Aiding repair in consumer electronics is one way to keeping products out of landfill. However, repair can be seen as an intimidating, risky experience. And what happens to the broken discarded part after a repair? This project looked at addressing the dauntingness of repair, and striking the balance of parts, either returning to a manufacturer or being recycled locally by the consumer.

Brief: Design a fan where extractive behaviours are replaced with regenerative mindsets.

Insights

After collecting lots of fans from a recycling centre, and carrying out diagnostic testing, it appeared nearly all the motors and electronics worked perfectly.  It was not the expensive, resource intensive parts of the product that had failed, but the surrounding cheaper components like the bases, stands, guards or propellers.

Recapture 

In this fan, all the electrics are concentrated into one safe, insulated module, so the consumer can safely open up the product; this also enables this part to get back to the manufacturer. An inflatable packaging sleeve will provide the hassle free return packaging for the motor module. It will wait, behind the motor for the repairer to find. Once the sleeve is slipped over the motor, a tab can be pulled off and the bag can be inflated, providing protection in transit. Prepaid, and address printed, the motor would be less then 35mm, so can be simply popped in a post box.

The motor module is full of copper, iron, neodymium and polymers, so it makes sense for this part to find it way back to its producer. However, for casings, feet, buttons etc, it may not be realistic or rational to send these back, or take to a retailer. Kerb side recycling is designed for what it collects - bottles and thin plastics. Therefore, the rest of the desk fan is made from either biological materials, which can safely return to the biosphere in their local environment, or abundant materials which are incredibly durable, and cause little harm in their disposal.

Design and materials

A centrifugal fan - one which sucks air into the centre of the impeller and throws cool air towards the perimeter, can project air upwards eliminating a large stand with a rotating neck. The case of the fan is a slip cast ceramic piece. In this context of use, ceramic provides excellent properties. The surface finish will outlast any other finish on a plastic or metal part and will never scratch, fade or wear. Modern glazes are incredibly durable from chipping or cracking and the part was designed so the rim, the weakest point, was not exposed. Although, an enormously abundant resource, fired clay has no real route to a second life - here is where a balance between durability and recyclability has to be found.

Diagnosis 

I wanted to design a product that people felt comfortable and confident in disassembling.; mechanisms natural to people. Snap fittings are unfamiliar, or even a screw driver can be a daunting proposition for some users. Popping the lid off something and swapping parts over  compared to ‘repairing a product’ is a less intimidating narrative. This fan needs no tools necessary, and can be done not just easily, but fast.

With 75% less components of a typical desk fan (around 35!), self diagnosis and rapid and intuitive disassembly is made incredibly simple.