Lab Fridge Repair: Thinking with 3D Printing

I’m posting this because it’s such a nice example for the standard “What are 3D printers really good for?” question.

When I got to the lab today, I was told the can chute in our mini-fridge was broken. Inspection showed that too many of the little plastic inserts/bushings that retain the bars were missing and/or broken. This is a years-old cheap GE minifridge, so it isn’t even worth looking for OEM replacements.

Now we get to the “Thinking with 3D printing” part: I plucked one of the remaining ones, went over it with some calipers, transferred the measurements into OpenSCAD, and printed one off to test fit. The ID was a little tight, so I adjusted the model, printed 6 more, and fixed the problem.

In case the model is useful for anyone else: OpenSCAD and STL.

Important Details:

  • This took like an hour from start to finish, and wasn’t the only thing I was doing at the time. The printing itself was around 1 minute per insert.
  • The new inserts are better than the originals. Not quite as pretty in some ways (though they are blue and glow-in-the-dark, because that’s our current junk filament), but the fit is considerably better.
  • That “iterate” step in the middle, where you just try it and adjust if needed is among the most beautiful things about 3D printers.
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4 Responses to Lab Fridge Repair: Thinking with 3D Printing

  1. Sarah says:

    Calipers? That’s utterly ridiculous. Maybe long ago you could find calipers in every household across Kentucky, but not anymore.

    • pappp says:

      Ah yes. The 3D printer isn’t a big deal. The modeling software and its learning curve isn’t a big deal. But the calipers that have been around since the 6th century BC, that’s a show-stopper 🙂

    • Nick says:

      Well, he /did/ mention that it was the Laboratory fridge, and labs seem like a substantially more likely place to have calipers. Though, to be fair, I do have several sets of calipers laying around my apartment, too, for whatever reason.

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