my students and meetup attendees, but thought a webpage would be a better way to present it. (★ denotes my personal favorites)

3D printing Meetup

Meetup at a Minneapolis makerspace.

Makerspaces, Hackerspaces, Fablabs – meet face-to-face with people and their 3D printers

Different names for the same thing. These are community workshops that offer an easy entry point for newbies. Usually open to the public.
List of Hackerspaces – find one near you
Meetup – meet with locals, ask questions, touch prints and printers.

 

Useful FREE programs related to 3D printing:

  • ★Sketchup, for general 3D modeling, best at geometric shapes, easy to learn, powerful with plugins (see list below), free for non-commercial use.
  • Sculptris, for modeling sculptures like clay, easy to learn
  • Tinkercad – super easy online 3D modeling app
  • 123DCatch – creates a 3D model from a set of photos, tricky to use, works better with larger objects
  • Blender, for modeling nearly anything, powerful, difficult to learn
  • OpenSCAD – 3D modeler for folks with a programming background
  • Meshlab, for converting files, editing meshes, and more
  • Netfabb Basic, downloadable program for fixing STL files
  • Netfabb.com, upload your model to get it fixed and optimized for 3D printing
  • Thingiverse, for downloading 3D printable models

 List of free Sketchup plugins that I use for modeling and prepping files for 3D printing:

  • Sketchucation’s Plugin Store – easy way to install and manage plugins. Very similar to the new official Extension Warehouse, but many more/different plugins available. Install this one first, and use it to install most of the others easily.
  • ★Solid Inspector – checks for errors preventing solid groups and components
  • ★Sketchup – STL – Import and Export STL’s from Sketchup
  • Cleanup – use to delete coplanar lines (and much more!), use on imported STL’s
  • Import DXF – Import 2D files from Illustrator (actually it imports any DXF file)
  • Bounding box – draws faces on the bounding box of a group or component.  Useful for aligning odd shaped objects.
  • Weld – Joins connected edges into a curve or “polyline”.
  • Round Corner – adds fillets and chamfers
  • Joint push pull – push/pull curved edges.  Also works for thickening a surface.
  • Bezier curve – Bezier and other curves
  • Curviloft – connect a series of lines or curves into a surface
  • Make Faces – fills in faces, only works if the lines are coplanar
  • Profile Builder – Follow me on steroids
Commercial Sketchup plugin:
  • Artisan($39) – this “subdivides” models into smooth geometry.  Good for making organic curvy models, works with the free or pro version of Sketchup. It’s the one I used to make this Rod of Asclepius.
Visual index of plugins – GIF’s showing what plugins do
HUGE list of plugins – Its here if you need it, but I don’t recommend installing more plugins than you really need as it can get confusing and make Sketchup run slower.

3D print services – upload your 3D model and these folks will print and ship it to you

★Shapeways – usually cheapest, awesome customer service, and by far the easiest way to sell your designs to the world. Offices in New York and the Netherlands.
i.materialise – excellent selection of materials, priority service available, cool contests. Based in Belgium.
Sculpteo – order prints, open a shop. They have some popular iOS apps. Based in France.
Ponoko – sell your 3D prints alongside electronics and CNC or laser cut goods. Offices in New Zealand & California, with 13 digital “making hubs” around the world.
★3DHubs – crowdsourced, local-to-you 3D printing. Thousands of 3D printer owners listed, from little desktops to large commercial operations.

Desktop 3D printers – build one from a kit, or buy one ready to go

Reprap – self-replicating 3D printers, sort of. You also need non-3d printed parts as well. Inexpensive way to get started with your own printer.
Makerbot – a very popular desktop 3D printer.
3D printer directory – excellent list of printers & prices.

News Sites – subscribe to keep up to date

★Reddit – 3D printing forum. News, case studies, and advice; great for open discussion.
3Ders.org – my favorite blog for breaking 3D printing news right now. Awesome 3D printer directory.
3dprinter.net – breaking news and good commentary from the authors
3D Printing Industry – 3D printing news and commentary
3D Printing for Beginners – Tutorials, reviews, and articles for learning about 3D printing
3D Print HQ – News on 3Dprinting and a fantastic glossary of industry terms
Make: – magazine dedicated to makers. A big deal in the 3D printing community.
Shapeways Blog – mostly Shapeways news, learn how people are using the service
i.materialise blog – keep up with i.materialise news and contests
Its a 3D World – mostly dedicated to Stratasys (Objet) printers

Inspiration – Folks that I admire selling 3D printed designs

Nervous System – online design-your-own-print apps, awesome jewelry and housewares inspired by nature.
Bathsheba – 3D print sculpture pioneer. Sweet symmetrical math-inspired designs.
Michiel Cornelissen – clever designer showcasing a smorgasbord of functional, visually aesthetic wares including Apple accessories.
Josh Harker – super successful Kickstarter campaign selling 3D printed art
★Glif iPhone accessory – Case study: using 3D prints as a pre-production tool to satisfy immediate demand
  • 3D Printing Plastics

    Excellent resource, I would suggest you have a 3D filament material list also, we run http://www.3dplastics.co.uk supplying to schools, small businesses and now the general public. We are starting to see real growth in the home 3d printing market.

    • This page is a curated list of my favorites. Without personal knowledge in filament providers, I’m not qualified to make recommendations, so for now I’m not going to add them.

      • 3D Printing Plastics

        No problem at all, yet again good source of 3D printing information. The industry is getting a lot of coverage of late.

  • ALT LLC

    Very nice Post! We recently started offering a 3D printing service at 3DALT.com and have some good resources for a wide range of available materials and free 3D models if you are interested.