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I'm not sure about design either. The speed is variable though, so if you were getting it to mix chemicals, you would just use a lower speed. For a yeast starter, you essentially want to get it going as fast as you can without throwing the bar. They also use the exact same teflon coated stir bars. I think the idea behind them is more economical than anything specifically designed for making a yeast starter. Afterall, there are plenty of homebrewers out there using lab stir plates too.
Just thought this might be a good option as they are always available, and you don't have to hunt one down on Evilbay.
I got a Hanna HI 190M from American Science & Surplus in Chicago. It is certainly a hobby version but for about $40 it does the job. I did find, however, that a 1.5" stir bar works more efficiently than the 1" bar that comes with the unit.
Have a nice, bought new, Corning hotplate stirrer. Best darkroom kit I ever bought.
Bought a 9 x 9 inch, three torque setting, variable speed magnetic from the evil auction place. Seller was a reconditioned lab equipment house. Very pleased. Made sure I bought a serious sized magnetic cross shape stir bar. If you go industrial size make sure you check the speed setting before doing th Off to ON transition. Mine can spin up water right up the sides. Over kill but works wonderfully.
Just pulled the trigger on a Corning PC 320 and some stir bars. I think that this will work well for me.
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Nice unit. Good luck with it.
A stirrer is a nice thing to have. I'm sure tempted to get a higher-capacity one; mine's only good to 1L.