Repairs You Can Print: Racing the Clock for a Dishwasher Fix

No matter how mad your 3D printing skills may be, there comes a time when it makes more sense to order a replacement part than print it. For [billchurch], that time was the five-hour window he had to order an OEM part online and have it delivered within two days. The race was on — would he be able to model and print a replacement latch for his dishwasher’s detergent dispenser, or would suffer the ignominy of having to plunk down $30 for a tiny but complicated part?

As you can probably guess, [bill] managed to beat the clock. But getting there wasn’t easy, at least judging by the full write-up on his blog. The culprit responsible for the detergent problem was a small plastic lever whose pivot had worn out. Using a caliper for accurate measurements, [bill] was able to create a model in Fusion 360 in just about two hours. There was no time to fuss with fillets and chamfers; this was a rush job, after all. Still, even adding in the 20 minutes print time in PETG, there was plenty of time to spare. The new part was a tight fit but it seemed to work well on the bench, and a test load of dishes proved a success. Will it last? Maybe not. But when you can print one again in 20 minutes, does it really matter?

Have you got an epic repair that was made possible by 3D printing? We want to know about it. And if you enter it into our Repairs You Can Print Contest, you can actually win some cool prizes to boot. We’ve got multiple categories and not that many entries yet, so your chances are good.

38 thoughts on “Repairs You Can Print: Racing the Clock for a Dishwasher Fix

  1. Very well written article BUT:
    Ridiculous: 5 hours for 30 bucks, it’s a sweatshop wage…
    With all this hype around 3D printing, people forgot how simple things could be fixed with a drill press (in this case addding a bushing to the worn out part): 30min instead of 5hours.

    1. Sometimes the joy is in the process. Though, printed out of PETG…. not sure how much joy he’s gonna get out of that. Nylon or ABS would have served him better. PETG fails at about 80c and last I checked, dishwashers produce a lot of steam which is 100c.

      $6/hour is sweat shop wage? #backInMyDay I made $4.25/hour and was happy about it! You kids and your fancy eating 3 times a day and having health care… You’re soft! SOFT, you hear me!

      1. Steam starts out at about 100C, but it can get much hotter (steam’s critical temp is 374C). 100C is just the temperature that water changes from liquid to gas (at STP). The liquid water in the heated dishwasher may measure at 100C; however, the steam isn’t undergoing a phase change, and its temp can continue to raise if more energy is pumped into the system.

        Imagine putting a dish of water in a 175C oven. When the system stabilizes, the liquid water’s temperature will measure 100C, but everything else (the air, oven walls, and possibly even the outside of the dish the water is sitting in [depending on the material and thickness]) will measure 175C, including the now gaseous water vapor. The discrepancy in temperature is caused by the latent heat of evaporation.

        I’m simplifying some things and assuming STP and other things, but you get it.

    2. So, the older I get, the more I realize that time is the only finite resource a person truly has. So I, in fact, use that argument a lot in my life to justify throwing money at a problem to make it go away quickly.

      And yet…

      Is all he truly gets out of his adventure *only* the replacement part itself?

      I posit that there is a non-zero value to the learning and experience he gets as well, not to mention the feather-in-the-cap of having a hackaday article written about your work. :)

      1. Ditto.
        That said. The other day I fixed a relay. It had a timer cirucit inside of it. A new part was $10 but I learnt about a new IC I didn’t know exisited and actual repair time probably took as long as trying to track down teh part number and find a new one on ebay etc.
        So why not.

        But as I get older and have better earning potential, I to see the benefit in throwing money at it than spending the time.
        Only I’ve spent a long time conditioning myself to be shall we say frugal.
        So spending money is now an anathema.
        Almost like the sunk cost fallacy but for savings accounts.

        So I have a lot of old stuff which works really well and thus lots of people underestimate my net worth, which typically means I get more free shit to play with :o)

    3. You’re forgetting opportunity cost — someone will have to spend time washing dishes by hand for at least two nights while the $30 part ships. And there are intangibles too, like self-sufficiency. Knowing how to do a thing is often more valuable than actually doing it. Now he has practice modeling and printing a part which he might be able to leverage to create a part that’s no longer available.

