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HALO Video Clips online
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by Bill Mills
Since Odyssey Paintball began showing prototypes of their HALO loader in late 2000, players have been abuzz about this new product, and many have eagerly awaited the shipment of production models.
Late in the 2001 season prototypes made appearances at major tournaments, many in the hands of top name players like Chris LaSoya of Avalanche. The earliest prototypes were made of Stereo Lithography material. In stereo lithography a computer controlled laser literally draws a part in a polymer bath. The laser heats the polymer and turns it into a solid. A part that was designed completely in a CAD program can be turned into reality automatically.
As the 2001 season progressed, the prototypes in the field gradually contained more and more injection molded production parts, and the design went through a few changes. A pair of prototype loaders even went through the WARPIG Ballistic Labs automated loader test, but the results remained confidential, as they related to prototypes and not a finished product.
The first handful of production HALOs were manufactured in late December 2001, and the first volume shipments to distributors are expected in early to mid January, 2002. The loader WARPIG received for review is a standard production model but is customized in one respect - one internal piece is molded (on the production mold) out of a white material instead of black to allow for better photography contrast.
The HALO (Highly Advanced Loader Operations) has a unique, yet conventional loader shape which balances around the feed neck. It is loaded with a flip top lid in the top near the back. The main body of the HALO, like most loaders is molded in two halves. Odyssey chose to use polycarbonate, rather than a less expensive plastic, in order to make the HALO extremely durable. Additionally, the feed neck of the HALO is internally reinforced with a one piece tubular sleeve to make it very strong.
All of the screws which hold the HALO together screw into metal nuts, to avoid the possibility of stripping out the shell.
In the front of the HALO, a phillips screwdriver is required to release the battery cover. The cover itself acts as a clamp locking the two loader halves together. In the rear of the loader is the control panel. It features a splash resistant flush pushbutton and a lens for an LED. This panel is separate from the two halves to allow for future electronic upgrades such as data displays to be integrated into a HALO without needing to replace the main body halves. The HALO is simple to operate. Pressing the button twice in a row flashes the LED in green and turns the HALO on. Pressing and holding the button for a full second flashes the LED red and turns the HALO off. The "double tap" to turn the loader on is designed to prevent accidental activation when the HALO is packed in a gear bag.
The real action with the HALO is on the inside. The HALO's design features a circular recess in the bottom of the loader which Odyssey calls the catch cup. Centered in the catch cup is their drive cone. The original drive cone was designed very much like a roulette wheel with several compartments. Paintballs would roll down the cone into the compartments, and when the wheel rotates they would be driven into a half pipe which routes them into the feed neck and the paintgun.
By spring of 2001, Odyssey added a section of a zip tie sticking out of the side of the catch cup (in production models this was replaced with a piece of molded material.) The little tab solved a problem faced by early prototypes with paintballs occasionally catching between the half pipe and the drive cone. In fall of 2001 a spring was added to the design ahead of the tab, and according to Odyssey, this completely eliminated jamming issues in their testing.
At the 2001 International Amateur Open another design change was made that found its way into the production HALOs. Odyssey's Chris Goddard recognized that occasionally one of the compartments on the drive cone would make a full revolution without catching a paintball. This would sometimes result in the paintgun skipping and firing a "blank" shot. Literally in the hotel room at the tournament Goddard modified a drive cone to only have two tabs rather than separate compartments. This way if there was a gap in the balls heading for the half pipe, the balls behind the gap would simply be pushed forward to fill it in.
In addition to physical changes, Odyssey made a number of revisions to the software that controls the HALO.
Once the balls have been driven out of the catch cup, they are held by a ball detent, waiting to be pushed past it. A lever on the bottom of the HALO allows the detent to be released to empty the HALO, and a slide latch allows it to be locked out for slower feeding paintguns. In the feed neck the balls wait in a stack to fall into the paintgun. An infrared LED and sensor bounces a signal off of one of the balls in the stack. The signal from this sensor feeds back to the microprocessor that operates the HALO. Changes and improvements in the drive software have included not only spinning the drive cone when it is needed, and at the right speed, but actually using electromagnetic power to stop it from over spinning and pushing the paintballs too hard against a closed breech.
Internally the HALO is designed to be serviceable rather than disposable. Components are laid out in a modular fashion, and there are even planned future upgrades for the gearbox and drive train.
So, with nearly a year of field testing prototypes at the professional tournament level, and with a number of paintgun manufacturers, the HALO has been tuned to the point that Odyssey feels it is ready for release.
The HALO is pretty similar in size to other leading loaders, and packs roughly 170 paintballs inside. The HALO drive system has no trouble feeding when starting with the loader completely full. Either side features a HALO logo gem which unfortunately will likely need to be removed by tournament players under the 2002 NPPL rule set which requires solid colored loaders and only a single black and white sticker per side. Fortunately removing the gem is an easy task.
The HALO is driven by a 9 volt power source. The HALO battery pack consists of 6 AA penlight batteries in series. According to Odyssey this delivers more miliamphours of power than a traditional 9 volt battery. For those users opposed to penlights, the battery pack is connected via a snap connector, and though a 9v battry can be connected it is not recommended by Odyssey as it can not deliver the amperage needed for fast motor starts.
There have been a lot of variances in what has been considered the "standard" feed neck size for paintball hoppers. The HALO would be considered "large" and required sanding to fit in a Matrix for testing.
The drive train on the HALO does make a bit of noise, and is comparable to the early model Ricochet 2K loaders. Because the entire gear set and bushings are accessible, it is possible to keep them lubricated to reduce sound, and future drive train upgrades may include bearing sets for better speed and or less noise.
At Spacecoast Paintball in Titusville, Florida, the HALO was put to the test on a Matrix paintgun with both Night Paintballs, and Diablo Blaze paintballs. In the field the HALO's performance was flawless. Rapid fire strings while fanning the Matrix trigger that would have resulted in skipped shots with agitating loaders were no problem for the HALO, even when tilted approximately 60 degrees to the left or right.
Moreover, the HALO still fed when tilted past 60 degrees, as long as the level of balls in the hopper reached the catch cup and there was enough angle to roll balls down the feed neck to the paintgun. For front players and crawlers, the ability to feed when the paintgun is nearly laying on it's side is a definite plus.
It was also noted in field use, that the noise of the loader was not significant compared to the noise of a paintgun, even the Matrix which is relatively quiet.
Additional testing was performed with drop tests allowing the hopper to empty itself with old, out of round paintballs to test for jams and reliability. The HALO handled the old paint without incident.
An internal jam test was performed to check for the possibility of paintballs jamming between the drive cone and half pipe. The test consisted of attaching the HALO to a Warp Feed and running the Warp Feed hose back to the HALO. On this test stand the HALO was run for 10 minutes of continuous operation with Diablo Blaze paint, and did not jam, or allow any gaps in the ball stack long enough to reach into the Warp Feed (which would have been a skipped shots on a paintgun).
The Highly Advanced Loader Operations
(HALO) hopper represents another step forward in loader technology and
is sure to be one of the "hot" products of the 2002 season.
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