3D Printing Cloud Projects

3D Printing a Replacement Door Handle

How I created a new handle for my fridge/freezer by 3D printing a new one.

This handle is used to open the freezer door in a combined fridge/freezer. The current handle has been hanging on by a thread for a while and been through 2 repairs previously, but now it’s no longer viable.

3D Printing - the broken part

At first I thought it would be easy enough to get a replacement handle, so contacted the manufacturer of the fridge/freezer.

Good Morning,

Thank you for your email.

The part you require is discontinued without replacement.

Sorry for any inconvenience caused.

“For help with your home appliance trust ******** Customer Service. Service you can depend on.”

Inconvenient? Yes it’s a bit difficult to open the freezer when it doesn’t have a handle – but at least I can, just about, open the fridge without the handle.


Seems a shame, though, to have to replace the whole fridge freezer for want of a handle.

It is possible to locate an equivalent handle (genuine part) but, unfortunately, only in white.


It looks like I need to make my own handle. Is it possible to use 3D Printing to print a new handle ?


First thing to do is to create a 3D model of the handle.

I have used a number of different 3D CAD Modelling programs in the past but for this job I’ll be using Onshape a full-cloud, online 3D CAD system used from a web-browser.

It is straightforward to create a fairly close representation of the required handle and I completed work on the design/model in about an hour. I didn’t come across any particular difficulties with the modelling or any problems using Onshape during this process.


I also did a couple of quick renders using OneRender , an online rendering application which works with Onshape.



Looks OK to me.

3D Printing

In order to generate a file suitable for 3D printing, simply export the model from Onshape in STL format. Then either use your own printer or, as in my case, upload the STL file to your favourite online 3D Printing service.

I haven’t used an online service in the past so I’m going to try i.materialise

It’s simple to register and upload your model.

Here it is


Not sure what the best material is to use for this application, but thought I’d try Polyamide which appears to have similar strength properties to ABS (but perhaps a bit more flexible). The manufacturing process for this material uses Laser Sintering.

Laser sintering is used to build your design with this material. The models are printed layer by layer by a laser that draws thin lines in the powder, which melts and bonds it together in order to form a thin layer of the model. After a layer is printed, a new layer of fresh powder is spread over the surface by a roller. The printer has a print chamber that is heated to just below the melting point of the powder; the laser beam adds the extra energy to melt the powder, forming a solid model. After a print job is finished, the result is a big block of heated powder with the printed models contained inside.

Also chose a polished and dyed black finish.

iMaterialise also provides an Analysis option which checks whether your model can be printed and highlights any potential problem areas.

Looks good to go


so submitted the order.

It’s probably taken less time creating the part and sending it off for printing than trying to find the exact equivalent original (genuine) part.

If my 3D printed model does not prove to be “fit for purpose”, at the very least it should establish whether the 3D model (design) is good enough.

The only problem now is having to wait 2 weeks before I can get my hands on the new 3D printed handle ….

…. 2 weeks later

I received the following parcel today, what could it be ?


Nicely protected and here it is – looks promising.


The new handle can be compared to the original. The actual modelling is a good match to the original design, but of course, the surface finish of the new one doesn’t (exactly) match the gloss finish of the original.


5 minutes later it is fitted in place – and fits perfectly, of course. I would make a couple of minor (design) modifications if I was to do it again. The countersinks for the the screws are on the wrong side ! (my fault) but otherwise it seems OK. Also, I would do a stress analysis of the design before having it printed. (various simulation packages are available to use with Onshape via their App Store).


Aesthetically speaking, it looks good and actually the matt finish is growing on me. (The wife hasn’t seen it yet though). I can always paint it with acrylic, or something similar, to get a glossier finish.


Time will tell how it stands up to use. I’ve noted a bit of flexing of the handle when the door is opened and perhaps it should be a little bit more rigid/stronger (different material?) although I did notice some flexing in the original handle too.

All in all a successful exercise so far – the handle is about to enter Beta Testing.

While I can understand why manufacturers may be reluctant to make technical information (design details) available for their spare parts, is there any reason why they couldn’t offer a 3D printing service for the parts that they discontinue ? Even if they were to outsource the production to a 3rd party it seems to me like a valuable additional revenue stream and they would really be able to claim that they were offering a Service you can depend on

Cloud Software Techniques

Decorative Panels using Variables in Onshape

Recently, I noticed some decorative wood panelling and thought it would be an interesting exercise to create them, or something similar, as a 3D model using Onshape. The technique I’m going to use could be equally applied when creating fretwork or trellis.


I’ll take advantage of the symmetry in the design to simplify the geometry that I need to create and use the recently introduced “Variables” feature in Onshape as parameters to control the overall size and allow different designs to be easily created.

My design consists primarily of intersecting circular arcs which will be extruded to create a flat panel. A basic shape will be created and use the “Linear Pattern” feature to create the panel. Due to the symmetry in the basic shape, I only need to create a quarter which can then be mirrored to produce the basic shape.

Use the Variable command from the toolbar


to create variables for:

Diameter – the overall size of the basic shape, initially set to 100mm.



Thickness – the thickness of lines used in the shape, set to 2mm.


