Introduction: Awesome Rainbow Tornado Lamp 2

About: Just another DIY creator gaining experience through every project!

In this instructable, I will be showing you how to create this tornado lamp. It creates a vortex out of fog, has rainbow lights, and is open air, meaning you can touch the tornado too.

This instructable is also in the lights contest so please vote in them if you think this project is cool! My project is also in the untouchable contest and the power supply contest.

The materials you will need are:

  1. 1 Arduino
  2. 1 RGB common anode LED
  3. 4 solid core wires
  4. 1 Ultrasonic humidifier module (You can get these off amazon for about $10)
  5. 1 plastic tub that is at least 4 - 5 inches in height
  6. 1 PC cooling fan
  7. 1 plastic tub about 1/4 inch taller than the cooling fan and can fit the fan inside
  8. Square wooden dowels
  9. Thin Flat panels of wood
  10. Thin plastic sheeting (from packaging)
  11. 6 drinking straws
  12. black spray paint
  13. 9V battery
  14. A Plexiglass sheet
  15. Hot glue sticks
  16. Solder

The tools you will need are:

  1. Hot Glue gun
  2. Soldering iron
  3. Coping saw
  4. Drill and drill bits
  5. needle nose pliers
  6. a file or sandpaper

Step 1: Trace and Cut Plexiglass

Take the plastic tub and place over the plexiglass. Trace around it with a sharpie or any other permanent marker. Don't use a dry erase marker because it will rub off easily. Besides, sharpie will easily come off with some isopropyl alcohol.

I used 95% concentration isopropyl alcohol, which can easily be found at a Walmart (or any other store) in the pharmacy section. It isn't important to have exactly 95% concentration, you can use lesser ones too but the marker will be a bit harder to remove. If you don't have a permanent marker or the alcohol, you can use dry erase marker but you have to be very careful not to erase it.

I found it was easier to trace the plastic tub at the corner of my plexiglass sheet because then I don't have to cut out two of the sides. To cut it, use a coping saw with the teeth facing away from the handle. Support the plexiglass on both sides a few inches from where you will be cutting it. I just placed my plexiglass on top of two paint cans. This way, I can cut with the saw straight down between the cans. Having the teeth face down prevents the glass from catching on to the saw and coming up (and making a LOT of noise in vibrations).

Once finished, file off any burrs in the plastic and sand the edges smooth.

Step 2: Trace Cooling Fan

It is important that the plexiglass is around 4 inches longer than the fan itself. This is because the ultrasonic module that will be used to create fog also sprays a lot of water. To get the fog out, I will be making holes in the plexiglass. If the ultrasonic module was directly under, it would spray water up through the holes instead of making fog come out.

For this reason I placed the fan centered to 3 sides on the right end of the plexiglass. To center it, measure the height of the plexiglass. Then, draw a perpendicular line to the midpoint of the first and touching the edge, but only half the length of the first line. (Refer to picture 1)

Next, center the fan on the point and trace around it. (Picture 2)

Using some rubbing or isopropyl alcohol, erase all marks except the fan trace. Lastly, draw a perfect hexagon (or close to perfect) around the square. Draw only the corners of the hexagon and make sure none of them fall exactly on the square or inside it. (Refer to picture 3)

Step 3: Drill Plexiglass

Use a drill bit that is approximately the same size as one of your straws. If it slightly small, that is fine, but don't use a bit that is too big. To check if the bit is big, just insert it in the straw and compare the diameters. (Picture 1)

Tip: Place the plexiglass on a block of wood or Styrofoam. This way, when you drill through the glass, you won't damage any surface underneath and you can drill completely through the glass too. (Picture 2)

Drill out the holes on the hexagon with the straw sized drill bit. The straws will eventually fit in these. If you used a smaller bit, use a sanding tool or a mini file to widen the holes.

Next, draw out 9 small holes at the center of the square. this is where the fog will escape from. Drill it out using a small bit as well. (Picture 3)

Using rubbing alcohol, wipe off all sharpie. (Picture 4)

Step 4: Upper Fan Housing

I used the other plastic tub for the fan's housing. This is why the fan should fit inside it with around 1 cm of space. (Picture 1)

I wanted it to be a perfect square around the fan itself, so I traced with some sharpie where I wanted to cut the tub to size. (Picture 2)

Lucky for you, I went though this process and I learnt that using a hacksaw to cut brittle plastic makes it shatter from vibrations. (Picture 3) It doesn't matter much though since all I need are the side walls of the tub. When you are done cutting the tub, hot glue it together into a square frame. (Picture 4)

Step 5: Upper Fan Housing Part 2

I wasn't in the mood to cut more plexiglass for the fan housing, and I needed to make it as light as possible. Besides, the only support it will have when finished are 6 straws.

