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