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Review of 3 3D Printing Sites

I’ve been on the 3d Model publishing scene for almost a year now, and have learnt quite a lot from lurking and interacting with various sides of the community to improve my 3D printing skills and protect my models from theft.
In this article, I aim to cover the 3 largest websites for publishing 3D-printable objects and share some of the knowledge I gathered from working within each community.

Portions of the site/community that are negative will be displayed in an orange header, whilst positive will be displayed in a green header. Neutral will be in a grey header.

Cults 3D

This was the first 3D printable website I encountered when I started inquiring into sharing my work. It’s also, in my opinion at least, the least intuitive of the 3 websites.

Whilst Cults allows you to make a store and upload your work for free, or paid, they only allow you to take payment in Euros if you use PayPal, with a minimum withdrawal amount of 5 Euros. If you use Payoneer, you can get paid in USD but the minimum threshold is 7 USD.
You can take a bank transfer into whatever currency you want, but the minimum withdrawal threshold is ludicrous at 500 Euros.

They also sit on the payments for several weeks, stating it is for “refund purposes”, and still they do not automatically pay the funds for you; you have to go back and forth to your sales page to see if you can withdraw payments, and initiate said payments into your account, which still takes multiple days to process.
Percentage-wise, Cults3D take approximately 20% of all sales revenue but also has additional fees from PayPal payments, so you can have 25% of your revenue lost in fees.

It doesn’t matter how well-established you are; I have spoken to some popular model creators on the site, and they have the exact same complaints about the payment system. If you want a streamlined payment experience, you will not get it from Cults3D.

There is also no rewards scheme or incentives to provide models for free on Cults3D, aside from getting traffic to your page.

When you upload a model, you can choose to import from Printables or Thingiverse, but I have never been able to get that feature to work, and from my talks with other creators, the system is just very unreliable; sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

Aside from the import options, you can just upload a model outright.

You will be presented with a page like my example, where you can provide a lot of information on the model and its categories. When you upload a raw file, such as an STL, Cults3D will generate a render of it that people can interact with, a bit like my 3D models on display on the “notable characters” page of my site.

You cannot embed images or videos into the description, so you will have to include anything that is for setting up the model (before printing it) in the regular pictures area, however, if you upload too many images or videos, your 3D-render sample will be outright removed and there is nothing you can do about it aside from cutting back on your pictures and videos significantly.

The biggest gripe, which is shared by many in the community, is the sheer lack of ability to save a draft; when you upload to Cults3D, it must be done there and then. You cannot save any drafts.

Another huge issue with Cults3D is their servers; they are painfully slow. Sometimes I have uploaded all my images and they display fine in the thumbnails, but when clicked they show nothing. It can take several days for the images to show up, you might get lucky and see them on day one.

Every model creator I spoke to on Cults3D was professional and friendly, we could talk about pretty much anything in the mesh-making world and a lot of techniques I picked up were from these people, but the same cannot be said for all the “Makers” of the community.

For definition’s sake, a “Maker” is someone who 3D prints the models, and that’s it; they do not work with Meshes, Rigs, or Topology. They do not use 3D modelling software; they use Slicers.

Makers usually leave pictures of their prints on the models’ page or leave feedback. On Cults3D, I rarely saw them do either.

Some model creators 3D print other people’s work too and can be called Makers, but the side of the community I am identifying as problematic are the exclusive Makers who have never touched a 3D modelling program in their life, and are there just to print models for money. Be cautious of these people in particular, as they treat even a free model as if it were something they paid you for, that you work for them even though they don’t pay you anything, and that your assets are up for them to sell at trade shows regardless of what the license says.

You cannot do anything to stop these people on the site, you can’t even report them; you can only protect your assets from theft by applying stamps to the mesh, ingrained deep enough so that if they attempt to “shave” it off using their slicer they will just ruin the model.

For example, the below image shows the head of my Articulated Shenron v2; the jaw has a stamp with my creator’s name on it, and if a thief tries to shave it off or cover it with primitives, the jaw will not print correctly. Heads are often the most common part of a model to be ripped and used in Remixes, so I would propose applying your stamp to the underside of any heads you make.

