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Kay’s *&(^$#$!! Drain Filter Or the practical applications of a 3D Printer

Kay headshot

In which Kay waxes rhapsodic about using a 3D printer

Kay’s Old House

Ok, we all know 3D printers are cool, but, really, why would you want one for your home? If you watch the Big Bang Theory, you may have seen the episode in the sixth season where Howard & Raj spend a thousand dollars to produce a whistle that you could buy at the toy store for 50 cents. Does all a 3D printer do is produce toys?

Well…whenever has asked me this question, I use my bathroom sink as an example. I live in a ranch house from the 1950s. We’re slowly fixing stuff, but our bathroom sink is…well, from the 1980s is a charitable description. It’s scratched, it’s dented, it’s rusting and it’s not level. However, for my purposes, it drains and that’s all I need it for…until the drain plug broke off.

Exhibit A (Ignore the scratches-if it was in better shape we wouldn't have this problem!)

Exhibit A (Ignore the sink scratches-if it was in better shape we wouldn’t have this problem!)

Envision Kay, standing in her PJs with the drain plug out of the sink and in her hand. Disbelievingly, she put it in the sink anyway and nearly loses it as it sinks in past the drain hole. Frantic moments later, she pulls it out and swears never to try that again.

Ok, fine. I will just go to the store and get a new drain filter. No big deal, right?

WELL…my sink is so old, they don’t make them that fit. When leads to exhibit A: What my Drain Filter Has Looked Like for the last 3 Years:


The Saga

So, several weeks ago, I decided that I was going to become one with the new generator and become a MAKER. I was going to make one that actually fit the drain hole! I went to Thingiverse, the place where people publish files they have created and found a customizable drain filter. Oh the joy!

I customized it and printed it on our new MakerBot Replicator 5th generation-which sounds a lot like a light bike from Tron when it’s going. It took 33 minutes to print.

My new drain filter in progress!

My new drain filter in progress!

Confidently, I took the drain filter home. It’s….about 3 mm too small and tries to fall into the sink. Bah.

The next day, I take a look at the pattern again. The diameter you adjust is the rim, not the drain piece. I print it 3 mm larger.  I take it home and it’s…1 mm too large. (Envision Kay hopping up and down in rage.)

A day later, I pull the entire thing from Thingiverse into TinkerCad, which will allow me to edit it with much finer control. I distort the thing like a pretzel and think I’ve finally gotten just right. I print it a third time.

I take it home and it fits perfectly! I swear I heard a choir of angels in my bathroom.

Look! A think of beauty!

Look! A think of beauty!

Several days later, I relate my success to Molly, our Teen Librarian and the guru of all things 3D printing. She gets a thoughtful look on her face and says, “I’ve been wanting to get waterproof plastic.”

It turns out that the plastic that we’re using, PLA, is made from corn and is biodegradable. “Well,” I say, “It’s holding up so far.”

Two days later my loving husband, who I had neglected to warn, dumped boiling water down that sink and my drain filter melted.

The Moral of the Story

So, that’s my story about how the maker-world is now. Don’t like your drain filter? You can customize and print your own! Missing a screw from a chair? Print another one. But just be careful when you do, because you never quite know what you’re getting into until you try it.

As for me, I’m back to using Exhibit A in my sink and I all I have to remember my triumph is my photo. However, I still have the print pattern and as soon as we get the right plastic and I get 33 minutes on the printer, look out world!