MRRF: Repables, The Nonprofit 3D Object Repository


There’s a problem with online repositories of 3D printable objects: The largest repo, Thingiverse, is generally looked down upon by the 3D printing community. Thingiverse, owned by Makerbot, has seen protests, and calls for a an alternative repository. A few people have stepped up to provide a better Thingiverse, but these alternatives are either connected to specific 3D printer manufacturers like Ultimaker’s YouMagine, or have done some shady things with open source licenses; Defense Distributed’s DEFCAD, for example.

Repables, launched at the Midwest RepRap Festival this last weekend, hopes to change that. They are the only repository of printable objects and design files out there that’s backed by its own nonprofit LLC. It’s free for anyone to upload their parts and share, without the baggage that comes with an ‘official [company name] .STL repo’.

Just about everything can be hosted on Repables – .STL files for printable objects, .DXF files for laser cutter files, and even PCB files and Gerbers for circuit boards. Now, .STL files are able to be rendered in the browser, with support for viewing other formats coming soon.

It’s a really great idea that solves the problem of printer manufactures building their own hosting sites and the segmentation that ensues. It’s also headed up by a Hackaday alumnus, []. We’re everywhere, it seems.

40 thoughts on “MRRF: Repables, The Nonprofit 3D Object Repository

    1. Hi I’m a co-founder at, a free/open source 3D print-file repository and aggregator. Everyone wins with this news. It’s great to see another repository up. It’s only a good thing for there to be many networks rather than one big one. Best of luck to Repables! We look forward to seeing cool stuff on your site, and hope you find cool stuff on our site.

  1. Dan from here. Was Repables at MRRF officially? Sproutform was there with a big presence, but we did not see a Repables table or display of any kind, and we only talked to one guy who was affiliated with Repables. He didn’t seem to know what he wanted to do with the site, and told us that he wasn’t sure he was going to continue developing it going forward. This article was a big surprise to me, because I didn’t realize that MRRF was supposed to be his launch. I can’t help but feel that Hackaday is doing its readers a disservice to ignore Sproutform who had a much larger presence and has a more mature platform.

    Sproutform is serious about building a printer agnostic community that enhances our ability to create truly useful 3d printable content. Sproutform is not a hobby. It is our full time job, and we’re putting our full effort into building a better content community. We’ve been talking about the “no baggage” approach for a long time, first with PhysibleExchange and now with our new direction: Sproutform. That is why we made the trip from Boston, and spent that last 3 days at MRRF talking with as many RepRappers as possible (and losing our voices in the process) about Sproutform’s philosophies, how to develop better 3d printable content, and how Sproutform can contribute. Sproutform is approaching this challenge in a unique way, and everyone at MRRF seemed genuinely excited. If you’re looking for a better platform for sharing 3d printable content, please check us out.

      1. @Andrew, you do need to sign in. The reason this is true is because Sproutform learns what you like by your site activity (downloads, upvotes, downvotes etc) and learns how to show you more content that you like. It’s free to sign, up and we will absolutely never reveal your email address to anyone.

        1. Requiring an account to download things will put a lot of people off, regardless of what “services” you offer due to history tracking. You’ve already put an obstacle in the sharing process, and the feeling is that it’s only one tiny step to move from requiring an account, to requiring a subscription.

          1. Hi macegr, keith@sproutform here.

            You can browse the site without signing up at I understand that requiring an account to use the advanced features isn’t ideal for everybody, but we’re focused on providing users with a unique experience which allows them to more easily find content that’s important to them. We think the benefit of the unique experience outweighs the inconvenience of signing up. It only takes ten seconds, and we hope that most people will understand.

        2. I’ve got an awesome compromise suggestion. Make registration optional. If I want your suggestions “feature” I’ll choose to opt in. Otherwise, I won’t choose to opt in and you won’t have to track my activities (which you shouldn’t really have any business doing in the first place in my opinion).

