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Wicked Air Sportz

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Wicked Air Sportz Turbo Rev
by Bill Mills
Sept 2001

In the loader game, Wicked Air Sportz is taking a different road.  Rather than building a new loader, they are improving existing loaders. 

The Turbo Rev is the brainchild of Wicked's Jim Drew.  Drew has a long history as an electronics designer - the computer that was used to design's original graphics even has a circuit board designed by him. 

Turbo Rev replaces the standard circuit board inside a ViewLoader Revolution agitating Loader.  It is available in two versions, 9v and 12v.  Don't let the names confuse you, both versions have the same board, and it operates on 12 volts, powered by a pair of 9 volt batteries.  The difference in the name denotes which Revolution model it is meant to upgrade.  ViewLoader's 9 volt Revolution has a small two blade agitation paddle (the same paddle design as was used in the VL2000 loader).  Wicked Air Sportz 9v TurboRev kit includes not only the TurboRev board, but also a standard 4 blade Revolution agitator.  Since the 12v Revolution already has one of these paddles, no paddle is included with the 12v Turbo Rev kit (and thus it has a lower price tag).

Installation of the TurboRev is described on the inside of the fold over card on top of its package.  A very in-depth and well illustrated installation manual is available in Adobe Acrobat format on the Wicked Air Sportz web site.  The process is rather straightforward.  First unscrew the screws holding the two halves of the Revolution together.  For those who care about their lid spring, it must be watched carefully while separating the halves.  It has a way of trying to sneak away and hide somewhere on the floor.  With the Revolution apart, the old circuit board can be unplugged from the motor. 

The circuit board sits in a small black plastic carrier.  It is easily removed by sliding off the four battery contacts and then sliding out the circuit board.  The TurboRev then slides into the carrier, the motor plugs into it, and the circuit carrier slides into the Revolution half.  With everything in place, and the wires tucked into their paths, the two halves are assembled, with special care to the lid return spring, if it is going to be kept.  The screws go in place, and installation is done.

One of the things immediately noticed, when installing the pair of 9 volt batteries, is that the TurboRev uses wired battery clips, rather than spring contacts.  Past experience with the VL2000 and VL2000 Shredder shows that these type of connectors can suffer from broken wires after much use and abuse.  Failure of a connector wire would not be the end of the world, it is a fairly simple item to repair for anyone with rudimentary soldering skills.  On the upside, the battery compartment door is easier to open or close without the batteries compressed against it.

Rather than an on/off toggle switch, the TurboRev features a black plastic pushbutton for power control.  The design of its momentary pushbutton switch is less mechanically complex than the standard toggle switch making it theoretically more durable.

The TurboRev is activated by holding down the power button for about a full second.  When it activates, it is suddenly apparent that it's not a standard Revolution anymore.  The multicolor LED, which illuminates the space marked "Low Batt" on the Revolution body, first comes on in orange, to indicate that the circuitry is booting, and starting self-diagnostic procedures.

The difference is in software

That's where the TurboRev stands apart from the original board (or the XBoard for that matter).  Physically it functions like the original board - it detects infrared light through the same detector in the feed neck, indicating a gap in the stack of balls, and it delivers power to the Revolution's agitating motor.   Where it is different is in the software that determines how it will operate.

During the diagnostic sequence, the TurboRev oscillates the electromagnetic coils inside the Revolution's motor at a preset series of frequencies.  Listening closely one can distinctly here the 5 note sequence aliens used to contact the earth in the 1977 film Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  If the tones do not play, an error in the motor, or motor wiring is indicated.

After the diagnostic sequence, which is roughly 2 seconds, the TurboRev is operational, and ready to agitate. 

The TurboRev does not agitate with every ball fed, but rather based on a set of rules about how often, and how long it detects a clear path between the optical sensors.  It reacts by spinning the agitating paddles for a time period, and a speed based on those rules. 

According to Jim Drew a problem with the standard board is that it can spin the agitating paddles faster than is needed, throwing paintballs past the feed neck opening, where it will take longer for them to fall back to the neck.  During use, changes in the motor's speed can occasionally be heard.  In WARPIG Ballistic Labs' Loader Speed comparison the TurboRev managed to deliver paint at faster rates than not only the 2000 and XBoard equipped Revolutions, but the other agitating loaders tested as well.

During normal operation the LED blinks green once every two seconds. 

The TurboRev also conserves battery life by detecting when the loader is empty.  If the feed neck is empty for more than two seconds, the motor stops spinning, and the LED flashes, alternating between red and green.  When a ball breaks the infrared beam, the TurboRev resumes normal operation.

If the loader sees no activity for 15 minutes, it will automatically turn itself off, as a further power saving feature.   For scenario game players who might go 15 minutes on field without shooting, the TurboRev can be set into delayed mode.  This is done by turning the power on and not releasing the power button until the LED lights red.  Pressing and holding the button through red until it lights solid green will turn on in stealth mode.  This is for night play, and operates as normal but without the blinking light every two seconds.  Scenario players who have been spotted by night vision because of the blinking LED on a Talkabout radio (they stand out like beacons) can appreciate this feature.  Pressing and holding the power button on power up through orange, red, green, and then to flashing green will activate the delayed stealth mode.  This operational mode does not have the 15 minute shut-off, or the green blink every two seconds.

Holding the power button down for about two seconds turns off the TurboRev, and red blinking during normal operation indicates that the batteries are low.

In addition, the infrared light used in the feedneck is modulated in a specific pattern.  The TurboRev software only accepts that pannern as a valid signal.  This prevents sunlight from triggering the agitator at unwanted times, and has proven thoroughly effective in testing.

The TurboRev is a feature rich upgrade for the Revolution, and versions are being planned for other loaders such as the Ricochet 2K.  Not only does it add more diagnostic and operational features, it provides a definite increase in the rate at which the Revolution is able to feed under sustained fire.

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