search engine

Developing 3D Print Search Engines

By April 9, 2013. 3D Printing, Featured, Industry Insights

There has been an interesting escalation in development around specific search engines for 3D content online this year. It is really a natural progression from the steep increase in the number of 3D content sites — from the well established such as GrabCAD and Thingiverse as well as the groundswell of start-ups in this area, many of which we have covered on 3DPI as they have announced their arrival.

It still seems a little early to me in that the established few repositories are still few enough to search individually by those in the know, but a useful tool nonetheless for anyone looking for 3D printable content that does not want to trawl individual sites.

The most notable developments include:


A basic 3D Print Search option is available via the DIMENSIONEXT website, which has indexed the two big sites mentioned above together with some other smaller sites. According to the host, it is a work in progress and will continue to be developed.  It is a standard search engine that is controlled by the search parameters of the user.



yeggi screenshotThe latest 3D search engine comes from yeggi, which has gone live in the last few days. Already with 39, 192 models available from an index of seven sites to date, this search engine is hosted by Sebastian Karpp based in Germany. The site offers a search based on keywords, but also displays the most recently updated files that are available together with their original source.



FABforall is another 3D search engine currently in Beta that is also a ‘3D printing network’ allowing members (FoC) and non-members to find the latest 3DP sites, files, objects, materials, printers and designers. There are options for members to comment and rate sites via FABforall also.

These sites are all benign even though they are not in full swing yet; they are almost certain to grow in terms of offering and stature within the 3D printing community as 3D printers become more and more prolific.

The same benign label can’t really be applied to the next one, although how successful it will be remains to be seen.


Affiliated with Defense Distributed — the controversial organization that is on a mission to produce the world’s first fully working, fully 3D printed firearm — DEFCAD made known a second mission back in March to develop and launch its own open source search engine for 3D printable models of every conceivable type (ie it will include firearm designs but will not be limited to them), with the aim of eliminating censorship within the 3D printing industry.

The organization is hosting a makeshift repository of ‘censored’ 3D printable parts at and is currently seeking funding to develop the search engine at, but with just nine days left on the funding campaign they are only just over 50% of the $100k target. Indeed, DEFCAD specifically cites within it campaign its dedicated aim of “disrupting copyright, IP and regulation,” for 3D printing in a similar way to how Napster and the Pirate Bay changed policies around music and video distribution; claiming that: “It is about printing items whose prices have been set to infinity. It is about disrupting man-made forms of artificial scarcity.” Personally, I can sympathise with the belief that stiff regulations and copyright laws are open to abuse by the greedy and the powerful. In fact it is hard to deny, BUT, regulations in particular impose safety standards too that are vital for all of the specific areas that DEFCAD reference, namely firearms, pharmaceuticals, automobiles, drones and medical devices. Any and all of these surely demand regulation in a way that music and videos do not because they require specific training and knowledge to produce them safely. One can’t help but wonder if the lack of funding to date is a key indicator that while many people buy into the rhetoric of eliminating censorship, self-preservation kicks in at the most basic level when considering the real consequences of doing it.

  • Pfc. Parts

    It’s telling you identify three efforts to make open source CAD designs more accessible, but only discuss regulation, intellectual property and safety in the context of one.

    Your editorial bias is showing Ms. Parks. All providers of 3D CAD data will ultimately face the problem of censorship. To what extent this slows or stops market acceptance of the technology remains to be seen. Who will be the Apple of CAD designs? Who will negotiate with the logical equivalent of the RIAA to make the “iCAD store” work? Big questions since Steve Jobs is dead now.

    What happens when I scan Porsche part number 928.110.056.21 (distributor housing, cylinders 4- 8) and publish the point cloud? Is their a safe harbor for the publisher or do they get sued by Porsche unless they take it down? Inquiring minds want to know :)

    The work DEFCAD is doing will get done; It has value and it’s poor form to sneer at it. If people want to see this media remain free they should vote their conscience on the issue, not the part.

    • Your point is valid, sir! Although, I intentionally did not label this piece as ‘news’ as I was conscious that my opinions did shape the tone of the latter part of it.

      I would first make the point that the discussion around “copyright, IP and regulation” was in direct response to these issues as quoted in the mission statement from DEFCAD on its website, the other three ventures do not state this as part of their remit, rather the focus is on ease of accessibility of open source content.
      Furthermore, I would make a distinction between the two separate minefields of copyright/IP versus regulations/safety. In capitalist societies I have no doubt that reams of specific legislation will emerge around the copyright/IP issues concerning 3D printing and digital content and many (like DEFCAD) will fight it based on their ideology of freedom and anti-capitalism. If pushed, I would agree with them from an ideological point of view. Realistically, the result will probably be lots more wealthy lawyers and no clear cut solution. However, when it comes to regulations and safety,
      specifically referring to the industries that, again, DEFCAD itself directly quotes, namely ‘firearms, pharmaceuticals, automobiles, drones and medical
      devices’ then I hold my hands up to being biased – absolutely! And I make no
      apologies for it.

