I Ordered a 3D Printer – Goals and Future Projects

It has been a long time coming, but I finally ordered a 3d Printer for my home office. I am excited to explore the possibilities and already overwhelmed with how to calibrate it. The good news for me and everyone is the lowered barrier to entry. They are not as expensive as you think they would be. One could be had for several hundred dollars from popular online retailers and there are plenty of videos online for how to use these things.

One thing that I never spent the time to really practice was 3D modeling. However, there are beginner-friendly apps such as Tinkercad which are intuitive, free, and even available on the cloud to begin using right away without installing software. YouTube has tutorials on how to use programs such as Fusion 360.

Hopefully, setup goes smoothly along with my first test print. From what I heard, these devices can get quite noisy so I will be setting up a spot for it in the garage. My plan is to have the printer pay for itself by selling something on Etsy and then expanding out to the occupational therapy world.

There are already a lot of great free 3D samples and models for adaptive and assistive technology on websites such as Thingiverse if you type in the search term ‘occupational therapy’.

Amazing!… Oh, wait, only 2 pages worth of models though.

Some of these are made by OT students. Props to the OT educators who are earlier adopters of this kind of technology. However, there is room for libraries such as 3D printing libraries to grow. One of my goals is to add to these libraries and to create a library on this website. That’s another project rabbit hole that sounds like fun that can benefit the OT community as well as clients too.

I have always been split on assistive devices themselves. Personally, I focus and aim for remediation approaches instead of compensatory ones. Most people would agree that they would rather be able to perform something functionally instead of relying on another ‘thing’ instead. However, there are times when compensatory techniques are needed. For example, I can not remember to put eye drops on my dog 3x a day so I set an alarm on my smartphone – compensatory.

One barrier to assistive devices that I have seen in the real world is cost. In an ideal world, patients would have deep pockets and be able to afford even basic and low-cost things such as reacher grabbers and sock aids. Realistically, they cannot. I think that is one thing that students and new grads often do not realize. Many people are living off their social security check and devoting a large portion of that to living expenses, especially rent. Sure, they would love to purchase assistive devices for aging in place or chronic diseases, but they cannot afford it.

3D printing can bring this price down because your two costs are essentially for (1) filament and (2) electricity.

*Not counting the time and labor involved with modeling, troubleshooting, and maintenance.

I hope my 3D modeling skills catch up to speed as I was never one to be good with Legos, drawing, or working with my hands. Thankfully, I can use a mouse and am somewhat a perfectionist when it comes to my digital life. It would be awesome if I could find a way for my functional 3D prints to reach clients directly for free or at a reduced cost. Maybe I can add them to the OT Dude Store (which now accepts Crypto by the way).

What are your ideas? Is there something you would like me to try and make? Let me know!

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Jeff is a licensed occupational therapist and lead content creator for OT Dude. He covers all things occupational therapy as well as other topics including healthcare, wellness, mental health, technology, science, sociology, and philosophy. Buy me a Coffee on Venmo.