Let’s say you’ve pinched off the last sip of your 8th ginger brew, your bladder is full and you need to 3D print a part that looks like a part from your mother’s, 2nd cousin’s custom-made prosthetic. You’ll probably have to model that sucker up yourself, but maybe, just maybe, it has been modeled and uploaded somewhere else before. 3DShap.es is the new site that finds that part based on a crude model you upload or a simple text search.

3D shape search isn’t a new art, but it’s not common. We’ve seen ShapeSpace’s (now defunct) Part Browser and, more recently, 3DIndustri.es (3DI) 3D Part Source. 3DShap.es is similar to 3D Part Source (even down to the website appearance), but with a different focus. 3D Part Source focuses on sourcing 3D parts of your 3D models, 3DShap.es focuses on 3D printing parts of your 3d models.

The two are still closely related though. 3DShape.es uses 3DI’s proprietary 3D search algorithms to help you find what shape you’re searching for.  Here’s how it works.


3DShap.es indexes 3D files available across websites that host 3D files for the purpose of printing, most notably Makerbot’s Thingiverse. When you upload a 3D file to 3DShap.es, it compares the shape against all the models it has indexed, displays the result and allows you to download the model from the source or search using one of the results.

Currently, 3DShap.es is in beta with support for brep, dxf, iges, obj, step, stl and vrml.

Things we would like to see? Improved shape search, more 3d file format support, 3d viewing of results, upload and repository of models (for parts not indexed/available), send to 3d printer.

What it comes down to though is this. Is 3D part search something you need? We scan barcodes to compare prices and find local suppliers. It’s certainly feasible we could scan parts to do the same, or even send them off to be 3D printed. What 3DShap.es has done in that regard, is set themselves up to be the first to collect all available 3D printable files and search against them using your own 3D data. Ultimately however, this could be used to curb infringement on patented parts or begin projects based simply on a search.

Image: Bling print of Dr Fluff USB Robot by ThinkerThing found via 3DShap.es



Josh is founder and editor at SolidSmack.com, founder at Aimsift Inc., and co-founder of EvD Media. He is involved in engineering, design, visualization, the technology making it happen, and the content developed around it. He is a SolidWorks Certified Professional and excels at falling awkwardly.