      Do I agree with inflated prices of pharmaceuticals from huge monopolies? No, I don’t. But the idea of the untrained, average person making their own from an online recipe I find truly terrifying and that example can be applied to the 3D printing of firearms, critical components and medical instruments. I would come down on the side of regulation in the interests of safety every time and while the intention was not to “sneer” I do wholeheartedly disagree with this part of their mission.

      • Pfc. Parts

        I must admit you caught my attention with the juxtaposition of “freedom and anti-capitalism”, so much I ended up visiting the site for the first time and reading their platform. Perhaps that was the intention.

        Anyway, I couldn’t find anything anti-capitalist. The reason I was intrigued by your sentence was the two things don’t usually go together, in this example I don’t think they have either. The group seem more interested in what they consider freedom of speech/information; specifically the right to publish forbidden information like firearms design. It’s worth noting there are no laws prohibiting publication of firearms designs and there are already many books on the subject you can purchase through online booksellers. Many of the books have detailed instructions on how to fabricate firearms using common shop tools, so that horse is out of the barn too.

        Apparently these DEFCON folks are filling a gap created by Google, MakerBot and others who are ideologically opposed to disseminating that sort of thing.

        It’s actually a capitalist idea. It seems they intend to make money off it through advertising.

        But none of this addresses the underlying question, which is what copyright protection in the world of 3D printers and widespread scan-to-print solutions will look like. As an investor, these open questions concern me and I suspect they concern others; uncertainty always tends to scare investors.

        • S Taylor

          Pfc, interesting analysis, which is appreciated, if, from my own current perspective as 1 of 7 billion sapient minds, almost totally incorrect.

          ‘It’s telling you identify three efforts to make open source CAD designs more accessible, but only discuss regulation, intellectual property and safety in the context of one.

          Your editorial bias is showing Ms. Park.’

          Please fully research items you comment on before offering opinion. Regarding Search Engines you’ll see the methodologies are very different. I should know. I made the top one.

          Cody Wilson of Defense Distributed & Defcom is blatantly an anti-capitalist: Thus the bitcoin donations to the international hactivist movement Anonymous. Furthermore, I’ve talked to him (TW @radomysisky) and his YouTube video regarding Bre Pettis and

          You appear to place too much onus upon an ethereal notion of a generic ‘Capitalism.’

          The current mode of Capitalism in the US/UK et al, Market State socio-capitalism, currently looks as if will continue to eat-itself with preemptive IP wars: all part of the inevitable combination of the six time exponential increase in the rate of change of technology (see Ray Kurzweil) and Hamilton’s Rule (evolutionary psychology) and the behaviouralistics of societies coerced into emphasising the social benefits of Capitalism.

          Capitalism is indeed a highly flexible system, but has varying extant modalities, those modalities are generically grouped together in the elite-owned mass media for propaganda purposes: co-reactionism in the face of ‘socialist’ (again a generic term with many extant variants) propaganda in a hyper-complex symbiotic relationship that, in reality, merely drives wedges between nations. This in turn is inevitable at this point in the evolution of the global system.

          As inevitable as citizens not being informed of the full nature of geopolitics.

          Importantly: both the US and China use very similar generic systems at this time.

          Liaison Faire Capitalism collapsed as spectacularly in 2008 as autocratic Marxist-Stalinism in the Reagan-Thatcher era.

          Re-nationalising large fiscal and corporate sectors saved the US and UK particularly.

          The 2008 economic collapse was larger than that of The Great Depression.

          Allegiance to a disproved Liaison-faire system is bereft of logic, or compassion for the millions whose lives were wrecked by the knock on effects.

          Regarding IP, very much see Rachel’s comment ‘Do I agree with inflated prices of pharmaceuticals from huge monopolies? No, I don’t. But the idea of the untrained, average person making their own from an online recipe I find truly terrifying and that example can be applied to the 3D printing of firearms, critical components and medical instruments. I would come down on the side of regulation in the interests of safety every time and while the intention was not to “sneer” I do wholeheartedly disagree with this part of their mission.’

          3D-printed guns, 3D-printed recreational drugs, are a real problem, that needs to be, and will be, addressed.

