Servo Magazine ( April 2017 )

Finger Spinners — The Killer App for 3D Printers?

By Bryan Bergeron    View In Digital Edition  

It seems that every successful device and software package has a killer application that propels it above the noise and into the public eye. For the PC, it was the electronic spreadsheet. For augmented reality, it was Pokémon Go.

At the time of this writing (early February of 2017), the killer app for 3D printers appears to be finger spinners — also referred to as EDC (every day carry) spinners, fidget toys, and ninja spinners.

Finger spinners are sold as desk toys and focus aides for those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorders, or ADHD. If you can find one, prices range from $5-$30 for 3D printed finger spinners, depending on the type of bearings and whether it’s printed in PLA or ABS plastic.

My first plastic spinner — which I purchased on Amazon — was an ABS model for $30. It took a month for delivery, and that was quick compared to the estimated shipping dates of the other finger spinners listed on Amazon.

As a long-time knife collector and part of the EDC community, I became aware of finger spinners last year, when high priced metal models of finger spinners became a hot topic on the knife forums. Models from the major manufacturers such as the TorqBar from MD Engineering ([url=][/url]) and the RotaBlade Stubby from RotaBlade ([url=][/url]) were selling from $130-$200, depending on the metal and treatment. I picked up a titanium spinner from UK-based RotaBlade, but had to put up with a six week wait.

Today, you can’t even get on the wait list for a TorqBar or RotaBlade. The websites list models made of copper, brass, stainless steel, and titanium, with add-ons ranging from anodizing to insertion of Tritium tubes for nighttime use.

However, if you want to actually buy one of these spinners, you’re forced to visit eBay, where I’ve seen $130 list price spinners start at $450, and they’re gone as soon as they’re listed.

Hence, the attraction of 3D printed spinners. Sure, they’re not as compelling as a shiny spinner cut from a solid block of brass or titanium, but they’re also relatively affordable.

At $30 for a spinner printed in ABS plastic, it’s still robbery, but just try buying one on Amazon or eBay. You’ll have to wait a month or more to get your hands on one — that is, unless you own a 3D printer.

Until the bubble bursts, a 3D printer, a few spools of filament, and a supply of skateboard bearings is a money-making machine.

Sure, 3D spinners — like pet rocks and chia pets — won’t change the world. At best, they’ll provide a socially acceptable outlet for fidgeters.

In a meeting, a silent spinner certainly beats someone incessantly clicking a pen or shredding a paper coffee cup.

However, what the sudden demand for an item that can’t be produced fast enough by conventional means highlights the beauty of the 3D printer. The printing of finger spinners also shows that people are willing to pay a premium for instant gratification.

At least in the EDC community, people are starting to talk about 3D printers for the first time. That’s a good thing for the consumers of the technology at all levels. As more non-technical folks become aware of the utility of the 3D printer, prices should become more competitive, and there should be more printers on the market that target everyday users. Happy 3D printing — and spinning.  SV

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