For that reason, I got a plastic sheet from some packaging (a spinach box to be specific :P). (Picture 1)

I traced the both ends of the fan housing on the plastic.(Picture 2)

Next, trace the holes from the plexiglass onto the plastic sheet. (Picture 3) This step is important because it aligns the top housing and the plexiglass. Next, I cut it out and hot glued the plastic sheet to the fan housing. Then, I hot glued the fan to the sheet with holes traced on it. Make sure that the fan is sucking air into the housing. Most cooling fans have a diode in them that won't let it spin the other way. (Picture 4)

Using a hot glue gun, I melted holes where I had traced, making sure they were wide enough for a straw. Lastly, I cut out a hole in the plastic above the actual fan, but I made the diameter less than the fan. This is because there is a large area in the center without any blades. By cutting a smaller hole, it should (in theory) pull in air with the same force but in a smaller area. (Picture 5)

Step 6: Straws

You will need 6 straws for this project. It helps if they are the striped kind and you'll see why later.(Picture 1)

Cut the straws' bendy ends off and using a straight edge, make marks along all the straws at 3/4 inch intervals.(Picture 2 and 3)

Now, we need to make a hole in the straw at each mark. The lengthwise lines on the straw help keep the holes aligned. I used a push pin / thumbtack to make the holes. I first heated the metal point in a small flame, then poked a hole in the straw at a slight angle. The angle will help push the fog in a circle as well as upwards. (Pictures 4 and 5)

Lastly, I pushed the straws in a foam block and spray painted them with a flat black paint. I used an enamel based paint because it won't melt the foam and it dries fast. (Pictures 6 and 7)

Step 7: Attaching Fan Housing to Base

To make the tornado spin, the air needs coming from the holes in the straws should be going in a circle too.

First, plan out in which direction the holes in the straws will face. (Picture 1) As long as the straws are all angled the same degree, the tornado will form. An easy way to see this is draw a line from each hole towards the next adjacent hole. The line will represent the direction the straws will face. To make a faster and thinner tornado, angle the straw more towards the center (but not too much). You can see how much I angled the straws in (picture 1).

Next, fit the straw through the hole in the plexiglass by .5 cm or 1/4 inch. Hot glue it place from the other end of the plexiglass and make sure the holes in the straw are facing the same direction as the line you drew. (Picture 2)

One you finished gluing all the straws vertically, the top fan housing will fit over top perfectly (or with a bit of minor adjusting). This is why I had traced the holes from the glass to the plastic earlier. (Picture 3)

To make sure that the air flows from the holes in the side of the straws instead of through the end of the straw, I added some hot glue. While the glue was still warm, I used a pin to create a small hole. (Picture 4) This allows for a small amount of air to go into the lower tub and push out fog from the 9 other holes drilled earlier.

Step 8: Wood Plating and Ultrasonic Module

In order to see the tornado when it forms, there needs to be a black background. I made the background by measuring the width between individual straws, cutting some wood panels to length, spray painting the wood flat black, and then hot gluing it back on to the respective straw. If the wood piece is not big enough to cover the entire height, just use another and glue them close together. (Picture 1 and 2)

Before I started plating the tub though, I had to add the humidifier/ ultrasonic module. Simply hot glue it to at the bottom of the tub so that the spray of water won't hit any of the holes on the plexiglass. The ultrasonic module works by emitting high frequency waves. The waves then vibrate the water and turns it into a mist.

Important: make sure that when you fill up the lower tub with water, you fill to around 3 cm above the surface of the module. This is the range at which it works best and creates the most fog.

Next, I made a small frame out of wood sticks and glued it to the tub as I went. (Picture 3). I then glued wood panels onto the frame to create a box for the base. Make sure you create a small hole for wires before gluing on the final panel. (Pictures 4 and 5)

I'm not going to discuss in detail how to make the frame since it depends on the box size and preference. If the plastic tub is a shape you like, you can just spray paint it black. I spray painted the top on my fan housing a flat black color. (Picture 6)

I personally liked the wood look so I didn't spray paint the rest of the project, although some wood stain and a light polish could have made it look better.