    1. Dan I think you might be missing the point of the article.

      Repables is unique in that it has been founded with a non-profit LLC behind it. This implies some degree of long term trust in how the company will do business in the future. What’s stopping you at Physibles from selling Sproutform in the future to some corporate entity that changes the terms & conditions out from under us the way Thingiverse did?

      1. In your opinion, what about a non-profit LLC implies some degree of long term trust? The only thing required to change a terms of service is a desire to operate differently. And indeed, a non-profit LLC is no different from any other kind of company in this respect.

        We have stated publicly that we’ll never change the TOS to require users to give us the rights to sell their content or prevent you in any way from doing what you want with it. Your content is YOURS. Period. We only need you to grant us a license to host it and display it. We’re working on making that clearer, and we’re also looking into adding a clause in the TOS which prevents us from changing it in that manner.

        1. I honestly have no particular concern with regards to the TOS either way, I’m all for companies trying to make products that work in this space without being ‘evil’. But there is a difference with a company that’s non-profit vs a ‘for profit’ enterprise and how I trust what they will do in the long term with the site.

          A non-profit has no requirement to make profits to satisfy its board members pockets, this means they should not be driving the site in ways that are designed to exclusively profit the company rather than the contributors. This is what I mean by long-term trust.

          How can I be sure that your investors won’t want a return some day? When they do how will you deliver? Advertising? Sponsorship? Subscriptions for ‘premium’ features? Whats the plan?

          I’m not bringing this up out of any preference for one site vs the other, in fact I’m happy putting my ‘things’ up on Github. But its an interesting topic for discussion and I’m just playing devils advocate here.

          1. I don’t want to get too deep into a debate about profit vs non-profit companies, but in a capitalistic society every company needs to find an avenue for revenue. And that could lead to the desire to change the TOS regardless of the type of corporate entity. To say that non-profits would not be driving the site in ways that are designed to profit the company is simply not in line with reality.

            Sadly, we have had to spend an enormous amount of time evangelizing about how Sproutform wont abuse your content rather than talking about how to advance the state of 3d printable content as we know it today.

            The bottom line is this: Sproutform has made a public promise not to claim ownership of your content or change the TOS in such a way as to violate that philosophy.

          2. The company that controls UPC/EAN barcodes is a nonprofit and they are a bunch of jerks to small companies/hobbyists. Ditto with the nonprofit that controls USB vendor IDs.

            Nothing about nonprofits mean they will be decent in the future, just that they don’t have shareholders that extract money from the company. They can even be rigged to benefit the founders/management/directors, which is why the management at GS1 USA are all paid mid 6 figures and the board of directors are usually current or former employees of companies like Walmart.

        1. The idea that you guys are trying to claim that downloading is an “advanced” feature of a REPOSITORY is truly absurd in the extreme. You don’t need to be tracking and data-mining my activity on your site.

    2. Honestly, beside my more technical issues mentioned below I’ve got to say that having your goon squad show up and sling mud; FUD; and he-said-she-said innuendo in a news story about a competing service really does strike me as vermin level behavior. I’m not associated directly with any of this stuff (and have only ever, occasionally, used Thingiverse in the past) but your behavior here has been exceedingly scummy.

      1. Well I’m truely sorry to hear that. We made the mistake of thinking we were participating in an open discussion. The “goon squad” you’re talking about is just me and Dan, the only two people working on the project. This discussion is going nowhere, and we’re ending now.

          1. My initial comment was posted only to let others know that Sproutform is another example of a place to check out when looking for a safe, honest place to share your printables. It’s extremely difficult to get the word out about something like this. You have to get out there and pound the pavement. Take every opportunity you get. We have literally invested our life savings around getting this thing off the ground. It’s really sad to see a couple of trolls come along and trample on it. RepRappes are constantly complaining about having a good place to share their printables. We have promised to be that place. We are honest, hard working people simply trying to get an idea off the ground. I am extremely saddened by the way this discussion has turned out. I apologize for my part in that. I hope you guys can cut us some slack if we overstepped.

          2. Nah, your original comment was posted to complain about Repables getting some coverage, and implying they weren’t a REAL website based on hearsay. You claimed that Hackaday was doing readers a disservice by covering Repables instead of your own website. It’s a good thing that Hackaday comments can’t be edited.

