Introduction: What to Do With Random Motor Collections: Project 1: Recycled Fans

About: Arduino and Robotics Nerd, and alumni of FIRST Robotics Team 5683 (Go R.A.V.E.!). Blinking LEDs with Arduino is still one of my favorite pastimes even after years of doing it.

Do you have a R.M.C. (Random Motor Collection)? Do you collect all the random little DC motors from things that break? I do, and I figured, "Hey, let's make an Instructable with this," because, why not? It's not like I'm doing anything with my R.M.C., and I doubt you are either.

In this Instructable, we will be making fans with paper and cardboard and hot glue and solder and -- You get the point. We're building a fan.

I know, I know, boring, right? Nope. Not these ones! These are super cool, homemade, recycled fans! And they run on eco-friendly, rechargeable batteries!

So, if you have lots of little motors laying around, this is the Instructable for you! You will finally find something vaguely useful to do with all those whirring, buzzing, spinning contraptions that everything seems to have these days.

This is one in a series of Instructables, which can be found here, once I finish and publish the rest of the series.

Step 1: Gathering Materials:

Every project needs tools and materials! It's always a good idea to make sure you have everything you need before starting a project, that way you won't get halfway through and find that you're unable to finish.



Lots of random DC motors (duh)



a switch

a battery box

hot glue




Soldering Iron

Hot Glue Gun


Pen/Pencil/Writing utensil

Length measuring apparatus (ruler, meter stick, whatever)

Glue stick

Step 2: Find Parts

1. Find a decent motor that spins fast, and is large enough to support a fan blade a couple inches across.

2. Gather some paper from the waste bin (clean, I used old copier paper), and see if you can find some cardboard laying around.

3. If you can't find any cardboard, ask your neighbor. Otherwise, foam board or an old plastic container will suffice.

Step 3: How to Get Recycled Battery Boxes

1. Find an old battery-powered toy that doesn't work (I used a remote from an IR coaxial helicopter from Walmart),

2. Use a small saw or knife to cut out the battery compartment

3. Use a piece of sandpaper to smooth off the edges.

4. Solder on new wires,

And viola, recycled battery box!

I should mention that you can probably salvage other components from the toy as well, i.e. more motors (whee!) and circuitry stuff.

Step 4: Soldering

1. Solder wires onto the motor

2. Attach one wire to the battery box

3. Attach the other wire to the side pin of a switch

4. Solder a third, longer wire to the middle pin of the switch

5. Solder the third wire to the other pin on the battery box

(I should mention that the more batteries, the better!)

Step 5: Thick Paper Shapes

1. Cut out a symmetrical shape from your paper (Circle, square, pentagon, octagon, etc.) about 3 inches across

2. Lay it on top of another piece of paper, trace it, and cut out another one

3. Repeat step 2 several times

4. Using a glue stick, glue each piece of paper together, and compress them under a book as the glue dries

And you end up creating, *gasp*, thick paper!

Step 6: Line Drawing

1. Find the center point of your thick paper shape
2. Poke a tiny hole using a pencil or pen

3. Draw lines outwards from this point to each of the corners of your shape (in the case of a circle, draw a line through the center, then draw a perpendicular line through that, also crossing through the center)

4. Draw a circle around the center of your shape, maybe an inch in diameter

5. Use pens/pencils/markers to color your shape in pretty patterns (not required)

Step 7: Fan-ification

1. Cut along the lines, stopping when you reach the circle.

2. Twist each of the flaps you just created to a 45 degree angle from the horizontal, folding them back and forth until they stay there, while being careful not to rip them.

3. Set the newly created fan blade aside, and get out your cardboard.

Step 8: Cardboard!!

1. Draw and cut out 2 squares of cardboard 5 inches by 5 inches.

2. Cut one square diagonally in half, creating two triangles.

3. Measure in 1 inch from two parallel sides of the other square, drawing 2 lines.

4. Cut off the top 1/2 inch of the two triangles.

5. Hot glue the two triangles on the lines, standing perpendicular to the square.

Step 9: Gluing Components

1. Bend the the two triangles into the center, and glue the motor in between. (Leave the terminals facing up, in case you need to switch the wires around.)

2. Glue the battery box onto the lowermost portion of the hypotenuse of the triangles.

3. Glue the switch somewhere accessible. (Use common sense.)

Step 10: Attaching the Fan

1. Take the fan blade, and insert the shaft of the motor into the tiny hole at the center.

2. Make sure your fan blade has enough clearance to make a full, unobstructed rotation with the blades bent slightly backwards. If it doesn't, you may have to cut a notch into the cardboard triangles to allow the fan to pass. It is best to do this before the fan is glued so you have room to work.

2. Glue the fan to the motor shaft.

3. To reduce noise from vibration, try to keep the glue centered and not piled to one side.

Step 11: Supports and Increasing Airflow

It's always great to maximize the amount of air your fan can move, making it more effective at it's job. These steps are optional, however I would advise following them.

1. Cut some little 1 centimeter lengths of wire.

2. Carefully glue the wire in between the fan blades as support struts. This keeps the blades from twisting flat and not moving air. Keep in mind, the less glue you use, the better, as this increases the weight that the motor has to move significantly, and reduces RPMs.

3. Carefully bend each blade in the center, making it curved. This allows the blade to more effectively push air forwards, instead of to the sides.

Step 12: Testing and Completion

1. Insert the required number of rechargeable AA batteries.

2. Flip the switch to turn it on...

3. And there you go! A recycled fan!.

4. Make more and give them to friends/family.

Step 13: Challenge Mode: Convert to Solar!!

In those sunny months, a fan is always nice, but dang, they use up power! Why not make it use what you get lots of for free? (*cough* sunlight *cough*). And that, my friends, is why some genius came up with solar panels.

All you have to do is:

Step 1: Find a decent size solar panel, or solder several smaller ones in series (this is why they are in the parts picture)

Step 2: Remove the battery box, and glue the solar panel(s) in its place, soldering all the proper connections.

Step 3: Put it in the sun, turn it on, and Solar Power!!

Step 14: Troubleshooting for the Non-electrically Inclined:

1. If it won't turn on, check to see that your batteries are charged or that the solar panels are wired correctly (look up the specs for your specific panel), and make sure the switch works.

2. If it still doesn't run, check the motor and the voltage requirements. (AC motors obviously won't work.)

You can check each component using a multi-meter turned to resistance mode, EXCEPT FOR THE BATTERIES. (You will blow the fuse in your multi-meter if you pass current through it in resistance mode.)

If the part works, the multi-meter should show a value, signifying electrical continuity.

If a part doesn't work, the multi-meter will read nothing, in other words, if you hold the two probes in the air and then touch them to the two contacts on your part, and the value doesn't change, then the part doesn't work.

When testing your switch, make sure that you are testing it while it is "On", and then only testing the middle pin and the side pin on the "on" side (the "off" side if you are using a rocker switch). In other words, it will only show continuity between the two pins if the switch is in the correct position for those pins to be connected. Google it if you need more help. (Heaven knows how you got this far on my Instructable without that sort of knowledge.)

3. To test your solar panels/batteries, turn the multi-meter to volt mode, probably 20, and touch the red probe to V+, while touching the black probe to V-, or Ground. (Not literally, if you stick the black probe in your lawn and touch the red one to V+, nothing will happen.)

4. If it spins the wrong way, switch the wires around on the motor. (This is why I had you glue yours with the terminals facing upwards.)

Make It Move Contest 2017

Participated in the
Make It Move Contest 2017