Career Planning Program for Self-employment

The HUB strongly encourages and supports community employment, but for many individuals with autism, cognitive delays, communication impairments, or extreme sensitivity to common, unavoidable stimuli, the sights, sounds, crowds, and distractions in typical workplaces are distressing and overwhelming.

Self-employment allows you to work at your own pace, or projects and activities that you enjoy, performed in an environment of your choosing, without distractions. Because of all these advantages, we have designed our very own program to prepare for self-employment using 3D Printing. Our 3D Printing Self-Employment Program (3DSE) provides countless opportunities and growth for everyone!

What is “additive manufacturing” and “3D printing” and why is the process well suited for you?

The term 3D printing can be used to define several different types of additive manufacturing processes. The HUB’s Career Planning program focuses on the most common form, Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), where a machine deposits raw materials in a layer-by-layer format utilizing a computer numeric control (CNC) program to produce a solid object. The machine continues to add material until the object is complete, hence the term “additive manufacturing.”

This is starting to sound technical, isn’t it? 3D printing can be very technical, but then again, so can your smartphone, and just like your smartphone, you don’t have to know all the technical aspects of a 3D printer to be successful at using it! In fact, most of us do not understand the electronics or programming that makes a given device (such as a phone, TV, and car) work, but we use them every day.

If you are someone who likes working on modern technology and creating, but find it hard to maintain community employment, this program is perfect for you!

Barriers to Community Employment

Self-employment can be very helpful for a wide variety of individuals, including people with physical, cognitive, or neurological impairments. Some of the most common barriers to community employment are behaviors often associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), one of the most common diagnoses we see today. These can include communication, sensory sensitivity, self-stimulation, and other behaviors. We will break down the top four ordinary obstacles and explain why 3D printing as a means of self-employment is exempt from all of them. If you experience any of these or want to further explore, click the plus to read more!

Communication is the workplace is very important and is necessary in most any community-based employment. Communication can be hard though, and a lot of times, just because you cannot communicate something, does not mean you do not have the intelligence to do it.

The process of 3D Printing involves communicating with a computer, which in our opinion, is a lot easier than talking to people. If you can make it to advanced levels of your favorite video game or use social media a lot, then you would certainly be able to understand and administer the steps required to make a 3D printer function. In its simplest form, it is no different than asking your printer at home to print a document. Purchasing supplies, advertising, and selling an item online, even communicating with a client can all be done via the computer without the need to verbalize. Theoretically, you could create a successful online business without ever even leaving your house! (not recommended, but possible)

Often called stimming, these can involve uncontrollable repetition or physical or verbal behaviors that can be distracting and make working hard, especially working around a lot of people like in customer service or retail jobs.

These behaviors do not have anything to do with your IQ or how smart you are though, so once again, 3D printing is not affected by this. Many times, it is other people or environmental stimuli that trigger these behaviors in the first place. It is unlikely that a 3D printer with contribute to these actions, and it certainly will not care. The 3D printer is not affected by any behavior whatsoever! (except maybe knocking it off the table.)

Another barrier to community employment is environmental stimuli. In a lot of common workplaces, there are loud sounds and bright lights, but it goes even past that. Any type of sounds, sight, smell, touch, movement, temperature, etc. can be a trigger. Everyone has different unique triggers, so we have no way to engineer a one-size-fits-all solution within community employment.  Since we cannot eliminate all the stimuli, the best solution is for you to create your own work environment.

Someone who is self-employed, be that working from home or in the environment of your choice, has a greater chance of doing the work you love and are good at, without the need to cope with or be distracted by the stimuli of a typical jobsite.

Everyone knows how easy it is to get distracted at work, and some people might be more prone to it than others. Some distractions can also become overwhelming and often lead to “behaviors” causing a lack of productivity for you and others around you.

3D printing for the purpose of self-employment will allow you to work at your own pace, in an environment of your choosing, free of distractions. There is no competition or comparisons, and most importantly, the machine does the work! Sure, there is pre and post work that must be completed, but most of the time that it takes to create an object from start to finish is done by the machine, with no intervention from anyone. So, you can be boxing up or shipping one item while the next is in progress.

Self-Employment for Individuals with Special Needs Today

When it comes to self-employment for individuals with special needs, especially when the diagnosis involves a cognitive delay or neurological challenge, making small crafts and woodworking items to sell online or in a consignment shop is probably the most common. Although there is great pride in making something and joy to be felt when it is purchased, let’s face it, most items are mostly decorative. Crafts are also time consuming, messy and it is difficult to reproduce the same item over and over. 3D printing has many advantages over handmade items.

The talent of an individual telling the printer to print makes no difference, because the result will always be the same. As long as you have some technology basics, it will be easy to pick up 3D printing, and you will be a pro in no time.

It is important to note that skills required to design the item and the software used to build the special file can be complex, but designing your own item is not a requirement to knowing how to print. There are literally millions of files already out there ready to print.

Technically, you can print practically any item or geometry you can imagine. One of the greatest advantages over ‘crafting’ is the ability to create objects the consumer can actually use! It could be a kitchen utensil, adaptive device, business car holders – the possibilities are endless, and the target market can be anyone and everyone.

The printer will produce the exact same item every time. This makes it possible to better sell online, because you can post an item you can produce, wait to print one until an order comes in, and the customer will receive exactly what they expect.

Even though the 3D printing process is repeatable and functional, you can still make it your own. You can choose what you decide to print and sell, and you can also paint or decorate the items you print to make them even more personal.

Program Breakdown

We have told you about the advantages of the 3DSE program, but what does it look like? Learn about our 8-week curriculum and some of your peers that have gone through the program by clicking on the plus signs below!

Our program, broken down into 8 weeks, give students an understanding of 3D printing and starting their own business. The full breakdown and content overview of the course is given below.

Meet Justin! He is one of our more recent students in the 3DSE program. Coming into the program, Justin knew that he was really passionate about art and design, and he wanted to learn skills to further these interests. He took to 3D Printing and Computer Aided Design (CAD) really well and started learning them quickly. As early as his 3rd week here, he was designing things specifically for The HUB. He noticed that a lot of our friends love to use dart launchers but needed help holding them up, so he designed us a dart launch mount for a wheelchair that we had. Not only did Justin do all of the designing, measuring, and calculations, but he also got it to fit perfectly on the first try!

Justin has continued to design and print items including a (much needed) key organizer for HUB founder, Rocky, a towel rack for his grandma, and personal items that he has painted. We can’t wait to see all that Justin continues to do with the 3DSE Program.

Meet Jennifer! She was one of our first 3DSE students, graduating in March 2021. Jennifer was really successful during the program and really developed a passion for 3D printing.

After she graduated, she knew she wanted to continue printing and selling her items. She started by printing garden stakes to sell at the annual Logan County Board of DD Flower Sale, and it was a huge hit! Since then, she has continued to grow her small business, and her 3D printed items will soon be available at a local boutique! Check out some of Jennifer’s creations below!

Jennifer is also now accepting orders! For more information, check out her flyer!