Lastly, erase all the sharpie with alcohol. (Picture 7)

Step 9: LED

The LED I will be using is a common anode RGB led. Common anode means that there are positive pins for red, green, and blue, and one negative pin to power the entire LED.

(Picture 1) The longest pin is the anode. The medium pin to the right is red. The medium pin to the left is for green. The short pin on the far right is for blue. The longest pin for LED is usually for common anode or cathode.

For soldering, you will need 4 wires, a soldering iron, and some solder (mine has flux inside it already). (Picture 2)

Start by using some pliers and bending all 4 pins of the LED down by 90 degrees. (Picture 3)

Strip one end of the wire from it's insulation and form a small hook using the pliers. Do the same with a pin on the LED and hook the ends together. (Picture 4)

Crimp (flatten) the hooks so that they stay in place and using the tip of the iron, heat up the connection. This will help the solder stick to the surface. After about 10 seconds of heating, touch the solder wire to the connection and iron and cover both hooks. Remove the iron and let the solder cool. (Picture 5 and 6)

Once you have finished with all four LED pins, it should look something like this: (Picture 7)

Step 10: Arduino

I wanted the LED facing straight down into the tornado to light it up so I positioned it under the fan as shown in picture 1. I then glued the wires to the fan housing so the LED stays in place (Picture 2). Next up, connect the other ends of the wires to an arduino. The anode goes to 3.3 V, the red wire goes to analog out 2, green to analog out 3, and blue to analog out 4. (Picture 3)

If you want, you can make a housing for the arduino too such as the one from my original tornado lamp in picture four. I chose to just hot glue it to the back of the lower tub. Now we just need to program it to turn on the lights.

Luckily, I have already written up the code for you! Just copy and paste this into the arduino program software and upload to your arduino:

void setup(){ pinMode(4, OUTPUT); //blue pinMode(3, OUTPUT); //green pinMode(2, OUTPUT); //red } void loop(){ analogWrite(2, 255); analogWrite(3, 255); analogWrite(4, 255); //all off int d = 100; // delay between each color fading in or out. // This delay times 2.04 is the exact number // of seconds one full cycle will take. for(int a=255; a>0; a--){ analogWrite(2, a); delay(d); }//fade in red for(int a=255; a>0; a--){ analogWrite(3, a); delay(d); }//fade in green for(int a=0; a<255; a++){ analogWrite(2, a); delay(d); }//fade out red for(int a=255; a>0; a--){ analogWrite(4, a); delay(d); }//fade in blue for(int a=0; a<255; a++){ analogWrite(3, a); delay(d); }//fade out green for(int a=255; a>0; a--){ analogWrite(2, a); delay(d); }//fade in red for(int a=255; a>0; a--){ analogWrite(3, a); delay(d); }//fade in green for(int a=0; a<255; a++){ analogWrite(2, a); analogWrite(3, a); analogWrite(4, a); delay(d); }//fade out all }

The code above is for common anode LEDs. If you want to change up the program, such as changing how fast the colors cycle, you can edit the code easily. I have added in comments that should make it easy for a novice to programming to understand the basic function of my program. Also, above the code looks kinda messy but if you copy and paste it into the arduino software, it will look normal.

Step 11: Finally Done

Simply place the top assembly on the bottom. If you want, you can use some hot glue to create a better seal. Make sure you can still remove it though to fill water.

You can connect the power wires of the cooling fan to ground and 5V on the arduino, but my fan runs a bit slow. For that reason, I just connected it to a 9 volt battery and that was enough power. Lastly, connect the arduino to a power source such as a USB cable. The lights should start off and start cycling through slowly. I really like having the clear plexiglass so you can see the fog and water droplets inside the lower tub.

Be sure to vote for me in the Lights, Untouchable, and Power Supply contest if you liked this project. Please leave any questions or suggestion you have in the comments below. I had fun building this and if you try it for yourself, I hope you enjoy it too.

Edit 6/2/17 - I have added a video of the lamp in action. The lighting on the camera isn't perfect, but it captures the tornado the best at around the 0:50 min mark.

Untouchable Challenge

Runner Up in the
Untouchable Challenge

Power Supply Contest

Participated in the
Power Supply Contest

Lights Contest 2017

Participated in the
Lights Contest 2017