There is no forum on Cults3D, and I am glad there isn’t.

The search feature and categories are excellent on Cults3D, and people organically find my items and pages relatively well. Whilst Cults3D still suffers from GenAI garbage like most of the internet these days, it shows very little impact on the search engine, favouring models with real photographs over models with a simple render or no images at all.

I rarely, if ever, see other creators’ models reuploaded to Cults3D, including bogus or illegal Remixes. The reason? You get no rewards for sharing models for free, and you cannot sell models without a payment system in place; perpetrators of stolen models are often under the legal age limit to open a PayPal, Payoneer, or Stripe account.

With no incentive or rewards in place, they have no reason to upload to Cults3D. However, whilst stolen models aren’t shared much ON Cults3D, a lot of models get stolen FROM Cults3D.

Printables

This is the newest site I joined, having been there since December 2023.
Printables

Printables allow you to start selling models right away, or I should say, a single model. Once you set up Stripe as your payment provider, you can list one model to sell; if you sell it ten times, you can then add four more models. Sell twenty-five, and the figure is bumped up to ten models. To have unlimited models up for sale, you need to sell a total of fifty items.

All models are charged, and you are paid, in USD straight into your bank account. There is no holding of payment, and no manual payout scheme; everything is handled automatically through Stripe.

Depending on your country’s currency, the conversion rate may affect how much Stripe pays into your bank account.
Percentage-wise, Printables take 20% of all sales revenue and don’t include fees for using Stripe to pay you.

Whilst the payment process is excellent, setting up the shop is really slow, especially with how poor their search algorithm works.

Uploading models to Printables is very simple; you are given the option to import from Thingiverse or upload directly to the site.
As I do not have a Thingiverse account, I did not use this import feature.

Everything on the upload page is displayed in a single column, making it much easier to use as a checklist.

You will be presented with a page like my example, where you can provide a lot of information on the model and its categories. When you upload a raw file, such as an STL, Printables will generate a render of it that people can interact with, a bit like Cults3D, only significantly better. The 3D render also doesn’t vanish if you upload a lot of pictures!

You can embed images and video into your model description, and also format the text with headers, bold or italic styles, and even underlines.

You can save your progress as a draft anytime you wish, and all files uploaded to their servers without any errors or delays. Overall, a far more pleasant experience.

Unlike Cults3D, not every model creator I messaged got back to me. Even Makers were relatively quiet, rarely leaving comments or pictures of their prints.
The only way to feel a part of this community is to engage with them on the forums, however, the Printables/Prusa Forums are so poorly optimised and slow that they are just not pleasant to use.

If you have issues with a person on the site or spot stolen work, you can report it. The reporting process is VERY hands-off, however; once you send the report, you won’t know if action has been taken or not against the offending individual.

The categories are excellent on Printables, however, the search feature and organic discoverability are shameful. GenAI garbage shows very little impact on the search engine, favouring models with real photographs, but the sheer quantity of reuploaded stolen content, or bad quality remixes, drowns out the algorithm, leaving your models buried beneath a torrent of trash.

Prusameters are points you earn through using the site, such as sharing models on Printables. For certain milestones, such as getting thirty downloads and three likes on a single model, you get Prusameters. You don’t need to set up any bank or payment details to earn these points, and the points are redeemed through a week-long manual review period. You redeem the points for free spools of filament, and Prusa-themed clothing, or save up enough and you can get an entire 3D printer for free with them.

This incentive has unfortunately attracted model thieves; if you live within range of the Prusa delivery hub, you don’t need to pay for postage and can have things sent to you without setting up payment systems. This allows minors to exploit the system to free stuff and trust me, they do; models stolen from my Makerworld and Cults3D accounts were all taken by people who were very obviously under the age of 18, stating on their profiles that they came just to “get a free printer”.

Printables has made no indication of improving their incentive system, to require uploaders to register with a payment system assigned to the account. They have also failed to acknowledge this very obvious flaw in their system, and don’t seem to listen to community feedback.

MakerWorld

This site is one of the youngest of the three, having only left Beta in late 2023.
It also has the most problematic community on the 3D-modelling side of the internet.

