3D Printing a Desk Fan Stand. Converting fun!

by Kregg Egan

Converting a clip-on fan to one with a stand

I have a clip-on desk fan that hangs from a shelf at work. It worked great until I decided I wanted a stand-up desk. In order to make this work, I needed to remove the shelf I was using for the fan to make room for my computer monitors.  After this conversion, I was left with a fan that I couldn’t use since it would lay flat on the table, vibrate loudly, and I was unable to aim it at a specific angle that I would benefit from.  I tried clamping it to various objects around my desk but couldn’t get any decent results so I decided I needed to do something about.

Design for function and appeal

The first thing I did was to come up with a functional design that would look cool.  I needed to figure out what the limitations were for the bend angle to bend in both directions without running into the stand.  In order to check clearances, I used the original clip design to see how far the fan could bend in each direction before stopping. That data gave me the parameters I needed to design the piece that attaches directly to the fan.

3D printed fan standOnce I knew the clearances, I was able to design the piece that was going to attach directly to the fan.  I decided to 3D print a portion of the part to ensure the fit was good before printing the entire part.

Once I verified the fit was good I continued to model the rest of the stand around this part.  Now it was up to my imagination to design the base and legs of the stand.  I wanted it to look different than any other fan stand and a little on the futuristic side.  During the design process, I made several revisions until I was satisfied with the overall fit and finished look.  After modeling the various parts of the stand, I put them into an assembly to ensure the fit was good and that there wouldn’t be any surprises.

I decided that it would be best to print portions of the parts that need to be within strict tolerances to ensure good movement.  So, I decided to only print the portions that would be making contact with one another.

Dialing in the details

I printed the bottom portion of the picture as you see above (with the pins in it) and placed it into the part with the grooves to see what resistance amount I was getting.  I had to print a revision of the part with the grooves and decrease the arc amount so that there would be less resistance since after testing the first part it was obvious that the resistance was too much.  After testing the second part I was satisfied with the resistance amount and decided it was time to print the full parts now that they were dialed in.

I printed it to ensure that the grooves I modeled would allow the right amount of resistance with the pins that would be engaging them. At this point, I wasn’t sure what the best arc amount would be for the pins to offer good resistance. I had to be sure it was not too much that the fan would be difficult to turn.

 

I used springs to keep tension on the pins so that they would always be engaged and apply the correct resistance. This will allow me to rotate the fan.  The second picture above shows how the pins interact with the notches.

I had to keep in mind that this fan would be sitting on my desk and I didn’t want it to take up too much space but at the same time, I wanted it to stand out.  So as I designed the legs I used a set parameter for the dimension that I wanted to keep the leg within but have freedom of design within the set parameter.

I decided to use 3 legs so that it wouldn’t take up as much space and still provide ample stability.  By adding a few subtle features, I’m able to make it look a bit futuristic.  Next, I used a counterbore hole underneath so that the screw wouldn’t be visible. This provided a clean look that I was after.

Details are everything

I needed a cover to keep the base of the stand connected to the part that swivels.  This part came out of the 3D printer with an unsatisfactory finish. I decided to experiment with sanding the part to make it look smooth rather than print the part over again.  I used 400 Grit wet sandpaper and used water to wet sand the face.  It made a huge difference in the finished look but it did take about 10-15 minutes of elbow grease.   Ideally, I would have painted the entire stand which would have taken care of any small imperfections. Instead, I decided to leave it in its raw form so that it was obvious that it was 3D printed.

Take Note

Something to note is that between all of the moving parts that mate together I added a minimum of .005” clearance. This was done to be sure that there wouldn’t be any binding which turned out to work perfectly.  If I didn’t add the clearance the parts wouldn’t have been able to move.  Naturally, with any 3D printer, they can only hold a certain tolerance. Be sure to keep that in mind when modeling parts that mate together.

The photo above shows the cover mated to the part that swivels and connects to the fan.  I added .005” clearance.  As you can see it is a perfect fit!  They make contact but can still swivel freely.  If I didn’t add the clearance, the cover wouldn’t have fit over the radius of the part that swivels.

The Finished Product

There you have it! Above is a photo of the final product. This design allowed a large amount of tilt angle which is exactly what I wanted.  I can now tilt the fan whether I’m standing or sitting.  This design allows the fan to rotate 360 degrees while the legs stay stationary. This feature doesn’t disrupt other items that may be close to it when rotating.  I am very pleased with the look and especially the functionality of this design.  It is fully functional and should outlast the fan itself!

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