  2. Maybe you sproutform guys should back off a little and let Repables have their 15 minutes, it’s bad form you be invading the comments of their post. Seems a little spammish.

    1. Well I’m bummed to hear that. I thought we were participating in a free and opened discussion about the merits of the Thingiverse alternatives — and we’re just replying to comments and participating in discussion.

  3. Sprout,

    I’ll start that you did have a moment of attention with the idea of the seed thing, where people could upload the basic ‘thing’ that people could design the additions/replacements/upgrades for, but…

    It’s sad to see this, really. There are many, MANY reasons that really shine now why you should step back and look at this more seriously. FIRST, your very first statement, after your website plug, was asking if they were “Officially” at mrrf. Do you get what MRRF is, or reprap is? There is no ‘official’, It’s for anyone and everyone. Why would anyone have to ‘officially’ be there to be seen? There were plenty of people and printers and things there ‘unofficially’ that are as cool or cooler than some. Second, you claim to be a more mature platform in that first paragraph. I found 50 total things on your site, of which NONE could be downloaded btw, without registering. I found 125 things on repables. That’s a hugely low number for either really. Your ‘no baggage’ approach seems to end where you forced ppl to register to download anything. As for truly useful content, it looks like the same thing as any other file site. In order to keep YOUR version of useful, you would have to remove things that you deem un useful, which is kinda lame to be the keeper of what’s good or bad. BTW, just noticed that your most recent upload was over one month ago? Hmmm, repables has had fairly active uploads form week to week, from what i’ve seen. We can both agree you are “approaching this in a unique way” but i think unique is not the word here.

    Who’s to say you wouldn’t have been featured on hackaday in the first place? It’s been a few days with posts of projects from mrrf, maybe you were next in line?

    1. When I said “officially” what I meant was that Reppables did not have a table, fliers, etc, nor were they, to my knowledge, even promoting at MRRF as were the other companies that were “officially” present. My gut says that you probably understand that, though you still took the opportunity to ding me. Touché. That’s ok. You can lecture me about the RepRap experience all you want. I love it. I’ve been a part of this community for years. It doesn’t pain me one bit to hear people like you promoting it.

      By the way, we don’t remove things from the site that are not useful or moderate it in any way at present except of course for violations of copyright etc. Sproutform is 100% community moderated. The useful content will bubble to the top as the community provide their votes.

      We feel that Sproutform as a platform is more mature. I didn’t mention anything about content count. These sites are extremely difficult to seed. You cant get people to the site without the content, and you cant get the content without the people. Instead we have focused on building the platform and speaking with companies about incorporating real world “seed forms” onto the site. Once these seed forms are in place, it will allow people to make truly useful derivatives. As we said before, we are taking a completely different approach.

  4. Wow, look what happened here :).

    I agree that Non-Profit or For-Profit labels are no measure of “honesty to a community”.

    The larger question I see is how do we all get a “verified” alternative. I would love to know how to illustrate is really an arena for “free play” for now and the future.

    Would our recent adventure of providing a free, Open Source, Mendel Max to Albania give people the idea? Would giving ownership of the site to a newly created “Always Free Arena” organization to oversea do it?

    3D Hacker doesn’t advertise, does not ask for registrations to download or view anything, creates free tutorials and unboxing reviews on 3D Printers, and have interviewed the creator for Slic3r, creator of Cura, Shapeways technology in the Netherlands, and just recently 2 Open Source printer makers in California this month all for free.

    How does the message get passed to people we’re in it for “fun not profit”?

    Thanks, great discussions and deep criticism here!

  5. What are people using in terms of 3d design services (as opposed to 3d printing services)? I have no ability in using solidworks (or autocad, or whatever is used to make the step files), but I would love some simple objects printed, but need them modeled first!

    Is there any such mechanism at Repables, Thingverse, SproutForm, 3DHacker, physibles, etc or is there a devoted website for 3d freelancing?

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