How 3D Printing Saved a Storm Door’s Life

My wife and I have rented our first “house”, a two-bedroom home in our favorite city. Previously, we have lived in cramped apartments or college-like townhouses, so renting a house is a big step up for us, especially one to have our first baby in.

There are several cool points of interest related to our house: a fenced-in backyard, an attic and crawl space for storage, a little sunroom, and of course, a normal neighborhood not filled with noisy college kids (full disclosure: I was one of those noisy college kids). But most of all, a storm door! We always make comments to each other on how ‘useful’ it is to have a storm door.

Well, a few months in, and one newborn baby later, our beloved storm door fell off its hinges (literally). I promptly notified the owners of the house (our land lords), who happen to live next door. The owners are really nice people; however, when it comes to fixing things… They just don’t.

Fast-forward, two months later. The storm door is in the side yard, leaning on the house. Good thing I didn’t hold my breath for it to be fixed, or I would have passed out before writing this story.

The Situation

Alright, let's get into to how I ended up fixing this door. After the storm door’s “death”, this is what I had to work with:

On the left: the parts that fell off the storm door (what held the hinges and the door in-place)

On the right: the parts I already had in my toolbox to possibly replace the things on the left.

Needless to say, what I had in my random parts arsenal did not work at all. Nails? Really? — worth a shot.

My search-for-replaceable-parts odyssey started at a few hardware stores. Did I find what I needed? No. I bought a few sets of hinges that matched closely to what the storm door had. Still, no dice.

The Epiphany

Instead of continuing blindly on my journey, I thought it might be good to think, or brainstorm. I narrowed my focus down on only those little parts that fell off. After all, the door itself and its hinges were just fine. The parts that fell off (on the left in the image above), were things I had not come across before in a hardware store. I decided I was not going to find those exact parts; furthermore, it seemed the door was not going to be magically fixed, anytime soon.

Okay Joe Schmo, let’s continue this brainstorming thing. The parts are somewhat cylindrical and there is a spring. These are the parts that hold the hinges to the door frame and in turn, the door itself. Since my awesome place of work, Tech Em Studios has a 3D printer, I could 3D print something similar to what my storm door needed!

Essentially, my 3-D prints needed to function like the stock parts and be strong enough to hold a heavy storm door to a door frame.

What I needed for the design: a cylinder object of the same size.

What I omitted for the design: the springs. -let’s keep it simple stupid (KISS), straight cylinders are much more easier to work with.

Let’s put this to paper

The Design

I started my 3-Dimensional design on a sheet of loose-leaf paper:

Yes. It is rough, so is designing something.

I knew if I could just print some simple cylinder shapes, I could probably stuff them into the ends of the hinges. I used a Caliper to get the dimensions I needed from the fallen parts and from the hinge openings.

The Caliper

Printing and Testing

Overall, it took me four print prototypes to get the exact length, width, and depth dimensions right. Hey, that’s three different dimensions!

Hence the name, “3-D Printing”.

The prints needed to be loose enough for me to jam it into the hinges, and thick enough so they wouldn’t come loose.

If you can’t see from my loose-leaf paper drawings, my x,y = 6.40mm (you can think of it as the top and bottom circles of the cylinder), and my z = 45.00mm (think of it as the cylinder’s height).

I used a MakerBot Replicator Mini printer with a Smart Extruder attached.

Here are the specs I used:

Quality: Standard

Layer Height: 0.20mm

Infill Density, Height: 15%, 0.40mm

Number of Shells: 3

Material: MakerBot PLA

*Note* increasing the number of shells to 3 (instead of 2) and infill to 15% (instead of 10%), increases the strength of the 3D build.

The Fix

Below is a view of the 3-D prints in action:

The pieces fit together like a puzzle. Two 3-D printed objects for each of the three door hinges, making 6 total 3-D printed replacement parts. I just put them in one on each side; with one almost all the way in the hinge. This was so I could use a pair of pliers to push out once it fit in the door frame.

We have a working storm door now and in turn, a respectable home.

Thank you, Design Thinking process and 3-D printing!

This project is published here on Thingiverse.