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3D Printing Fidgets

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3D Printing Fidgets
5 (100%) 4 votes

Recently fidgets have become popular for adults as well as children. Fidgets on the surface may seem like toys, but they are actually adaptive devices to help people focus and calm down in their everyday life.

3D printing is full of printable fidgets. Others designers have published plenty of fidget files, including the recent explosion in EDC (every day carry) designs. These use commercially available skate bearings to provide the weight needed to spin a lightweight 3D printed fidget.

Different prototype fidgets
Different prototype fidgets


Fidgets are tools for people with ADHD or sensory processing disabilities (SPD) that they can use to discreetly release nervous energy. If you know someone who taps or clicks pens at their desk, they can benefit from a fidget. While it sounds counter intuitive, a small fidgets moving in a person’s hand can actually help them concentrate and think in stressful situations. The tactile feedback from spinning or moving something in a hand can possibly help some people focus.

I personally use a wide variety of different fidgets throughout the day  while I work, to help me through long shifts and loud customers.

3d printing is great because every person fidgets in a different way; with the ability to design quickly anyone can custom design and print a fidget for their individual needs and taste.

With this in mind, here are some ways in which you can design a fidget to meet your sensory needs.


Texture

textured edc fidget prototype
textured edc fidget prototype printed in eSun bronze

For many people, the tactile feel of an object is important. We have all had scratchy wool sweaters that we hated, and cloths that we wear because they feel great. Tactile feedback from the texture of an object varies from person to person. Some people prefer smooth textures and shapes, while other (author included) prefers more knobby and bumpy textures.

With 3D printing you can embed different tactile patterns and textures into a print. From knobbed and knurled surface textures, to printing and Acetone smoothing an ABS print, many textures are possible with 3D printing. You can also print at a coarse resolution or fine resolution to vary the feel of the print.


Motion

Motion is an important way to fidget, as it provides tactile and visual feedback. Spinning EDC fidgets are popular for that reason.

Spiral bead fidget designed by author.
Spiral bead fidget designed by author.

Having a fidget that you can spin and watch helps release a lot of nervous energy in your hand, and can provide the tactile feedback need to calm and focus yourself.


Material

The mass or heft of a print can be important. Most plastics will feel very light in the hand, which may not provide the tactile feedback needed for the person.

I recently received samples of eSun PLA and Bronze PLA to test.

The bronze filament felt great, and looked like bronze wire on the spool. This is a far cry from the muddy brown of Colorfabb BronzeFill. It also had some serious heft compared to other composite filaments. Brass filament printed great, and when you print it into a filament, it adds some more mass and density to an otherwise lightweight print.

Orange eSun PLA
Orange eSun PLA

While there was some stringing in the bronze print, but it did print well at 225 C. The orange filament printed well, but the cream orange did lighten a bit through the print.

Other materials like flexible TPU  can also provide a squishy texture to your prints. TPU will also give you some safety if the person using them is prone to throwing objects.


Sound

Sound may be another thing important to anyone who uses these fidgets. We have all know the one coworker who clicks pens and taps their desk all the time. While some people are annoyed by this, others find such sounds comforting.

It can be possible to have a fidget cube with clicking sounds. You can also add other items like washers or gears to make certain sounds.

sound fidget with quion added inside.
sound fidget with quion added inside. The eSun was able to bridge this large gap of 40 mm without supports.

BFor one of my prototype fidgets I printed in eSun brass, I printed it hollow so I could put some quoin in it. The result was a fidget that spun and sounded like a kids rain stick. The bronze filament was great for this, as it helped the fidget sound louder and crisper then the plastic of the other filament design.


Fidgets in the Workplace

Fidgets are a tool to help concentration and relieve tension for children and adults. Companies can provide a 3D printer for their staff to use to design and print their own designs, or have moral boosting contest to see who can design the best one! Coworkers can share designs, or give them away as promotional items at job fairs.


DISCLAIMER: The information provided here is based on personal experience. Consult with a therapist, OT specialist or other professional when developing your own fidgets. eSun provided the filament to test with no expectation given.


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Written by 

3D-PT is a small 3D printing company started by a science teacher with autism. He has a background in CAD and science education, and believes that 3D printing can be used to help the world. 3D-PT develops products for people with autism and other disabilities. 3D-PT is also developing 3D printable products for education. 3D-PT is online at 3dpt.club Twitter: @3dfidgets

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9 thoughts on “3D Printing Fidgets

  1. I don’t know why but I want to see and hear how it behaves, I hope you have some videos of it on your channel mate

  2. tpoage@mindspring.com

    The rain stick fidigt sounds like something I would want to print. Can you make things that you can squeeze like the squishy balls people squeeze for stress ?? The more I read about the 3 D printers the more I want one. Another question what about making animal toys like for cats and dogs ??

    1. Flexible filament would be great for some fidgets, though it may quiet any sounds from a rattle.
      3D printing would work for chew toys for pets, and be a whole lot cheaper than what you get at a pet store. I would always supervise the pet as they use a printed toy in case they shred it.

  3. I’d love for my brother to have a 3D machine so he could make fidgets out the wahoo!

    1. That would be great, or you can order them from other 3D printers!

  4. choschiba

    I don’t own a printer at the moment. But if I would the fidgets would be something I’d love to print. Or maybe even try to construct myself.

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