3D Printing


“Usually when I'm engaged with a special interest, I experience a flow state, where I feel challenged but also motivated and just very engaged for the sake of engagement. Especially for the things that are project oriented, there's a lot of satisfaction, of like, I made this thing that I didn't know how to make three days ago.”


knitted pillow with fractal pattern

Image description: A rectangular pillow featuring a fractal pattern known as Sierpinski Carpet. In this fractal, there’s a pattern of checkered rectangles that get smaller towards the edge of the pillow. In this pillow, green rectangles are set against a brown background. Both the green and the brown yarns are gradients, shifting from light to dark throughout the pillow.


This participant shared how their childhood special interest in retro video game consoles segued into an interest in hobby electronics and repair, which led them to 3D printing various parts. They told me, “One of the reasons I like 3D printing in particular is because it allows me to combine a bunch of other special interests, including research, including hobby electronics, and also a long-standing special interests I've had is fractal art, which is usually two dimensional. But I've started exploring using the 3D printer for three dimensional fractals … it's been fun, because it allows me to combine different, like, special interests with the one thing.” This pillow combined our special interests in a new three-dimensional form.

Having project oriented special interests that often involve a lot of research is very motivating for this participant. They noted that it was important for their mental health to have non-work-related projects that they knew it would feel good to work on a day-to-day basis. Special interests provide “opportunities to really dive deep into researching things and assembling information and structuring information into actionable stuff.” Sharing this information with other people was also important. Though the participant noted that they don’t need to teach a masterclass in 3D printing, sharing what they learned is a meaningful experience. They said they didn’t even really need people to respond other than to say: “I appreciate that this brings you joy. And like I support that.”