Sharing is Caring: 3D Part Download on Shapeways

You are all now well aware of Noah Improbablecog Beasley’s Open Source Jewelry project on Kickstarter, and you may know of Thingiverse, where Makerbot(ers) share there files to be extruded from hot gooey plastic, you may even know of Content Central, where Solidworks types (or just anyone) can upload/download 3D models of just about anything (mainly mechanical parts).

Shapeways has had the 3D Parts Database for a while, but now sharing your 3D files on Shapeways has just gotten a whole lot easier.


There is now a simple checkbox in your part page that allows others to download your 3D file.

One of the best ways to learn about 3D modeling (or any design really) is to inspect a part and see how it is constructed.  By sharing your files you give others a chance to learn from your wisdom and mistakes and you get the opportunity (depending on how you chose to share) of seeing others tweak and improve your design.  If you are downloading a file you get to learn from others, take small, early steps into 3D modeling by playing with an existing design, or just the thrill of seeing the relationship between a digital representation on screen which you can then have 3D printed..

If you are interested in sharing your designs you may want to include a creative commons license on your page to let others know how you are willing to share, or if you are willing to just set your babies free, tick 3D Part download, available to all.

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  1. T. Shawn Johnson

    Hey guys,

    Since Thingiverse already exists for sharing digital making files for free, I would actually be interested in something else from Shapeways. I would like to sell the file for a small amount of money. I was hoping Shapeways would provide this option so that I could offer some files for free on thingiverse, and point to other files here for download that were for sale.

    Is this possible?


    1. Anonymous

      Interesting, I have had a request to purchase a STL on Etsy before, it would be open that file up to piracy/sharing/total loss of control.

      With sharing for free, people seem to respect that a little more than a file that is for sale…
      What do you think would happen to a file that is sold? used once then erased?

    2. T. Shawn Johnson

      I think if the license is handled in such a way that the person is not allowed to sell it or give it away, it really is no different from a lot of software available for pay-download. You may have to occasionally police a rogue user, but that’s usually pretty easy because you would just contact the website they were selling/giving it on (ie. shapeways, thingiverse, ponoko) and they will take it down. I doubt it would happen that often.

      My aim is to sell a popular file, for the use of folks with 3d printers.


    3. Virtox

      Piracy is a risk yes, but still, models could be marked by the designer or something. (not fool-proof I know) But it is a risk one decides to take or not.

      Would be interesting to see the first pirate trying to sell stuff back here on shapeways 😛
      That’s a risk you run with free stuff too. Happens all the time that freeware is sold..

      But not everyone is pirating all the time, we have some honest people on this planet too 🙂
      Besides theres a huge market in stock photography, and also some in stock 3d.
      And the software market is also still very much alive and kicking.

      *Anyway, I would also love to see mark-up options for the download!*
      In combination with the long hoped for mark-up per material perhaps?

      The markup entry field could be replaced with multiples :
      [ Markup for WSF ] [ $1.00]
      [Markup for Stainless Steel ] [ $2.00]
      [ Markup for download ] [$5.00]
      etc (for all selected materials)

      But I have agree, sharing is also very nice 🙂



    4. Duann

      I do regular searches on Demonoid and Pirate Bay, waiting to see the first 3D files leaked from Dell or Apple.

      There was the Product Bay for about 5 seconds that was to be about sharing 3D files but that disappeared quite quickly before going live.

      I doubt that piracy will hit the bespoke designer market first, but it would be a claim to fame.

    5. Noah Beasley

      Well, you may already know this if you saw my Kickstarter project, but my personal orientation towards it is that the safest way to sell digital files is to collect a design fee from people before ever releasing it. This way, you don’t have to worry about piracy (because you were already paid in full) and it allows people under tight budgets to have access to the file which was paid for by those who have the money to spend.

      May not work for everyone, but it’s a consideration at least 🙂

  2. Michael Williams

    Is it always the file that I uploaded? I just checked one where I uploaded an STL. Would a VRML be downloadable as a VRML only also?

    1. Duann

      Hi Michael,

      I assume it would be the exact model you upload. Prior to Meshmedic .

    2. Robert

      Yes, it is the original uploaded file.

  3. T. Shawn Johnson


    Can we already put a markup on 3d files? Or is this something that will come?


    1. Duann

      Heya Whystler,

      There is currently no provision to sell/mark-up the digital files.

      But if this gets enough interest it may be something Shapeways can do?

    2. Anonymous

      Yes please! Partly because I want to make money 🙂 Partly because I want you to make money so you don’t go away 🙂

      As I wrote below as anonymous (dunno how that happened) it would make more sense to offer 3d files here for printing instead of Ponoko because you guys do 3d printing. But if it’s my only choice, I will offer them there for pay instead .. or until you make pay possible.


  4. Aaron Trocola

    I’m happy to see this feature! Being able to charge for the models would make our lives easier as model creators (rather than having a separate account on Turbosquid), but it risks leaving 3D printing out of the loop entirely and might be too far outside of Shapeways current mission statement for them to invest the development time. The question arises: Should Shapeways expand to be a enabler of microbusinesses related to all types of 3D creation, or focus on streamling production and delivery so they can reduce prices and lead-times? Should they try to do both? This is truly a brave new world for business.

    1. Anonymous

      Using a markup system, would be just another way that Shapeways can have a revenue stream. And what easier revenue stream than have a percentage of file downloads? No printing, post prcessing or shipping involved – very efficient. I hope they do it. I will have files I’m already working on to offer on Ponoko (which does do this for laser cutting, but allows other files) by the end of the weekend. I would much rather offer the 3d files on Shapeways because it’s congruent with the product and my shop here.

  5. Magic

    It seems that this option is not available for co-creators… 🙁
    I already offer for free the Solid Marble, that you can find here:
    But to find the free version, you have to go through the forum topic indicated in the page.
    It would be easier if from the model page you could download the model itself.
    I have a markup on this object, only because there is a little work to customize it (basically, changing the texture). But I think it is fair to offer it for free if the customer does this work him/herself (it’s just a sphere after all :))
    How can I do?

    1. Virtox

      Ok, diverging a bit here, but regarding full color co-creators, where only the texture map needs changing, not the model or the mapping. Couldn’t it just be automated? The model has already been validated. Seems silly that the designer needs to upload a new copy of the same mesh, but now zipped with a different texture file?
      Automate this step and the mark-ups could drop 🙂

    2. Robert Schouwenburg

      Interesting ideas. That could work.

      I have put on my idea list.

  6. oody64

    Whereas sharing is not my target it’s great to see which file is the final version I have uploaded. Having more then 150 items in my shop that question arises from time to time.

  7. Anonymous

    I also have a mesh that I am posting many copies of, because of the need to have multiple sets with different textures. Currently I do this by naming two of the textures (the changing ones) generic names (color.png, and road.png). I do have to upload the files once for each texture set, but I can just replace the two textures in the zip file very easily.

    What would be nice would be some way of having alternative texture sets (maybe in their own zip files) that are applied to the original zip file right before printing, depending on which set the buyer selects.

    I don’t mind the way it is currently setup (the uploads are not that big), but this would simplify the process, especially for the buyer.


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