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ODYSSEY READIES HALO FOR PRODUCTION
by Bill Mills
Back in the early days, paintguns were loaded with 10 round tubes built into the paintgun. It wasn't long before extension tubes were being added increasing firepower to the level of 20 or 30 balls being able to fire without reloading.
Then came hoppers. In 1987 a player appeared on the cover of action pursuit games with a hopper on their paintgun, and the next weekend, every player on my team had cut-down oil cans and the like forming hoppers. Worr Games Products soon released their 35 round box shaped hopper that for a time was the standard.
Commercial hoppers began hitting the market with 100, 200, and 300 round capacities, and loader tubes got a lot fatter than the 10 round cigar tubes of the early days.
Then came semi-autos that shot faster, shook less with each shot than pump action paintguns, and a problem arose. Paintballs, sitting loose in a hopper don't have a natural desire to head right toward a feedneck - they tend to jam. Take three shots, shake the paintgun, take three shots, shake the paintgun was standard practice for a while.
Viewloader stirred things up, literally, by releasing loaders with an agitator - a motorized vane that would spin when a photo sensor detected no paintballs in the loader neck. This advanced to the Revolution loader we have today, but still simply mixed up the balls, rather than pulling them out of the pile in an organized manner.
The Evolution loader from Viewloader was the first separate loader product to actually sort the balls into the feed neck (the Tippmann F/A used a nearly identical methodology but was integrated into the paintgun), but was not as well received on the market as its predecessor, the Revolution.
Enter HALO. At the 2000 World Cup, Tex Christopher provided a top secret preview of a functional prototype loader. Tex is a former Viewloader Employee, and it was in fact he who had also introduced me to the Revolution on the day of its initial release.
Tex left Viewloader after the company was purchased by Brass Eagle, and is presently with Odyssey Paintball Products, Inc. At the Gettysburg NPPL tournament, he was ready for an open showing of a HALO (Highly Advanced Loader Operations) prototype, and gave the OK for public release of information.
The HALO loader is getting closer to production, with only the molds for a few of the parts remaining to be done. The prototype shown, much like the prototype at World Cup (Photos dated Oct 2000), was produced with Stereo Lithography (SLA) technology. SLA is used for rapid prototyping. A computer uses a Computer Aided Design (CAD) file, and fires a pair lasers into a polymer bath. Where the two beams cross, the polymer is heated and solidifies. Point by point, the computer creates a solid model replicating the computer design. With a little sanding and spray paint, the SLA prototype achieved the look and feel of the final product.
HALO is built for high speed loading. It uses a circular wheel sitting in the bottom of the loader area to capture the paintballs and sort them into the feed neck. A cone shaped center on the wheel uses gravity to get the balls to settle in compartments on the outer edge of the wheel (Oddysey refers to the entire wheel structure as a cone).
The eight ball compartments, separated by thin curved walls, capture the paintballs, forcing them to spin along with the wheel. Using the rotary capture disk concept, the more chambers the disk has, the longer each compartment will be exposed to the paintballs at any given rotational speed - increasing the chances of its capturing a ball.
A half pipe extends out from the feed neck, capturing the paintballs off of the wheel, and routing them to the neck. This sets the operating concept apart from that of the Evolution which relies on inertia and centrifugal effect to loose the balls from the impeller. A flexible arm in front of the capture tube blocks balls which are only half way in position. This anti jam devicet bends to prevent blockage of the system. A spring loaded ball detent traps the balls in the horizontal passage between the wheel and the feed neck. This prevents balls from rocking back and forth in the space, making certain the tube is always full. A small lever, next to the feed neck can be used to hold the detent out, to empty all paintballs from the loader.
The HALO loader does not force feed the paintballs into the paintgun. It sorts them from the loader compartment into the feed neck where gravity allows them to drop into the paintgun, though when operating unempeded the balls will be thrown out the tube by the feed mechanism.
Viewloader's agitating loader patent (5816232) protects the idea of using "a sensor electrically connected to said motor and positioned to detect an absence of a paintball at a specified location within said outfeed tube." Rather than detecting the absence of a ball with an infrared beam crossing the feedneck, the HALO utilizes an IR beam reflected off of the ball to detect the presence of a paintball. The reflected IR sensor is at the very top of the feed tube, to react when a single ball is fed.
According to Christopher, HALO prototypes have been able to feed over 30 balls per second. The basic production HALO is planned to feed at about 16 balls per second. Optional software and bearing kit upgrades will be later available to allow increased loading speeds.
The electronics on the HALO are simple to operate. A protected, recessed push button is the only control. Pressing the button in an on/off/on sequence activates the loader. The push button, means there are no toggles extending out of the loader body to break or snag. The button sequence prevents accidental activation in a player's gear bag. Pressing and holding the button turns the loader off. The rear surface of the loader with the push button is a removable piece, and future upgrades with more advanced controls and data display are planned.
Placement of the motor and electronics in back, and battery pack in the front leaves HALO balanced over the feed neck with or without paintballs inside. 6 "AA" batteries provide power. The battery cover also provides structural integrity, locking together the lower front of the loader body. Stainless steel screws hold together the two loader halves. All screws connect to stainless steel nuts, not into plastic, for long life with multiple assembly/disassembly cycles.
While production molds are still being finalized, HALO is expected in restricted release this summer, and full production units shipping by World Cup 2001. Odyssey's new loader is protected by US patent 6213110. Initial distribution of the HALO will be available through Warped Sports and National Paintball Supply of South Carolina. The minutes are ticking until a paintball dealer somewhere offeres a package deal - an Angel complete with the HALO on top.
Note: This article has been
ammended since its initial publication to provide more accurate information
- specifically the planned feed rate of 18 pbs for the production HALO
was reduced to 16 between October 2000 and May 2001.
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