Tornado Humidifier Kit review

(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

Well, the Gakken editors have admitted that they took too long to come out with this issue. They didn’t specifically say what the delay was, but they kind of implied that there was a quality issue with the kit. It probably also allowed them to put in more time on the magazine, too, because it looks really good. Anyway, the magazine starts out with “Uzu” (spirals), a photo essay of spiraling air flow patterns, some of which are very complex and fractal-looking. This includes spirals in clouds, on the face of Jupiter, and from distant stars. There’s an 8-page explanation of how tornadoes are formed, with examples from the Gakken kit, and the indoor tornado generator at the Mercedes-Benz museum in Stuttgart, Germany.

There’s an explanation for how the kit works, plus the suggested mods – adding a little spinner to spin within the tornado; creating an Arduino bluetooth interface to a PC to control the mist and push it through a tube as a “beauty aid”; putting it on a penguin robot base to have a walking humidifier monster; and adding a photocell and Arduino control to have the LED light show activate when the room goes dark. There’s an interview with one woman on a project to translate 11 of the Gakken kits to Chinese; an article on the U.S.-Taiwan Formosat-3 meteorological satellite constellation; an explanation for how auroras happen; and a 6-page piece on Canadian tornado hunter, Greg Johnson. There’s 5 pages on the dangers of dry air (dried skin, build-up of viruses that cause the flu) and promotion of the use of room humidifiers (but which ignores the build-up of mold due to excessive humidity…); the instructions for building the kit; and the 16-page manga from Yoshitoo Asari on what 3-D printers are and how they work. The magazine ends with an ad for the Knitting Loom kit, and promise of the next Adult Science kit some time in 2016 – the Kaedadrone. Everything is in Japanese, as per SOP.

Just as an aside, the bits on health and beauty play into Gakken’s recent foray into skin care magazines and creams for aging women.

(The full set of pieces.)

Ok, for the kit itself. There are 31 pieces, plus another 19 screws, and a total 60 minute suggested assembly time. I took a little under 2 hours because I was also editing videos, helping with a computer manual translation, and doing the dishes during all this. Assembly is pretty straight-forward, and there’s really only one or two tricky points that may get you if you can’t read Japanese.

(The pieces for making the mesh cone.)

This is the first tricky point. You need to make the cone mesh. Take the mesh material, the cone and the locking collar. Put the mesh over the collar and press the collar into place inside the cone. Make sure the mesh is smooth, and not floppy in the middle.

(The finished cone. The pieces just press-fit together.)

Like this. It’s not that hard to do, but it may be a bit difficult to figure out just by looking at the figures in the magazine.

(The cone, the mist generator, the LED cover and the main base.)

The next step is to put together the major assemblies. In effect, you’re going to have the top and bottom sections of the cylinder, which are separated by a single sheet of rolled plastic. The base is where the secrets lie. The piece in the lower right corner of the above photo is the water tray. It’s also the holder for the main circuit board (which goes underneath). The piece at the top right contains a transducer (shown below), which pushes a felt cylinder (shown above) that is sitting in the water tray. The transducer vibrates at ultrasonic frequencies to produce the mist. The mist gets diffused by the mesh cone, and then rises into the bottom of the main cylinder.

(And the reverse sides.)

The base (left, in the below photo) has both the power switch and a volume control. The volume control changes the speed of a very small fan for less or more airflow up to the top of the cylinder, and the strength of the transducer for producing less or more mist. The top piece contains the fan blade assembly and an exit path for the mist to leave the cylinder and fill up your room. It also has the tri-color LED for illuminating the tornado from above.

(The partially-assembled base and top cover. Notice the power switch and volume control at the bottom side of the base unit to the left. These have to be inserted before putting the other pieces into place.)

I’m not really clear what the purpose is of the two pieces of cardboard coming from the transducer head (in the upper photo, bottom left assembly), other than to act as shim in holding the transducer while minimizing vibrations in the kit as a whole. Personally, I think the pieces should be shortened to maybe a third the length.

(The base, with the mister mesh cone in place, and the fully assembled top unit.)

(The fully assembled kit. The second “tricky” point is that you need to put the plastic cylinder in place so that the slots in the cylinder are down next to the two white paddles in the base unit. If you want to further hide the wires, you can cut a strip of paper out of the magazine (bottom of page 61) and slide it into the support spine.)

The wires run from the base to the top within the support spine at the left side of the cylinder. And, the cylinder rotates to reveal the water reservoir. You need to keep the reservoir mostly full, which is maybe an 1/8th of a cup of water. There’s a little plastic “L” flange inside that marks how much water you need in the reservoir (not too little or too much). The reservoir will probably go empty after about 15 minutes. The unit runs on USB power from any PC or laptop, and a 1 meter cable is supplied with the kit. Rotate the cylinder back into place before turning the kit on. All the USB cable does is to provide unit power – there’s no other USB communications between the PC and the kit, and the kit doesn’t come with a battery holder.

There’s a little lever in the base that lets you rotate the cylinder so that the slots at the bottom of the plastic are at one side of the little white paddles, or the other. You want to position the slots so they’re just partially blocked by the paddles in order to generate spin in the airflow into the cylinder (you can rotate the lever to make the tornado spin clockwise or counterclockwise). So far, the “tornado” isn’t that visible in my kit, even with “volume” turned all the way up, and the slots partly not blocked by the paddles. Either put a black background behind the kit, or turn the lights off. If you push the power button once, you get a single color from the LED. If you push a second time, you get color cycling, as with the origami lamp and aurora kits. Purple seems to be the color that makes the tornado stand out the best. Red is the worst.

Overall, this is a nice nightlight, but you’re going to want to put a timer on the power cable to automatically turn it off before the reservoir goes dry, or you may damage the felt piece attached to the transducer. It’s a big kit, at about 24 cm tall, and 9 cm in diameter at the base. Most of the pieces are very sturdy, not including the thin plastic sheet. There were no missing pieces, and the only “leftovers” consisted of the cardboard sheet used for shim for the transducer, and that could be purposed as a spinner inside the tornado chamber. I’m going to keep messing with it to see if I can make the airflow stronger to make a more visible tornado. Then again, my apartment is normally at 60-70% humidity, and in the winter we have heavy condensation all around the windows and frames that we have to remove with towels. The last thing I need here is something that intentionally INCREASES the room humidity…

Next up: The Kaededrone
No details given.
Scheduled for some time in 2016.
This is a small, lightweight 2-bladed remote controlled drone based on an insect wing for the main body shape. I can’t tell what the size will be from the photo.

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