CAD models taken from CAD libraries are a great way to access 3D printable parts without heavy investment in software. Find out which websites should be your go-to for a variety of modeling formats.
Primarily used by designers, engineers, draftsmen, and architects, CAD (computer-aided design) facilitates every step of the creative process: exploration of design ideas, specification-complete geometric dimensioning & tolerance (GD&T) drawings, and visualized concept renderings.
CAD libraries are what you would expect from a library: A treasure trove of 3D parts, from helical gears to anatomical hearts, and everything in between. In identifying the best available CAD libraries, a few key details were considered:
Based on these aspects, here are eight of the best CAD libraries available online today.
GrabCAD is advertised as the largest worldwide community of CAD users, boasting over 6.2 million members. The site itself has a good layout, with an easy-to-follow search format and drop-down menus to filter by category or by the software the model was created on.
TraceParts has a good number of users (currently 3.5 million) and also a massive number of part catalogs for various companies. The site is easy to navigate, with an obvious search bar on the homepage and a range of model categories that is clear and comprehensive.
Thingiverse is a design community affiliated with MakerBot aimed at discovering, making, and sharing 3D printable models. Advertising itself as the largest such community, every model is licensed under a Creative Commons license, allowing anyone to use or alter any design.
3D Content Central has just under 2 million users and involves both user-contributed and supplier-certified parts and assemblies. The search bar is immediately obvious with recently-added suppliers and top user content available from the homepage.
Part Community, with roughly 500,000 members, includes both 3D CAD supplier catalogs and user-contributed 3D models to cover the needs of both professionals and hobbyists. The site has an easy-to-follow layout with the two areas (amongst others) to make navigation a breeze.
MyMiniFactory is a digital platform for guaranteed 3D printable models, whereby every single model is run through a software check and is then test printed by the community before it is published on the site. The search bar isn’t immediately obvious but, once used, opens up to a wide range of easily navigable categories through drop-down filters.
3D Export is primarily a marketplace to buy and sell 3D models as well as textures for use in computer graphics projects. It also contains a free area for 3D model downloads as well as being an easy-to-navigate site with well-segmented categories and an obvious albeit small search bar.
Yeggi calls itself the search engine for 3D printable models, with over 2 million available. As can be expected, the search bar is clear and the options alongside allow for some fine filtering of results.
The above list includes some of the most popular and widely-used CAD libraries available. That said, some are naturally suited to technical applications, with others being targetted towards hobbyists, so keep an eye out for sites relevant to your applications.
It is always recommended that, where possible, you download a model in the format your software natively uses. Downloading a SolidWorks model for SolidWorks rather than, say, a STEP or IGES file will allow you to easily edit the file to fit your specific needs.
As you can see, there are many sites out there which can help you find a wide variety of models. Whatever you decide to download, you certainly can’t go wrong with any of the CAD libraries above.
Feature image source: GrabCAD
License: The text of "8 Best Sites for Free 3D CAD Models & CAD Libraries" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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