          I have a few ideas as to how, but, that’s a patent issue regarding sharing. Perhaps I’ll patent the ideas and then not allow them to be developed.

          Ergo: Patenting is not a black & white ethical positive.

          Some patents to check your thinking against:







          I look forward to your response for equilibrium of opinion?

  • And if anyone wants to support an open source 3d Object tracking network, do take a look at this post –

    Thing tracker will help sort out some of the issues with finding things you care about, it’s not designed as a search engine, but more of a way to link all different maker communities with their own specific interests in 3D printing – a bit like circles in Google+ if you like.

    I sure hope we don’t end up with an iCAD store, that’s not needed.

    And now GitHub can handle 3D STL files, it should be possible to stay open source and –

  • Def Cad are, as far as I can see, a bunch of paranoid loons trying to promote their own egos via YouTube videos. So what they are saying is that “we” should be able to access any file we want and print it. If people who create the data distribute it freely that is fine. However if people have data stolen and posted online that is theft. You can reverse engineer parts and post data online, there is no issue with that, so your Porsche parts can be posted provided you do not claim that they are original parts. But really, if you can afford a Porsche don’t be such a tight git, and buy the originals. Your 3D printed ABS bits will be a poor imitation. Where 3D printing comes in is when the original parts are not available and the only option is to scan and recreate ( and this is actually very common in the classic auto market anyway).

    Speaking personally if I found that my data had been posted to an online search engine I would be contacting lawyers. Why would I place my ( or my customers) data online for all and sundry to use unless that was the original intention?

    No the sensible approach is to link the data to a production bureau. If you want a spare part for your 1972 911 then at least get it printed by someone who has the equipment to do it properly.

    Bottom line is somebody somewhere has to pay. The only people who say ” make it all free” are either rich boys with trust funds or people with other motives to extract cash. The rest of us who create the content have to earn a living and I’m buggered if that means letting it loose to all and sundry to use.

    • Pfc. Parts

      Kevin, I’d like to believe there would be no legal issues with me publishing a scanned 928 intake manifold for sale. It would certainly offset the cost of a precision 3D scanner if I could do so. Unfortunately I haven’t seen any settled case law on the subject, if you have feel free to enlighten us.

      I don’t understand the motive behind the comment about my being a “tight git”. An entire Porsche 928 costs less than a low end 3D printer. Parts on the other hand are extremely rare and very expensive.

      It seems you make your personal feelings clear with the paragraph about contacting a lawyer. It’s remarkable you’re so conflicted on the subject. You think I should have no trouble publishing someone else’s design, but you would sue me if I published yours? How exactly does that work?

      • You misunderstood what I wrote.

        If you scan a part, remodel it, and make the data available as ‘XYZ compatible’ for free that is acceptable. If however you scan the part and sell the data as ‘genuine XYZ data’ that is illegal as you infringe copyright and (probably) trademarks.

        With regards to classic car parts, virtually all out of production components are made by reverse engineering processes. Companies that sell parts often scan and build prototypes with sold parts being RIM cast or CNC’d. They are sold as ‘ to fit XYZ’

        As for my designs I was referring to direct theft of original 3D data. In this age it is simple to get original data if you are working on a project. I have had cases where work we have created has ended up on public sites.

        • Pfc. Parts

          OK, that makes sense now thanks for clarifying. I suppose that also sheds light on some of the different labeling I see on restoration parts, there seem to be 3 or 4 different grades ranging from “Genuine XYX”, ‘OEM’, ‘OE’ and ‘Fits XYZ’. I’m not sure there’s a difference between ‘OE’ and ‘OEM’ but there are two different claims made anyway.

          I think this is great news actually. If the current practice allows me to use a high definition scanner to render an out of production part and I could either sell the part or accept donations for publishing the STL or point cloud to offset the cost of a scanner that seems like a realistic business plan.

          Of course, if the cost of scanners keeps dropping along with tools like Geomagic’s ‘Personal’ edition, the whole problem of cost disappears for me since reproducing a single hard to find or ‘No Longer Available’ part for my own use could pay for the equipment. The air intake tubes on a 1985-86 928, which appear to be injection molded plastic, are in the NLA category so if you can find them at all they’re running around $500 each. I ended up buying parts for a 87-95 that are compatible but not stock, which reduces the value of the car.

  • I keep seeing new search engine for 3D printing. Which one that will become successful depends on many things, however we will not see any winner now, maybe in 3 or 4 years from now on we will, the market is still to young.
    I would belive that when we see avarage Joe buy a 3D printer we can see also see the outcome of which search enginee that can approach average Joe, and the one that can do that will win no matter how advance.