Spin to Win: 3D Printing Fidget Spinners at Your Library

Fidget spinners are experiencing a massive surge in popularity among children and teens. Libraries in possession of a 3D printer are poised to take advantage of this craze in several ways.

Designing a Program Around Them

As fidget spinners require highly precise measurements and interlocking parts, they can difficult for a newbie to create using modeling software. Using TinkerCAD, however, they can take an existing open-source schematic and then add their own customization, such as a name or logo. For the ambitious librarian seeking to design a spinner from scratch, there are some excellent tutorials to be found. 

The print times of different schematics vary, but they generally take more than an hour per spinner. As such, most program arrangements will require that your printing be done in advance. In order to create a hands-on making experience, models can be packaged in unassembled kits, requiring patrons to complete the project. Depending on the design, this may mean sanding the various hubs and using simple tools such as a rubber hammer, vice, clamp and a lubricant to press the spinner’s bearings into place. While bearings can (in some cases) be printed, it is more common to use 608 and r188 ball bearings, which can be purchased in bulk rather inexpensively. Prior to a final assembly, a fidget spinner can be painted, allowing for a further level of customization. Makerbot provides an excellent primer (no pun intended) on painting 3D prints.

As a Promotional Tool

If your library offers a public 3D printing service, publicizing your printer’s ability to manufacture fidget spinners at low-cost will provide an instant boost. The act of printing them showcases a printer’s strengths; inexpensive small-scale manufacturing, precision & rapid turnaround times. Your promotion needn’t be a sophisticated operation. Simply printing fidget spinners out on the public floor will rapidly create a word-of-mouth campaign. Alternately, recording a brief video of a library-printed fidget spinner in action and uploading it to Facebook, or for a teen audience, Snapchat or Instagram is sure to generate interest.

Another potential promotion involves distributing library branded 3D printed fidget spinners. Simply download a schematic and add your library’s branding in your design software of choice. If it’s outside your comfort zone to convert your logo to an STL file, it can be done by a third party for a few dollars. Barring this, you can add the name of your library using a text tool in TinkerCAD. Once you’ve branded your file, you can hand them out, raffle them off, or offer them as a summer reading or other program incentive. Doing this allows you to offer an inexpensive, but highly desirable prize, all while promoting your brand!

Best Practices

  • Try several schematics to find the one that works best for you. Print times will vary, and different printers may have better results with particular models. You’ll want to find a model that prints easily and has a turnaround time that you find acceptable.
  • When using an open-source file, read the instructions carefully. A fidget spinner often has exact specifications regarding infill percentage and the number of shells.
  • If you offer a public print service, ensure your policy addresses potential abuse. 3D printed fidget spinners can sell for $5-25. You likely don’t want to get stuck subsidizing someone else’s commercial operation.

Sample Fidget Spinners:

Tri Fidget Spinner Toy by 2ROBOTGUY: Well-designed classic spinner with excellent documentation. It does have a longer print time, as it requires a 100% infill.

Comfortable Fidget Spinner by Anguiano A very simple design which utilizes 40% infill. Most 3D printers will be able to create one in approximately 1 1/2 hours, so great for bulk production.

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