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LAPCO Uni-Flow Upgrade for Cyclone Feed
WARPIG readers who read our review of the LAPCO Cyclone Ratchet Upgrade for the Tippmann A5, X7 and 98 (it it's upgraded with a Cyclone feed) are already familiar with what LAPCO has done to provide longer lasting internal components for the Cyclone Feed, but what about the system that drives it?
The Cyclone feed is operated by a pneumatic ram. When the marker fires, its valve opens, feeding gas into a chamber behind the poppet. From this chamber, the largest opening allows gas to flow forward through valve's power tube, to propel the paintball. Gas also exits rearward through the space between the valve pin and valve body. The rearward burst of gas fills a cylinder in which the marker's hammer (rear bolt in Tippmann terminology) sits. Since the force of the compressed gas on the hammer face is greater than the resistance offered by the marker's mainspring, the gas expands, driving the hammer back, recocking it for the next shot.
Tapped off the side of the Tippmann valve assembly, providing a third escape route for the gas, is a vent for air powered accessories, like the Cyclone Feed and Response Trigger. Gas that would otherwise simply be released into the air once the hammer clears the edge of the powertube body or out through the barrel, also expends out through the side tap.
In the case of a Cyclone Feed equipped marker, that gas is fed into a pneumatic cylinder, or ram. As it continues to expand, dropping its pressure until it is equal to that of the atmosphere, the ram is actuated, pushing a rod forward inside the bottom of the Cyclone Feed where it pushes the feed's ratchet arm, rotating it around the feed system shaft.
When the hammer clears the rear of the power tube and the paintball has cleared the barrel, the compressed gas inside the Cyclone ram now has no pressure resistance built up behind it, and the pressure of a return spring that is built into the ram. At this point the ram resets, with the gas inside flowing back out the way it came, and the ram's link rod pulling the Cyclone latch which has locked into the ratchet on the Cyclone Feed's axle, causing it to rotate the impeller arms in the feed cup loading a paintball.
Since its initial introduction on the A5, Tippmann updated the Cyclone Feed cylinder, and the newer version found on the X7 sports two rings of quick-exhaust holes. The theory behind the design is that the forward ring of holes gives air in the front of the cylinder less resistance to get out of the piston's way, allowing for faster forward motion of the piston. The rear set of holes is positioned such that when the piston is at the forward end of its stroke, the holes allow the gas pressure behind the piston to vent straight out into the atmosphere.
LAPCO's Uni-Flow is designed to provide the benefits of quick-exhaust porting, with further improvements. Externally LAPCO's Uni-Flow looks a bit fancier. Although basically the same shape and size, it has metal cut away where the cylinder walls can be thinner, and ramped up where more thickness is needed. The rear section is haxagonal, and it has a laser engraved LAPCO scorpion accenting its glossy black anodized finish.
LAPCO uses only one ring of quick exhaust ports in their design. They have eliminated the forward ring of ports, figuring them to be inconsequential, since the front of the piston faces almost negligable air resistance, exchanging gas freely with the interior of the Cyclone Feed. Eliminating those ports means that they can't draw dust or debris in when the cylinder is on its return stroke.
LAPCO has placed the rear ports about .15 inches further back. They are roughly ½ the diameter of those in Tippmann's cylinder, and sitting over them is an o-ring, held in place because it is sitting in a groove in the Uni-Flow body. Though the ports will be available for gas to exit earlier in the piston stroke than the they offer a little more resistance due to their smaller size and the o-ring.
The o-ring around the quick-exhaust ports not only provides some resistance to the air flow, but it also serves as one-way valving for the exhaust ports, preventing them from becoming entry points for debris. This is important, as is the elimination of the forward ports, because the Cyclone Feed's operation depends on low piston friction and a smooth solid seal between the piston and cylinder, both of which can be jeopardized by the jagged edges of small grains of sand or dust.
Installation of the LAPCO Uni-Flow on a Tippmann X7 for review was simple and straighforward. LAPCO's included instruction sheet featured step by step photographs of the entire process, though as with their ratchet instructions, removing the Cyclone Feed from the marker proved unnecessary. Installation was achieved by opening the Cyclone feed, removing the gas line from the stock cylinder, then gently lifting it up just far enough to clear the retaining ridges in the Cyclone Feed housing. It was then slid off of the piston housing. Needle nosed pliers and an adjustable wrench were used to remove the manual advance knob from its pushrod, which was removed from the stock cylinder, then installed and reassembled in the LAPCO Uni-Flow.
Before re-assembly, the piston was lubricated with Tippmann supplied paintgun oil. The Uni-Flow was slid onto the piston. With the spring spacer held inside the Uni-Flow, it was fitted into its grooves in the Cyclone housing, the cover secured, and hose connected.
Unfortunately, the Uni-Flow did not work properly on the first install. It would only advance the cyclone feed one out of every 5 to 10 times the marker was fired. After multiple disassembly, inspection and re-assembly cycles, it was determined that the piston was not advancing quite far enough forward to the engage the Cyclone Feed's ratchet, so the impeller was not rotated when the piston reset.
An e-mail to LAPCO's technical support prompted a phone call in reply. The two possible problems LAPCO suspected were under-lubrication, or a machining error that left that particular Uni-Flow slightly out of spec. LAPCO arranged for an exchange, as would be done under normal warranty support, and a new Uni-Flow was on its way for testing.
When the replacement Uni-Flow arrived it was installed in an X7 which had already received LAPCO's Cyclone Ratchet Upgrade. The piston was lubricated with LAPCO recommended Pure Lube marker lubricant from Pure Excess Industries, and this time around it performed as expected, advancing the cyclone feed every time the marker was fired.
With everything functional, it was time for the test stand. The X7's feed performance with the stock Cyclone parts was compared to that with the LAPCO Ratchet Upgrade and Uni-Flow combination. The marker was run on the WARPIG Ballistic Labs test stand, with microprocessor controlled pneumatic trigger actuator pulling the X7's trigger. Without a barrel, the marker fired paint at low velocity into a ball catcher box, which slowed the paint to a stop, allowing the number of paintballs fed intact to be accurately counted, and the paint balls inspected to be sure they were fed without damage.
The hopper was loaded with 100 DXS paintballs and the marker was put through our stanardized 10-round burst hopper test. The trigger actuator cycled the marker for 10 round bursts at selected rates of fire. For each rate of fire, 3 trials were performed and the results recorded. If the marker fed every shot un-damaged in at least 2 of those three trials, it was tested again at a faster rate. The resulting score, the highest rate to feed at least 2 out of three trials flawlessly indicates the maximum rate at which the marker/loader configuration can consistently feed every shot after starting from a dead-stop.
Testing with the stock configuration yielded a score of 13 bps. Testing with the LAPCO replacements for the ratchet and Uni-Flow yielded the same high score. Looking at the test data in graph form, it is clear that although the performance difference was not enough to obtain a higher score, there was a measurable improvement in feed consistency with the LAPCO components.
LAPCO's Uni-Flow for the Tippmann Cyclone feed offers the same operational benefits as Tippmann's quick exhaust cylinder in a more stylish package with better protection against debris intrusion for a longer operational life.
Editor's note: Astute readers of WARPIG may have noticed this article originally described the Uni-Flow as a "QEPH." LAPCO has changed the name of the product, avoiding a conflict with Tech T Paintball's trademarked product name, and this article has been updated accordingly.
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