Manufacturing Hacks: Cheap LED fan from Taobao

I used to work for a big Toy OEM company. I know some manufacturing processes and how it cost. Sometimes I am really curious about how cheap toys in the China mainland market are made, especially ones from Taobao. Yes, maybe they use some poor quality plastic material. But somehow, the electrical parts still work. They have to cost some money.

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Anyway, I bought this LED fan on Taobao with a whole sale price less than $1. Let’s disassemble it to see how the electrical parts work.

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Loosen the only screw in the middle to open the fan.

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You can find that the motor is power by battery with a power switch and resistor in series. GND is connected to the motor shell which is connected to the spindle by a metal piece B. VCC is connected to the metal piece A which is connected to the Battery positive with a power switch in series.

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The metal piece A provides VCC for the LED controller board. The motor’s spindle provide GND for the LED controller board.

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The thing that made me most surprised is that the wirebond technique is not only used for LEDs on the FPC, but also used for the connection between the FPC and the controller PCB.

We’ll keep studying more cheap toys to learn the advantage of their process, to improve our future projects. I didn’t think of using bond wires to connect a FPC cable before, and its a new technique to consider for production.

4 comments

  1. Akiba says:

    Oh, nice post, Honghong. I’m very curious about all the tricks used in the toy industry. They’re so creative to save cost because the margins are so low. I’m looking forward to more posts and hopefully to meet you and Matt in Shenzhen/Guandong some more 🙂
    Akiba

  2. J. Peterson says:

    Very odd to use wire bonding to attach the LED strip. It looks like if the tweaked the spacing just a bit they could have used solder paste? Or maybe wire bonding is no more expensive? This almost looks like a situation where they had two slightly mismatched parts from other production runs, and resorted to this to use them up.

    I’ll bet passing FCC wasn’t a concern here : )

    • Matt Mets says:

      It is a bit of a strange technique. I can think of a lot of potential reasons to skip reflow- the temperature cycle is tough on the materials, and uses quite a bit more energy, so if you can avoid it why not? There’s presumably a glut of used machinery of all kinds here, so it’s probably not a huge effort to try something different.

      Welcome to the world of Shanzhai 🙂

    • Honghong Lu says:

      (1) Using solder paste may need reflow process which may cause some problems for the LED if the temperature is too high.
      (2) Using soldering iron may need good worker to finish the job. And the labor cost maybe 15~20 seconds. And the quality control may cost more. For example, you can find some defects with some tiny short circuits while you manufacture 1000 pieces. It always happened when I worked in the Toy company. The solution of the quality control is always training the workers and double check. 😛
      So when I realize that the wirebond can apply on it, I guess it is not only for cost but also for quality control.

      I am not sure whether it is the Alpha chip. Anyway for the LED fan you can refer to below link http://www.ealpha.com.cn/Eng/ny.asp?id=382

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