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Cool Cat Fans are almost ready for limited production, but needs capital for some minor tools, equipment, materials for production and general business expenses. By achieving the pledge goal we can start limited production and internet sales. Help is needed to kick-start the production and sales process. Most of the tooling has already been developed and purchased. The design is solid from hundreds of proven tests. We have 3 different injection molds already purchased for the different fan parts, but need one more minor injection mold. The motor and fan assembly, which is the heart of the fans, works well under tests and we are confident that in the future the design of the motor can and will be used in other products. If the target pledge goal is exceeded, this will allow us to reduce the price of the product, even more than planned, through improved design for manufacturing and adding more technology to our manufacturing process. Our goals are simple: build the best product, continuous improvement, continue lowering costs, and keep components simple and easily obtainable from here in the US.
We started down the path of designing our own Brushless Direct Current (BLDC) motor and integrating it into the fan blade as a result of the difficulties in finding and trying to work with some foreign companies. Problems arose in the timelines, quantities, and costs of components, particularly in limited quantities. Therefore, we rethought our approach and successfully designed the BLDC motor into the fan blade along with the needed electronics for motor control. We have run our brushless motors thousands of hours and they remain cool and reliable.
- Stylish and compact for the desk environment
- Power from 240-100 AC to 12 VDC Adapter or;
- Powered from Special USB 3 cable
- Brushless DC motor (high reliability)
- No wire windings (ease of manufacturing)
- No laminated Stator (ease of manufacturing)
- High air-flow (approx. 150 CFM)
- Adjustable air flow
- Quiet even air distribution (7 inch fan blades)
- Low power consumption (4 Watts)
- U.S. Designed and Manufactured
The US needs to bring back manufacturing of commodities products to provide jobs, stabilize our manufacturing capabilities and improve our work force. Small, inexpensive motors for fans and toys, for example are manufactured in other countries. We truly believe that small businesses can manufacture these types of commodities here in the US with innovation and high technology manufacturing to compete with cheap overseas labor and high volume manufacturing. This is a chance to support this effort.
Three years ago, in May of 2015, our electric bill reached more than $180 in a single month in Orange County, California with no air conditioning. So, we went on a hunt to find our wasted electricity, reduce our electric usage and thus our carbon footprint. We measured everything, removing vampire AC adapters, replacing all lights with LEDs, put timers on TVs that were being left on by the kids, installed ultra-low power ceiling fans, and even put a timer on the modem and router to turn off between 1 and 6 am. This got the electric bill down to about $60 a month and we were rather proud. We also thought that if everyone did this it would go a long way towards helping reduce the need for energy and reducing our carbon footprint.
As we got more into the summer and it started to get hotter and more uncomfortable in our home office while working on the computers (no fans in the room) we started looking at different types of desk fans and purchased one. We got out our Kill-a-Watt meter and noticed it was drawing 35 watts of power. It was also very noisy and it took up a lot of space (close to a square foot on the desk) but curious, the fan blades were small, only 7 inches. We looked at other smaller fans and found many that were loud, took a lot of power and simply didn’t move much air. We wanted a good working fan that was comfortable, quiet (for conference calls), and used less power. So little power, that it would run on a USB 3.0 port. We don't like all those AC wall adapters. Being an electronic engineer I started thinking about fans that were used to cool entertainment systems that had to be quiet. This is what we called going into Phase 0.
Initial Concept Design - Phase 0
We went to our local electronics store and found a couple of 200 mm (7.8 inch) pancake fans. At home we connected them up to an AC-to-DC power supply and on to a DC-to-DC converter so that we could have variable control of the speed and thus noise of the fan. We cut out holes in a board, mounted the units and this was our concept prototype fan.
The unit worked well and we used it the entire summer. The power usage was low, but even with 2 fans was still less than 10 watts. We liked the design, it was quiet, used less power than other units, and provided more than enough air to be comfortable during warm and hot days that reached into the low and mid 80s within our office. We decided to develop a single fan version and learn how to design plastics. Cindy would continue to review and research other fans. We discovered Protolabs.com, a Minnesota based injection mold company that would take 3D models and build injection molds for high rate production. These guys at Protolabs are fantastic! This began the real design work, which we call Phase 1.
Fan Housing Design - Phase 1
We proceeded for the next year by developing two 3D models for the housing and the housing feet that we then converted into injection molds. The housing held a 3rd party modified pancake fan and motor assembly that was connected to a DC-to-DC converter for controlling the fan speed. The fan didn’t have a name at this time, so my wife and I developed a label, and the Cool Cat Fan was born.
This was the design we initially wanted to go into production and sell, so we created iBrink LLC a manufacturing company. There were several problems that were solved and new problems for taking the product into low rate production discovered. The problem stopping this prototype from going into production was the cost of one important component, the pancake fan. An analysis was performed and we discovered that this cost could be reduced considerably if a new fan and motor could be designed and produced in-house instead of purchasing the pancake fan from overseas. Success would mean every major component of the fan would than be built, designed and assembled in the United States giving us better control of parts for manufacturing.Therefore, Phase 2 of the fan design began.
Fan and Motor Development - Phase 2
Designing fan blades and motors is not easy! It took a year of study, building, and testing different motor types and fan geometries that were integrated and tested. About 8 different fan blades and motors were built until the performance goals were met for speed, low power, low noise, and reduced cost. Once the fan blade, motor, and controller design was completed, the job of making a silent bearing design was started. Again, a few prototypes were developed then improved and tested until the correct balance of airflow, power consumption, low noise, and low cost was achieved. Once designed into the housing and retested for a number of months, it was clear that the design was solid and ready for low rate production for which Kickstarter.com is needed. With capital from the campaign, Phase 3 will begin.
Limited Manufacturing - Phase 3
With new capital we will update the printed circuit board, design and buy one mold (simple adapter), automate hole cut-outs of fan housing, buy new back labels, develop a website for marketing and sales, test-test-test, buy fan components and manufacture Cool Cat Fans. With money that exceeds target pledge we will update our manufacturing for more speed, efficiency and performance.
It is possible that we over-calculated manufacturing costs for large quantity builds. We might be able to lower the cost to less than $35.
- Popularity of the Cool Cat Fans might be greater than expected, with more people realizing the benefits to save air-conditioning costs, and having a more comfortable work space, which will allow us to develop more styles and offer the fans in different colors.
- The very light weight and highly reliable Brushless DC motor may be offered separately, without the fan, to be designed into other applications generating another market for iBrink LLC.