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.
At first I thought it would be easy enough to get a replacement handle, so contacted the manufacturer of the fridge/freezer.
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 https://www.onerender.com , an online rendering application which works with Onshape.
Looks OK to me.
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