Turning my Alien3D Sleigh into a Fan

Back in January, I posted my print results from the December 2020 Alein3D UFO subscription box. I had not completed the electronic portion of that subscription box at that time. Getting the components breadboarded was as far as I had gotten. I hoped to figure out how to make the hardware included with the box drive the sleigh as intended. That also happened to be the beginning of my busy season at work (my wife owns a tax office which I work at), so I’ve only had brief periods where I’ve been able to work on the project. I’ve tried different configurations of the sleigh’s hardware, minimalistic prints, and used thin plastic from baggies to create a pocket the sleigh could float on. None of the approaches I took made the sleigh work as intended. 

So, I took a step back and looked at the hardware included. I figured the included hardware was intended to be something else. I just needed to figure out what that something else was. This post will highlight the slight modification I made to the Dec 2020 Alien3D UFO electronics plan to convert the sleigh into a fan.

Hardware used

I used all of the hardware included with the original plan found on the Alien3D page dedicated to this project. The only additional hardware I used was a half-size solderless breadboard and some male DuPont connectors. Anyone could complete this project without those other items. I only went the breadboard route because I thought it would look attractive in the case I designed. But then I like the open electronics look. 

3D Printed parts

I kept the directional fan holder and fan holder from the original sleigh project. But I could not find a way to use the sleigh body as a fan. So I designed a fan case in Fusion360 that I think looks interesting. It isn’t too artistic, but it is functional. I did try to take some of the design concepts from the original sleigh to use in this model.

Here is a look at the new case printed out in Army Green PLA+ from GST3D. The STL can be downloaded from Thangs.

Case for the Alien3D fan.

Code change

The code I downloaded for the Arduino had one small problem. It would cause the servo to snap when going from 60 degrees to 90 degrees sharply. The video below shows this problem.

Servo skipping from 60 degrees to 90 degrees.

The fix for this skipping was to change the third for statement in the Arduino sketch. Here was the original for statement with the skipping:

  for (pos = 60; pos >= 90; pos += 1) { // goes from 60 degrees to 90 degrees
    dirServo.write(pos);              // tell servo to go to position in variable 'pos'
    delay(15);                       // waits 15ms for the servo to reach the position

Here is the fixed code. All I did was change the >= to a <= in the for statement.

  for (pos = 60; pos <= 90; pos += 1) { // goes from 60 degrees to 90 degrees
    dirServo.write(pos);              // tell servo to go to position in variable 'pos'
    delay(15);                       // waits 15ms for the servo to reach the position

After that slight code change, the servo moves smoothly in both directions.

Assembling the fan

Assembly is relatively straightforward. Most of the electronics portions use the exact instructions as provided by Alien3D. I will only highlight the differences here. 

The servo gets mounted on top of the fan, with the wiring sticking out towards the rear. There is a screw hole to hold the servo onto the case. I also swapped the horn 180 degrees to orient the fan correctly.

The fan holder gets glued inside the case, with the fan blade being mounted inside the case.

I put the half-sized solderless breadboard at the base inside the case. I removed the power distribution bank from the side towards the rear of the case.

Finally, I put male DuPont connectors on the servo wires, battery leads, and drone motor leads. The DuPont connectors aren’t essential, but they made it a lot easier to use the breadboard as I intended. I recommend any maker doing electronics projects get a variety of connectors, especially DuPont connectors.

Assembling the fan.

I then wired everything according to the instructions provided by Alien3D. The only difference is that the drone motor leads had to be reversed to allow air to flow in the proper direction.

Here is a look at the back of the case with wiring completed. I used a couple of pieces of electrical tape to secure the wiring. The ground and 5V connection use the power bank on the solderless breadboard that I didn’t take off.

Alien3D fan wired up.

Here is a look at the front of the fan.

Alien3D fan from the front.

Video of the fan in action

This thing may not have had enough power to lift a sleigh, but it has more than enough power to work as a fan. What I like about this design is that it has both a stationary and rotating fan. That can be handy to keep yourself cool and circulate air at the same time.

Alien3D drone fan in action.

Final thoughts

This ended up being a challenging little project. At first, I felt frustrated because I couldn’t get the sleigh to work as intended. But I now see this having been more about finding out the hardware’s true purpose. And this may end up being a handy little gadget down in my lair.

Now I can call this project finished and get caught up with some of the other projects scattered around my office/shop.

Bonus 3D Print

It is Easter! Here is an Easter Grogu designed by Geoff Wicks of Hex3D. It was printed using Silk Green PLA from Mika3D. I have a little bit of cleaning up do with this piece. But overall this was a great print.

Grogu with Egg.

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