We’re going to discuss 3D printed fidget spinners today. We’ve seen a lot of opportunity with this product, both in the engineering side of things as well as in design. We’re going to mention a few favorites of ours that we’ve seen and what we like about them. We’re also going to share some ideas that we have on how this can be a great project, both for adults and for students.
3D Printed Fidget Spinners
We are going to talk about 3D printed fidget spinners. These models of fidget spinners that are 3D printable have exploded on all the file sharing sites in the last six months to nine months. They’ve just completely exploded. I think there’s something to talk about just in that and then I want to get into some of the details of why I think these are great models and great projects.
I have to say I’m not a big fan of the fidget spinner but what I’m really impressed with as we’ve been looking at some of these ones online is the design variety has been huge, the engineering changes that some have made, like changing the shape and the form of it. I’m really impressed by the expansion of it. We’ve seen a lot of those early projects when we saw a lot of the 3D printed dice that was for gamers and gaming, for specific games that you play. They would have all these different types of dice. There might be a creative patterning going on them. There are some very nice designs but they don’t have very broad appeal. They just didn’t take them far enough in reinventing the way that a dice work. Some of these reinventing with the fidget spinner works and I think it’s really cool.
So many opportunities and so many different options that I think you can have fun with if you just want to do a cool project or that you can use as a teaching tool if you’re in the education space. Believe me, you’re going to get every kid’s attention in the class if you assign them to create their own version of a fidget spinner. Their parents may not be so thrilled with that project but at the end of the day I think it’s a really cool one. Or it’s fine because when you think about it, just on a basic level, generally they don’t take very long to print. They’re relatively small and relatively thin. You can achieve a print in a short period of time and get a rather quick satisfaction just for the printing aspect. The design and creation of it may be a little bit more time consuming. This is not a gargantuan project but I think there’s so much that you can get out of it.
Back to our 3D class design. We have design principles, it was a course early in my education, things like that. We had 3D design was the basic and a freshmen foundation program at Rhode Island School of Design where we met. I always think back that sometimes they would say, “Here’s a pack of Balsa wood, here’s some glue and here’s some string. Make something out of it.” I think that this is that same kind of project in the sense that here is the basic construction, here’s ball bearings, and you’re going to make a fidget spinner. It has to function like this. It has to spin. Everything else is game. I think that there are so many ways to be creative in things that you can do. You could assign different materials to your students if you’re a teacher or to your kid if you’re a mom or a dad. Give them a project to do. There’s so many different principles of physics and science and things that you could get involved and undertake and it’s all very affordable, too.
For instance, here’s one of my big things. Very often with fidget spinners, you need a ball bearing in the center because that’s where the primary spinning function goes. Very often, this bearing sets are also used as the weight at the two or three points or four points sometimes at the perimeter of the whole geometry to give it weight so that when it spin, it keeps spinning for a longer period of time. To me, that seems like a little bit of a waste of material. Bearings are not the cheapest part of all this. They do have weight to them which is great but you can use so many other materials out of the perimeter to add weight, like nuts or bolts and different other things that are decorative, coins or pennies or quarters.
One of the most creative ones that I really like is what’s called a centrifugal fidget spinner because it has ball bearings that actually travel and have grooves they travel in. When you spin it, centrifugal force pulls them to the outside where they’re going to actually add weight and cause it to spin more and faster. As it slows down and stops, those ball bearings are allowed to move.
To me, not only from a physics perspective but from a 3D printing perspective, you have to start that 3D print, get to a certain point in the print, then drop in those ball bearings and keep printing to capture them. Here are some other aspects of 3D printing and creation of a part and joining materials together that you have to learn. You’re going to also learn that fit and form thing that we talked about a while ago and where you have the issue of that is it tight enough for this? Are the ball bearings going to slip out? They might work great in your model but then they don’t work as you start printing it. There’s also that experience that needs to happen in that process of understanding how to fix your fit in the processing. That iterative process is going to inevitably happen. You would learn from it. I think that’s also very true of the central ball bearing that you’re going to put into it because they really all are press fit into the center.
The whole concept of a press fit is a concept that not everyone other than engineers or certain product designers or makers who have experienced it would really understand. Press fitting parts together in manufacturing is a serious thing that’s done all the time. You need to have the tolerance just right, the dimensions exactly so between the hole you’re going to press fit the ball bearing into and that outside dimension of that ball bearing. If you get it right once you push it in there, not only are you going to be able to push it in there, but you’re probably not going to be able to get it out without breaking the material that it’s going into. Getting that just right and understanding you can’t put a one inch diameter object into a one inch diameter hole. There’s a whole mind-blowing learning experience for people.
Here’s a color opportunity at that point. This one is created by Biocode. On this case, at the point at which you stop it to drop in the ball bearings, you could create basically a two-color, two-sided. You could change out your filament color and create a different top color so you could have one color on one side and one color on the other side. I think there’s also a fun, playful opportunity to do something creative as well here.
