We Are Learning 3D Printing Through Our Personal Experience…
GoPro continues to release new and better Hero action cameras each year, and they get better picture quality and more and more new features – the latest GoPro HERO4 Black edition for example, however the price also increases with that. You also need to buy additional extra accessories such as various mounts and other accessories in order to make the best of your GoPro action camera. It is good that most of the accessories are backwards compatible and the more specific ones are compatible with the latest generation of GoPro HERO4 as well as with the previous GoPro HERO3+ and HERO3 cameras. If you have a 3D printer however you are already able to 3D print many of the accessories and mounts being sold by GoPro yourself and there are also quite a few others that you cannot actually buy.
The user community that uses both 3D printers and GoPro action cameras is actually quite big and there are already a lot of contributed designs for various camera mounts and accessories that you can print yourself. There is no need to design something, the 3D models ready for printing are already available for free, and should you need something more specific that is not yet available you can use some of the readily available mounts or accessories and modify them to better suit your needs. This all saves a lot of time and actually the 3D printed mounts and accessories for GoPro action cameras can turn out to be not only significantly cheaper, but also better in some ways as you are able to use various printing settings and materials. So why not give it a try the next time you need something for your GoPro HERO action camera, just print it and test, we have done so and are really happy with the results we are getting.
One of the best things about 3D printers is that once you get one, you are able to start printing modifications and upgrades for your own device using the printer itself. Regardless of how good or expensive the 3D printer is there are usually some things that you can further improve or just make your life easier by printing some additional parts that might extend the device’s functionality. You don’t need to even design the parts yourself as many of them are already available for direct printing, at least for the Makerbot Replicator 2 printer (including many compatible models) that we use.
In fact we have already printed some upgrades for our Replicator 2 3D printer that we are using and are very happy with, apart from the upgrades that cannot be directly printed, but need to be bough separately or to be made using different hardware. Upgrades like a holder for the filament guide tube, or a better spool holder for non-standard spools with filament can save you from unsuccessful prints. Other upgrades such as upgrading the extruder filament feed mechanism or adding build plate holders can result in better quality prints. There are other upgrades that you can also find useful such as SD card or tool holders, camera holders for recoding the build process and so on and so on. Not to mention that you can also print upgrades that are purely for visual tuning and upgrades that can also be fun as they will allow you to personalize the 3D printer.
There are multiple specialized websites that serve as communities for users making 3D models for printing on 3D printers to share their work, some are freely available, and others offer their work for a price and you can even order the model to be printer and sent to you as well. If you are interested in downloading some free STL models for trying out your new 3D printer then you might want to check the following popular websites as a good starting point…
Thingiverse – a large community operated by MakerBot, a manufacturer of 3D printers, where you can find a lot of 3D models shared by users and available for free download in STL format. There are a lot of new 3D models added every day and many of the published models come with instructions and photos of successful prints, though be careful that even if some models may be available for download in STL format they may not be optimized for 3D printing and may need some extra work fixing them, but these are usually not many.
Youmagine is an alternative to Thingiverse, also operated by a 3D Printer maker – Ultimaker. Not as big as the first one, but also a good place to check often as it has some interesting designs and also apparently some of the Thingiverse users have decided to move here. Not as many new models added and users interacting and sharing photos and comments when printing an object, but the place has the potential to grow.
Cubehero is another smaller platform made to help 3D printer users to interact and collaborate on projects they are making. This project is not operated by 3D printer maker and while there are still not that many projects available, you can still find some interesting 3D models, so do check it out.
GrabCAD is not your typical place to just download free STL 3D models for printing, it has many CAD models a lot of which are also available in STL format, but not all are. You can download 3D models in other formats and also try to convert them in STL for 3D printing, but you may experience trouble with more complex ones. Nevertheless many interesting things available so do check the website out.
SketchUp 3D Warehouse is the place for 3D models for the SketchUp software previously owned by Google, but then sold to Trimble. There are a lot of SketchUp models available, though you will need to export them in STL format from the software with the help of an STL Import/Export plugin and then to print them.
TurboSquid is one of the largest 3D model resources, both free and commercial ones. Even though the 3D models available there are not specially designed for 3D printers you should be able to convert many of them into STL format and then print them.
There are other smaller resources available providing some free STL models for 3D printers as well as other 3D models not designed especially to be 3D printed. The good news is that if it is a 3D mode of something you may be able to convert it to an STL file and print it on your 3D printer. This process however could not be as easy as just opening a 3DS, DXF, OBJ or another file format and exporting it as STL model and may require some more extra work, so if you are still new to 3D printing you might want to stick for now to places that have free 3D models available in STL format to make your life easier.