Functional-Printing as Stress Relief

I love solving problems with computers. It’s my happy place.

Most computers or problems will do; so long as both elements are present. Extracting a still image from a video for an engineering lab report? Sure! Making a dark mode for Oregon State’s Canvas site? You bet! Creating functional 3D prints to make small home-improvements? Well now that you mention it….

When my partner and I moved into a new apartment this summer we discovered that the freezer often iced over. More than often; it was like clockwork. Every two or three days we would need to scrape off icicles that were two or three inches long.

Picture of some frost and small icicles in a freezer.
Not terribly icy here, but you get the picture…

It wasn’t the sort of problem that took center stage quickly. There were boxes to unpack, a new city to navigate, a university for my partner to begin attending. But every time I opened the freezer I found myself growing a bit more frustrated, until one day I’d had enough.

I did what I usually do – sit down at my computer.

I fired off a salvo of search queries: “how to fix leaky freezer”, “loose fridge seal fix”, “Fridgidaire [serial number] manual pdf”. The third search yielded a document addressing the exact problem I was facing: a compressed seal gasket around the freezer door.

A product manual picture showing a freezer gasket which does not seal the freezer due to being warped. Text: "Look for open areas between the gasket and the cabinet flange."
🤔
A picture of the freezer gasket before repair, clearly not sealing the freezer due to being warped.
🧐

The freezer had no problem pumping cold air in, but this gasket was leaking it out of the front!

The picture above was accompanied by two suggestions for remedying the situation: (1) Soak the seal gasket in warm water and massage the offending corner, or (2) flip the seal 180º and see if the opposite corner is better. I tried both, and neither made a lick of difference. Frustrated, I gave up on the problem.

Until the next time I opened the freezer.

With my feeling of obligation to find a ready-made solution having passed, the gears started to turn. From massaging the gasket I knew it was capable of taking on the correct shape, I just needed to keep it that way. If only I could…

Eureka!

Go to my computer and boot my 3D modeling software, grab calipers and notepad and walk back to the seal. A quick sketch of an L-shaped prism, draw a few dimensions, take measurements of what the space in the seal *should* be, and copy them onto the sketch… great. Back to the computer, retrace the sketch with keyboard and mouse, extrude, fillet and chamfer, export to .STL… boot my slicer, generate .GCODE with fast and chunky lines. Boot up my 3D printer, load some filament, and send over the file.

First layer fails… Oh, it’s trying to make a hairpin turn because the L-shape is so thin. It’s a utility print, so who cares I’ll just use a brim. Reslice, send to print and first layer… succeeds. nice.

Functional Print

Twenty minutes later, I got to do this:

😎

Now whenever I open the freezer I hear the ‘ccccriCk’ of a good seal being broken, and I’m always greeted by a distinct lack of ice. But more satisfying than the physical experience is the reminder of my ability, and privilege, to solve problems with computers.


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