Variables are created as features and referenced by #name, in this case #Diameter and #Thickness. The value entered for the variable can use expressions, such as #Radius = #Diameter/2 but it remains unclear how extensive these can be (experiment for yourself).

Create a sketch, I’ve used the “Top” plane and will use the top right quadrant (origin at bottom left) to define the geometry.

Create horizontal and vertical construction lines and dimension their distance from the origin specifying the variable #Dimension as the value for the dimension. The dimension will be displayed showing the value of the variable.


Dimensions defined using variables will be displayed showing the result of the expression. Click on the dimension to view/modify the value of the variable.

Proceed to create the remain geometry. Adding dimensions as necessary to ensure that the sketch is fully constrained.




Extrude the sketch to create a solid


Mirror the part to create half the shape.


Mirror the part to create the basic shape ready for patterning


For the panel create 2 additional variables

#Horizontal – the number of basic shapes to pattern in the “x”-direction set to 2.

#Vertical – the number of basics shape to pattern in the “y”-direction set to 2.

and use the Linear Pattern tool to create the final pattern.


Change the panel by sinply modifying the variables to create different results


Modify the sketch to create more complex patterns



Here’s the finished Panel matching (or at least close to) the original image



Variables are a useful addition to the functionality available in Onshape and could have been implemented to form the basis for a future fully featured macro programming language which may be made available for users. They can be used to simplify the process for non CAD literate users when modifications are required to the model.

Cloud Software



Onshape recently emerged from stealth mode and is now available in a Beta Version.

It’s a 3D CAD cloud-native application which runs in a web browser or on a mobile device using a device specific application. (Currently available for iPhones and iPads).

Created by a team of veterans from SolidWorks and other top professionals from the data center, security and mobile industries led by Jon Hirschtick.

The system requires a browser that supports WebGL and runs on most types of computers and operating systems. The officially supported browsers are Chrome, Firefox and Safari. It also needs an internet connection to work – there isn’t a version which runs in an off-line mode.

There is no software to install and updates occur seamlessly to ensure that all users are always on the latest version.

I’ve been using it for a couple of weeks and find it easy to use.

Here’s my first attempt, using sketches


to create models (bodies) and assemblies.


One of the benefits of using cloud-native applications is the ability to limit or minimise the chance of losing data while you are working. The stored data is constantly updated as you are working on it so that hard disk crashes, machine glitches, power cuts or the odd cup of coffee spilt over your laptop should no longer mean that you’ve lost your work.

Another important feature is the ability to share documents and collaborate in real-time with other users during the model creation process.

Onshape offers a Free subscription plan $0/month or a Professional subscription plan available for $100/month (or the equivalent in your local currency).

The free plan provides 5GB storage space and you are limited to 5 active “Private” Documents at any one time. You can create an unlimited number of “private” documents but only 5 of these can be active at any one time. In addition, you can create an unlimited number of active “public” documents.

The professional plan provides 100GB storage space and an unlimited number of active documents.

A document is a multi-part container which can be used to keep all information related to a project in the same place. You can build and assemble parts in the same document. The document can contain 1 or more Part Studios (parts) Assemblies, CAD data from other systems, non CAD data files, PDFs, Images etc.

There are numerous features available in this initial Beta phase of the product.

Highlights include

  • Part Studios
  • Assemblies
  • History, Versioning
  • Imported Geometry
  • Direct Editing
  • Data Management
  • Sharing and Collaboration
  • Seamless Updates
  • On-line Help
  • Tutorials

For further details I advise you to read more at the Onshape website or better yet try it out for yourself by requesting an invite to join in at:

Cloud Tools


I have been happy using the XAMPP Stack for a number of years but recently came across BitNami so thought I’d give it a try.

BitNami simplifies the process for setting up freely available open-source web applications. It provides a number of BitNami Stacks which are integrated software bundles that combine all the required components for a web application (web server, database software etc.)


Cloud Foundry

Cloud Foundry is an open-source Platform as a Service (PaaS) originally initiated by VMware

Cloud Foundry allows developers to focus on applications, not hardware or middleware, allowing you to deploy and scale applications in seconds.

In addition you can use Micro Cloud Foundry to set up your own instance of Cloud Foundry. It comes as a virtual machine image for use with VMWare Workstation, Player or Fusion. Cloud Foundry also offers a hosted service.

Sounds like an ideal platform for experimenting with Cloud applications and this is what I’ve been toying with over the last 6 months or so.

Existing services will be discontinued and Cloud Foundry V2 will become a paid service from the end of June (2013) as part of the recently announced Pivotal Initiative which is an independent entity funded by VMware and EMC. Any V1 applications must be migrated to V2 because of architectural changes.

If you’re interested check out my article on how to post a Node.JS application to Cloud Foundry’s hosted service at (

There are many other Cloud application platforms – a couple which may be worth exploring further are

Name Description Link
Heroku Heroku (pronounced her-OH-koo) is a cloud application platform – a new way of building and deploying web apps
AppFog PaaS for Public and Private Clouds. Easily build and deploy fast, scalable, and reliable applications to the cloud in seconds

(CenturyLink, Inc. announced on June 14 the acquisition of AppFog, Inc.