Keeping it simple; you cannot sell anything on MakerWorld. Your models must always be free. Also, the Customer Support for all of BambuLab’s stuff is atrocious, including MakerWorld.

Uploading models to MakerWorld is pretty simple and is handled through a multiple-page step-by-step process.

You can save your progress at any time as a draft, and come back to it later.

You will be presented with a page like my example, where you can provide a lot of information on the model and its categories.

When you upload a file of any kind, MakerWorld generates a 3D render that people can view and interact with, much like Printables.

You can embed images and video into your model description, and also format the text with headers, bold or italic styles, and even underlines.

Model creators, who haven’t come from Cults3D or Printables at least, were all very aggressive and spiteful whenever I tried to talk to them if they bothered to reply to my messages. The overall vibes I got from people were anger or paranoia, and having used the site for nearly a year I can understand now why model creators are so hostile.

Makers on this site are the sole root of the entire site’s problems, and MakerWorld’s owner, bambuLab, has themselves to blame for this.
BambuLab, the owner of MakerWorld, advertised this platform for their printers to use, which in turn are advertised as “beginner-ready” printers. Anyone with experience in 3D printing knows there is no such thing as a “beginner-ready” printer; you have to learn machine quirks, material requirements, hotend and hotplate cleaning techniques, bed levelling, proper processing for removal of the print from the hotplate, and so on.

90% of all Makers on MakerWorld that interact with my work do not know ANY of these things, and a vast portion of that percentage don’t read anything you put on the site either. They have been led to believe BambuLab stuff works right out of the box, and that if their print fails it’s the model creator’s fault, and not their lack of 3D printing knowledge.

The forums are just outright horrendous; what started out as a pleasant enough community back in the Beta days has turned into a toxic wasteland of disgruntled BambuLab customers taking their anger out on creators, rather than learning to work with their machines.

You can report everything and everyone, it’s easy to do and handled pretty quickly. You also get notified if your report is accepted or rejected. However, with the rate at which you’ll be hitting that report button, it doesn’t make any difference how fast the staff deals with it; the root of the problem still exists and will continue to sprout more things to be reported.

Much like Printables, this can be explained by MakerWorld having people who are very obviously under the age of 18 using it, only there are far more of them. We’ll cover this under the theft category soon.

It doesn’t matter if the search engine or categories are any good, you simply cannot utilise them properly because of several terrible decisions MakerWorld had made during its development.
The first mistake is that MakerWorld not only embraces GenAI trash, but it also encourages it actively by giving it its own category. This has opened the floodgates to GenAI swill flooding into the site at such a rapid rate, that any genuine models get buried the instant they are uploaded.
Another issue is with the uploading of trash models; people uploading nothing but a cube, multiple times a day, for several weeks, is one example. This is done for point-farming and serves no other purpose.

So, unless you’re already well established, good luck trying to get anywhere on the algorithm of the site; there is that much rubbish on it, it’s no wonder the 3D printing community as a whole calls it “TrashWorld”.

To put it simply; MakerWorld Points work similarly to Prusameters from Pritnables. You get points by interacting with the site, primarily by sharing models. The only major difference is that, unlike Printables, point redemption is done automatically and NOT by manual review. Your account can get manual reviews now and again if you get a lot of points very quickly, or if your account is suspected of point-farming, but these have done nothing to solve the problems the site has.

Like Printables, kids can make accounts, and farm points, and redeem those points for gift cards to spend on anything in the BambuLab store; if they get enough cards, they can get things from the site for free, and not require payment information to be set up.

You will find stolen models, botched illegal remixes, fake models, GenAI filth, and reuploads of reuploads on the home page daily. It doesn’t matter what systems MakerWorld introduces, the point farmers will continue to exploit it.

BambuLab is so determined to make its platform the largest collection of free 3D models that they are prepared to allow blatant theft and poor quality to swell their numbers. They show little interest in the community concerns, even if they say they do care about them. It’s all meaningless words to state the populace, and reassure them that even though they are going to do nothing about the problem, they still hear them.


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