      Although now that you mention it, a new bushing might have been more straightforward.

      1. I was thinking of the 3D printed part as a “patch” fix. Use the 2 days you WOULD have spent waiting for parts, to add a few drops of resin to the pivot hole, let it set, and re-drill.

    4. what??? did you read it the article?? he modeled it in 2 hours, and 20 minutes to print…. thats less than 2.5 hours…. not 5 hours. He had 5 hours to make it but made in less than half

    5. The 5 hours wasn’t to make the part, it was to design the part. Next time it’ll be “load files, press print, come back when it’s done, fit part.” And the best bit is if he sticks it on Thingiverse or wherever, anyone else can do the same.

    6. Erm, where does all this “5 hour’s work for a 30 buck part” stuff come from?
      He had 5 hours within which he had to order the part or else he wouldn’t get same day shipping. He resolved that, if he couldn’t make a working replacement in less than 4 hours then he would order the part. 2 hours of CAD work and 20 mins of printing was all the time he needed.
      So, two hours of recreational CAD design work and 20 mins of printing was the cost of this part to him. It was an internal part, so not exposed to steam and hot water, and it was done as part of a blog series he’s working on. What was the problem again?

    7. Did some jerk write a bot that posts something snarky for every instance of someone making something practical on a 3d printer? Is some HaD reader also the owner of an injection molding shop and afraid that the “wealth without money” revolution is going to actually happen and he/she is going to lose everything?

      Ok, first off, 30 minutes to drill out the old part and press in a bushing. What busing? Does he happen to have the exact size bushing sitting in his garage? Does the local hardware store have an isle where they sell every style and size bushing a customer may need, all organized, on display and ready for him to come pick up? If so then where does he live? I’m lucky to find even a deck screw of the particular size I need at any local stores in my area. Obscure parts like a bushing? Hah!

      Here’s what he got out of printing his part.

      – Satisfaction, bragging rights and a HaD article. Where’s your HaD article Tweepy?
      – A ready to print model for next time. This fix will never require 5 hours again. Ordering a replacement part or even ordering your favorite bushing would have taken days!

      How about having that ready to go model the first time instead of the second time? If everyone shares their repair models on the internet then it would be rare for an individual to be that first person who has to actually create the model. Maybe we need a ‘Thingiverse’ of repairs that is indexed and designed to be be searched by make / model and part.

  2. There’s a lot of folks here arguing the difference between the time spent vs the comparatively little money to buy a new part. I generally agree, BUT, I think it’s fair to point out that sometimes folks do things “just because,” and I mean, here on Hackaday of all places, that’s most of us, but moreover, if, for example, I were doing this, I’d do it too, just for the modelling practice. It’s good to keep in shape. Plus, he can now improve it, and if printed with a better filament, it could be stronger than the original.

  3. “But when you can print one again in 20 minutes, does it really matter?”

    Depends on how much time and how much of a pain in the ass taking the door apart is. I like 3d printers, I have a ok cheap one and it comes in handy but my first inclination would be a bandsaw and a drill press :)

  4. If a day of downhill skiing costs $100 for about five hours of fun, and the OP is having as much fun fixing his dishwasher, he’s saved himself $100 with this hack. If, on the other hand, he only had as much fun as attending two blockbuster movies, with popcorn, he only saved $40 by fixing the dishwasher instead.

    I’m with @Katie above, for the record, but it’s basically pointless to discuss other peoples’ recreational activities. It’s like saying that he should like Brie when he likes Gouda.

  5. This time is also learning curve, which has it’s own value. Next time and beyond this person will be able to create this 3D model in maybe an hour, with practice perhaps 15 min or less plus setup of the slicing. Printing time is like baking time, as long as the printer or oven would otherwise sit idle it doesn’t count as you get something else done while you wait. this is tiny so would print really fast for a fit test and possible edit and reprint to follow.

  6. I fixed a paper shredder by designing and printing a tiny hollow box to glue onto the bottom of its switch cover. The original had four tabs that fit over the slide toggle of the actual switch. I broke off the remaining pieces of the tabs and made the box to super glue in place, and be much stronger.

