Regardless of whether you opt to try and learn design software or not, you can still begin printing things the moment your printer arrives by downloading some of the tens of thousands of ones made freely available online by other like-minded tinkerers and makers. Before founding MakerBot, Pettis helped cofound Thingiverse, an online community for other 3D printing enthusiasts. It is now a bustling site with advice, how-tos, FAQs, and a gargantuan repository of user-submitted 3D models with some 130,000 freely downloadable files. And there are plenty of other sources for 3D models, such as Shapeways.com and Google 3D warehouse, to name a few. If you just want to download and look at objects (which are usually .stl or .obj files), you may need special software to view them on your computer. We like the shareware Pleasant 3D (be sure to donate cash if you end up using it).
Gear of the Year
The best tools, tech, and toys of 2013.
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