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How A Regulator Works
Submitted by Rudy Sloup
A regulator is a devise that regulates the pressure of the air entering a paintball gun it accomplishes this by cutting off the air source when the pressure in the regulatorís chamber reaches a certain pressure. The chamber has a port that leads to the paintball gun so all the air between the regulator and the paintball gun will be the same pressure unless there is another regulator down stream. This will always hold true since the pressure always seeks equilibrium. The only way the pressure can be different is if the paintball gun fires faster than the pressure proceeds toward equilibrium. This will happen if the valve on the regulator, or any other space the air has to go through is too small and the gas cannot flow through as fast as the gun is using it. Regulators are not perfect, although we seek perfection when making regulators we never achieve it. A regulator only controls the incoming pressure as well as the incoming pressure was controlled. In other words the regulator only shows a change of a couple of psi for a change in tens of psi coming from the air source. I have constructed animations to depict the internal working of a regulator. This makes the information easier to comprehend. In the animations the air pressures are represented by different colors.
This is how the regulator cuts off the air at the right pressure. The air enters the regulator and flows through the valve into the chamber. In the chamber the air pressure exerts a force on a piston that is supported by a spring pack. The pressure in the chamber causes the spring pack to compress, moving the piston a distance proportional to the pressure in the chamber. When the spring pack is compressed to the right pressure it moves just enough to allow the valve to close completely. This shuts off the supply of air from the air source. The animation shows this process, as it would happen in the average regulator. The animation depicts the regulator being gassed up then one shot being fired from the paintball gun in slow motion. Then a shot is fired followed by a three shot burst at regular speed. The regulator is set for a painball gun that runs on 400psi at 300fps.
Most regulators have an adjustable out put pressure. To adjust the pressure you must turn a screw in or out. This works much like the velocity adjustment on most paintball guns. When you turn the screw you shift the base position of the spring pack in relation to the valve. This means the air must compress the spring pack a different distance in order to close the valve. So the air pressure must change in order compress the spring pack this new distance. A regulator can also adjust the pressure by using the adjusting screw to move the valve. This does the same thing as adjusting the spring pack except it changes the position of the valve in relation to the spring pack. The animation to the right shows what happens when the regulator's adjustment screw is turned. Notice the result. After the adjustment the spring pack must be compressed twice as far in order to close the valve. This results in a increase in pressure in the regulator. When adjusting a regulator you may see some velocity fluctuations directly after an adjustment is made. Fire a string of shots and the fluctuations should settle down. This is because the regulatorís springs do a better job if they are in a set pattern of movement. When you make an adjustment the pressure in the chamber is different than it will be after normal firing. So the springs bounce a little different so the regulator needs to cycle a couple of times before it begins to regulate properly. 
Most regulators have a pressure relief in case the pressure in the chamber becomes too high. This is to prevent extremely high-pressure air from entering your paintball gun. The pressure relief is a small hole or some other type of system designed to allow air to escape in the regulator body placed so if enough pressure compresses the spring pack then the seal on the piston will clear the small hole and vent gas out of the regulator. The animation below shows a regulator that has to vent gas out of the pressure relief because a particle has found its way into the regulator and caused the valve to leak. The regulator vents gas out of the pressure relief at 800psi and it is set to regulate the air to 400psi.
A regulator can be one of the best additions to a paintball gun. Along with barrels and a few other small items it is one of the very few after market parts I feel is worth the money. Regulators can cause horrible problems if they are not working properly though especially at the chronograph. Dirt and debris making its way into the regulator and causing the valve to leak cause most of the problems that are encountered with regulators. When this occurs air will continue to flow into the chamber because it is attempting to go to equilibrium. If the regulators valve has a leak then the regulator will not be able to stop the high-pressure air from entering the chamber. Since most paintball guns that use regulators are set up to run at a lower operating pressure than the air source (low pressure, high volume) then the paintball gun will be shooting the paintballs with too much air causing hot shots. If the leak is really small then you will not notice the problem until you chronograph after you have waited a while since your last shot. This is a problem I run into with my mag sometimes. I notice it when I take a shot after a long wait of no shooting, and the paintball gun kicks really hard. A leaking valve can also cause the regulator to vent air out of the pressure relief if the air source has a high enough pressure. A pressure relief leak can also mean that the seal on the metal that supports the spring pack is bad. This is probably the case if you have made sure the valve seal is not leaking and your pressure relief is still venting air. If you keep dirt out of your regulator- and make sure there are no leaks you should not have any problems as long as you donít make any obvious mistakes such as taking your regulator apart and losing parts, or reassembling it wrong.

If you have any questions e-mail me at rudysloup@yahoo.com
Also check out Ravi Copraís Regulator Infosheet

 


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