    I could have ordered a new part for $4.95, but it would have eventually failed the same way. My 3D print was perfect first time and I expect it to never fail. Probably cost a fraction of a cent in PLA and only took around 5 minutes to print.

  7. On the time vs money debate…

    People make that comparison as though the outcome, having a working thing again is the same either way. That’s not necessarily true.

    When a part of a machine breaks it indicates something. I’m not saying that is is necessarily an engineering error. It may be that the machine has already outlived it’s intended lifespan. But.. the whole machine didn’t fail. One part failed. Perhaps it is a weak point, something that was made weaker than the rest of the device. Or, maybe it’s in a high-impact roll taking more stress than the rest. Either way this is an opportunity. Instead of designing a replacement part that exactly matches the original you can design one which is more resistant to the breakage that the original suffered.

    Imagine a machine that is decades old and has had every breakage repaired to be more resilient than it was originally. Eventually you end up with an appliance that is figuratively bulletproof!

    Buying new however usually has almost the opposite effect. Everyone wants more and they want it cheaper. Manufacturers are all to happy to comply. Each generation of stuff seems to be made to fail earlier than it’s replacement. By buying new you can easily end up with something which is less reliable than what you would get by fixing the old.

    I shouldn’t be too hard on the manufacturers though. They are just giving people what they want after all. Why do people want to keep buying new of everything after only a few short years? I think it’s because most people are addicted. Unfortunately Home Sapiens is a species that is very vulnerable to addiction. Buying a nice new object has been proven to have an affect on our brains. It causes a release of endorphins. Buying shiny new stuff gives us a high!

    I think that’s why we see so many comments here about how it’s better to just buy something new. Addicts naturally get defensive regarding the object of their addictions!

    Fortunately, fixing or making things can also be addictive. Looking over a job well done can be an even bigger rush than buying a new thing. It’s just a rush that takes a bit more effort to acheive. It’s also a high that keeps on giving. That shiny new appliance that you committed to paying 19% interest on until your eligible for your next bankruptcy will be just another background item in your home after a week or two. It’s nothing to you long before it’s even fully paid for. Something built or repaired however.. it’s not just a proud accomplishment the day it is completed. Every day from then on until it breaks again is another accomplishment. A repair accomplished a year ago isn’t just last years news. It’s more like “hey look.. it is still holding up after all this use. I really did do a good job!”.

    So.. since you are going to be an addict either way.. what is better? Be addicted to running up debt on crap that will be just all the more planet killing landfill pollution in a few years? Or be addicted to actually producing something of value yourself?

  8. Time vs money… for most people (that I know, anyway. I realize the rest of the world isn’t like the people I know) they have to earn around $40 in order to be able to spend $30 of it (You get to give $10 or so in taxes for Uncle Sam to spend…). And maybe because you spent money on the part you no longer have enough to buy gas so you put that on your credit card without paying it off right away, now you pay interest on that money, and down the rabbit hole you go. But hey, instead of spending the time making a part so you didn’t have to spend $30, you got to watch the super bowl on TV! So, you got that going for ya.

    1. Really? You can’t watch the game (or whatever is your thing) at the same time as you design your print?

      To me that’s one of the nice things about DIY vs buying new. I have to go to work to get money to buy new. I can work on a DIY project in the comfort of my home while I watch tv, eat snacks or whatever I feel like doing at the same time. It’s a greater level of freedom.

  9. we need a 3D model site organized by make, model and part number of what the printable widget replaces. needs to allow folks to upload parts diagrams from the manufacturer, as well as mark certain OEM parts as likely to fail. (as well as the ability to indicate certain parts are identical in different products.)

    1. That would be nice, but all I see resulting from that is corporate lawyers getting rich off anybody who uploads a file containing their company name, part numbers, diagrams, or other Intellectual Property.

      1. ugh, the constant “waaah they’ll sue us all” is possibly worse than the actually suing.

        the law is not inscrutable, and the subject can be reasoned about. though if you’re including company names in a list of intellectual property, perhaps not?

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