I really love this one by someone named Adrian Mankovecky. It’s like taking a fidget spinner and made it even more dimensional. It’s like three-dimensional jumping off the build plate. It’s super cool. I don’t know how it spins. You really can spin this one in three different because it’s giving you three axis of ball bearings. You’re not just spinning it on one ball bearing in the center but two that are spaced apart in that axis. It is so cool. I have not gotten so excited in our 3D printing experience with downloading and printing other people’s files very much except now that it’s come to fidget spinners. Some of these really excite me and I’d like to print them.
Because they’re interactive. Getting to experience how they work is more than just printing out a file. You’re moving from that space of you’re just printing a design and somebody else did, too. Now you’re going to experience it. There’s thousands of these fidget spinner designs out there. There’s a couple of them that are Batman and you’ve got some that are gears. There have been some very popular downloadable 3D print files for years that are sets of planetary gears that are printed all in one print. You break them apart, slightly rotating them, and then they function as real captured gears that rotate each other. There are some fidget spinner designs that do the same thing. I think that those are really good learning tools and fun projects as well.
They’re not using that triplex kind of way that fidget spinners are. Some of them are doing them with two ends. You have different weights that they’re using whether coins or bolts and nuts. So many different designs out there that you can play with, start with, just try them out, but then you can build off of these and expand on them and make something unique to you. You can play with textures and surfaces. I’ve seen some that have knurled surfaces on the edge, which if you spin it, you could almost sand something with it probably if you got it fast enough. There’s one that looks like a ninja star which is really cool.
There are so many aspects of the project. Even learning to buy off the shelf parts and the right kind of parts you might need and the bearings. Since fidget spinners have started, the ball bearing industry has increased a major uptake in sales and I wonder if they really understand why. Also, a lot of them recommend making sure that you have the lubricant on hand, the WD40 on hand. Even if you don’t use sealed bearing, you can bring it back to life.
I think there’s also game opportunities with these fidget spinners. Just sitting and spinning, it’s a cool geometric thing. Do you remember the old toy everybody at a certain age got into that’s a gyroscope? Or you had other spinning toys that had the little metal wire frame. It was magneted and you would turn it down and up and it will keep spinning and go around. People like spinning toys in general. I think that’s part of why they’re so popular. It’s interactive, it’s moving. It’s fascinating. Now, it’s taking this type of toy and object to another level. There’s a project that is called a Beyblade Fidget Toy where you actually have a mount that you put the fidget spinner on. Then, you have a tool that you put into it and pull out. It’s like a rip cord where it really amplifies the spinning force to make the fidget spinner spin much faster RPM than you could ever spin it by hand on your own. Even spinning tops that people used to do.
The reality is the physics and the geometry of what’s going on here are fun enough, but to me, the design opportunities and the creation opportunities, the experimentation opportunities are just so obvious and wonderful. Don’t underestimate the color opportunities because you got it flat, and you‘re looking at it and you’ve printed it and you have color that you’ve created. Once it starts spinning and that color mix happens and it starts to look like rainbows or whatever it might be doing and blurring. There’s a couple that have fins and you have two colors, I bet you the way that they’re spinning is just like mesmerizing.
Let’s say you are an adult or a teenager in their later teenage years and you want to take the project to another level and you want to experiment with electric circuits and things, the centrifugal force gives you an opportunity, you could put some small coin cell batteries into these things. You can have some small LED lights and make it so that the switch only turns on when the centrifugal force is applied, when it’s spinning, so that you can actually make things light up. There are fidget spinners on the market that are battery operated that do have LED lights. I think as a project, you could do this on your own. Instead of having a traditional switch, you actually just move your finger and turn it on. You could build that into that function of the object.
There are some other fun ones. I think there’s a lot of people that really won’t recognize this one that I like, which is resembling an adaptor for a 45 RPM record to make it on a normal record player with a small hole. You can have a lot of fun with these things. I like the one that’s called a spiral moray. That’s what I was talking about in terms of the color and other things like that. You’re going to get this moray of factor, you get the mesmerizing effect. I just think there’s so much opportunity.
For those kids out there who are listening to WTFFF here, this is a way to justify getting fidget spinners into your classroom. Propose that subject to your teacher if they haven’t thought of it already and pitch to them that, “You’ll have a class just hanging on your every word and wanting to participate in this and working their butts off on this project.” This must be already going on in a ton of classrooms. If it’s not going on in yours whether you’re a student or a teacher, I think you got to get into it. We highly recommend it. It looks like a lot of fun.
We’ll have lots of images of the ones we’ve been talking about and some of the others we thought were our favorites on social media @3DStartPoint. Thanks for listening everybody. Hope you enjoyed this one.
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