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OTs, Start 3d Printing Today with No Money or Experience

3d printing has been taking the rehab industry by storm with the endless possibilities for creating custom tools, prosthetics and more. While many therapists have already started using 3d printed solutions to serve their clients, others feel like they do not have the resources or knowledge to use this game changing technology in their practice. There are so many benefits to using 3d printing for adaptive devices! A big one for me is that you can keep your design to reprint in the event something is broken or lost. 3d printed items are also usually cheaper than commercially produced items. I’ve been using 3d printing in my school based practice for about a year and I’ve 3d printed many helpful items such as (not an all inclusive list!)

  1. Pencil/pencil holders or grips
  2. Scissors adaptations for one handed use
  3. Adapted shovel handle for a school garden
  4. Toothpaste cap to prevent squeezing out too much 
  5. Tablet and laptop stands
  6. Document holders
  7. Switches

Plus more! 

No Design Experience Required 

You will be shocked at what has already been designed and available on the internet. While some things very specific to your client might need to be designed (we will talk more about that later), you can find many adapted tools and items ready to print online. Many of these items are available in a format where they can even be edited (ex. Made larger or smaller) using a free program online like TinkerCAD. Here are my all time favorite resources for 3d designs. I always search these sites when I am planning to 3d print an item for one of my clients. 

1. Thingiverse.com

As the name suggests, this site has a universe of things that you can print. It’s really a testament to the human spirit that so many people have designed and printed such creative and useful things to then share the designs with their fellow humans. I recommend making an account so you can “like” designs and start building an awesome arsenal of things! You can also like certain designers on Thingiverse. Sonoko is one  of my favorite OT designers on Thingiverse. She makes lots of creative and functional designs. 

2. Pinshape.com

I don’t use Pinshape quite as often as Thingiverse but when I do it’s for something FUN! Lots of great fidget and toy designs on here! You can print Lego tape!!!

3. Youmagine.com

Youmagine is similar to the other two websites. Lots of very utilitarian stuff on there. Don’t tell me your classroom or therapy room doesn’t need a hedgehog colored pencil holder!

Ok, but where do I get a 3d printer? 

I will be honest, my department does not have the budget for a 3d printer. We did just recently receive a  grant for one that will be coming next school year!!! But I’ve been printing for over a year without one…at my public library. Many libraries are now hosting maker spaces, many of which are totally free to use for community members. This is the first place I recommend you check. I made an appointment, walked in with a couple designs on Thingiverse, and had a librarian help with everything! They even provided the filament free of charge! Colleges and universities sometimes have makerspaces as well and often offer trainings and information sessions. Here is a resource guide to locations across the country! Also, try Googling makerspace near me. They are starting to pop up in Google maps!

School OTs May Have Access to 3d Printers and FREE Designers!

Many school districts are emphasizing STEM education, including 3d design and printing. Check with the high school(s) in your district. Teachers in these classes are often looking for real life projects and challenges for their classes. Our department has received fidgets, mouthstick tools, and other adapted items from student projects! Again…all free of charge!!

Go Out and Get Printing!

There is no better time to start than the present and I want you to know this is exactly how I got started 3d printing for our OT/PT department. Once I could to demonstrate that this was useful to our students I was able to get a grant for our department to have our very own 3d printing station. By this time next year, students with special needs in all 63 schools within our division will have 3d printed adaptive tools available to them through our OT/PT department. So start small and dream big! 

Don’t forget to follow @inclusiveot4schools on Instagram, Your School OT on Pinterest, and Amanda Beason OT on Youtube for all things assistive technology and school OT.

Leave a comment with any questions or ideas! Have you used 3d printing in your practice?