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Ion Timing Guide
by Bill Mills - Dec 2006

Through our feedback form, and in WARPIG's technical forums, we often see questions about timing the Ion family of markers, not just the steps involved, but also how to select the right timing values.

Without further delay, we present the WARPIG.com, Ion/SP-8/Epiphany timing calculator, and adjustment notes:

The timing calculator shows the maximum rate of fire that can be achieved with various Dwell and Rate Of Fire Delay settings. Simply click the up or down buttons to change Dwell and ROFDelay values to see how they affect the maximum number of shots per second the marker can fire.

It should be noted that the timing values from the calculator only apply to Smart Parts stock boards, or Blackheart boards, as third party board manufacturers may have different adjustment ranges and step values. [Editor's note: while the timing values and Dwell optimizing procedure on this page can be applied with a Blackheart board, the programming methods and LED flash sequences for the Blackheart are different than with the stock board.]

Understanding Ion Timing

What is Dwell?

With the Ion (and Smart Parts' other single solenoid markers for that matter) there are two key timing values that determine among other things, how fast the marker can fire.

The first of these settings is Dwell. The dwell value determines how long the marker will send power to it's solenoid valve, which in turn re-directs air flow so that the bolt will close and release the exhaust gas to propel the paintball. The reason dwell is adjustable, is that each paintgun is a little bit different – or a lot different if aftermarket parts come into play, such as bolts and QEVs that affect how fast the bolt moves.

The Dwell value is important. If it is too low, the bolt may not close properly, or may not stay closed long enough to consistently deliver the same amount of gas with every shot, leading to wide velocity fluctuations. If it is set too high, the bolt will be closed longer than necessary, which can release more gas than is needed to fire the ball, reducing efficiency, and reducing how fast the marker can fire (the longer the bolt is closed, the less time it is open to allow a new paintball to feed.)

By default the Ion, SP-8 and Epiphany's dwell times are set conservatively long to allow for reliable operation under a wide range of conditions, including various degrees of lubrication on the bolt. In most cases gas efficiency can be improved by optimizing the dwell setting.

What is the ROF Delay?

Originally Smart Parts simply called this second setting “ROF,” because ultimately it effects that rate of fire which a marker can achieve. That term can be deceptive however, because although it does impact the maximum rate of fire, the setting in itself is a delay, and treating it as a rate of fire cap, can make programming more confusing. This distinction is very important as setting the ROFD on one marker to the same ROFD as another marker does not mean they will have the same maximum rate of fire. For the purposes of discussion here, we will call it the Rate Of Fire Delay, or ROFD, because that better describes its nature.

The ROFD is another timing value. It determines how long the marker must wait after releasing the solenoid valve before firing the next shot. It is in essence a pause.

There are three primary purposes for which the ROFD can be used:

  • Limit rate of fire: Some leagues, fields and events place a limit on how fast markers can fire (15 bps in PSP, NXL, CFOA and Millennium.)

  • Allow time for a ball to feed: With Vision enabled, this is not really an issue – but if using the marker without Vision (eyes damaged or dirty) setting the ROFD high enough can make sure the bolt stays open longer between shots to increase the likely-hood that a paintball will have tome to be fed.

  • Preventing shoot-down: If, in its particular configuration a marker is experiencing shootdown (velocity drops while shooting fast, but returns to normal in single shots or slow strings) increasing the ROFD can be used to make sure the fire chamber has enough time between shots to be fully recharged.

Ultimately, how fast the circuit board will fire the marker depends on the length of time for the Dwell plus the length of time for the ROFD. These two times added together equal the length of time needed for one shooting cycle. This is why two markers with the same ROFD can shoot at different speeds – if their dwell values are different, the total time for each cycle will be different.

Because both the Dwell and ROFDelay numbers set a time value, increasing either one will slow the marker down, while decreasing either one will allow it to shoot faster. Since the dwell will need to be set for proper operation of the marker, we look to the ROFDelay setting to limit the maximum possible rate of fire. Most players will want to use their marker in Vision mode, and will want the option of shooting as fast as they can, even if it might result in shoot-down. In these cases ROFDelay should be set as low as possible to allow the fastest shooting possible.

If a particular maximum rate of fire limit is desired, for example to stay under the 15 bps restriction at a tournament, first the dwell must be adjusted, then an appropriate ROF Delay value must be calculated and set. To make that task easier, we have built the handy timing calculator on this page.

Firing Mode:

paintballThe third adjustment is the firing mode and determines if the marker will fire in semi-auto, 3-round burst, full-auto or rebound.) When it is set to 0, the marker is in semi-auto. Set to 1, the marker is in rebound mode (fires as semi-auto until a minimum rate of fire after a minimum number of shots, at which point it fires more than one shot per trigger pull.) At 2, it is in three shot burst, and at 3, it is in full-automatic. In both burst and full-auto modes the marker will not fire at greater than 10 balls per second.

Making Adjustments

With the marker degassed, unloaded of paintballs, and turned on programming the board is rather easy.

paintballThere are two controls involved – the power button, and the programming button (a grey button on the circuit board, visible with the left side grip panel removed.) Feedback is provided to the user through a pair of LEDs – one yellow and one red, on the circuit board.

Pressing the programming button cycles through each one of six programming modes. The programming mode selected determines what will be adjusted. The pattern of the blinking LEDs indicated the setting to be adjusted:

  • Solidly Lit LED – Dwell

  • Blinking LED – ROF Delay

  • Double Blinking LED – Firing Mode

The color of the LED that is lit or blinking determines how the selected setting will be adjusted:

  • Yellow – Increase setting value

  • Red – Decrease setting value

Raising the dwell (solid yellow) will hold the solenoid valve open longer – this can be done to solve bolt-stick problems, or while optimizing the dwell.

Lowering the dwell (blinking yellow) will shorten how long the solenoid valve is held open – this can improve gas efficiency while optimizing the dwell.

Raising the ROF Delay (blinking yellow) will slow down how fast the marker can shoot.*

Lowering the ROF Delay (blinking red) will speed up how fast the marker can shoot.

Raising or lowering the Firing mode, will of course change the firing mode.

To better understand the blinking patterns and what they look like, select a programming mode from the programming modes section of the Ion Timing Calculator, this will display the mode's blink pattern on the circuit board LEDs.

Programming Examples

Selecting the firing mode:

With the marker degassed, and unloaded of paint, the grip is opened, and the programming mode is pressed repeatedly until the programming LEDs indicated that Fire Mode down is selected (red double-blink.) The power button is then pressed as many times as needed (anywhere from one to four, depending on what mode the marker was in) to cause the LED to blink red only in response to its being pressed. This will indicate that the bottom of the adjustment range (semi-auto) has been reached.

To set any other mode, the programming button must be pressed until the fire mode up programming mode is selected (double-blink yellow) and then the power switch is pressed enough times to reach the desired firing mode. A single press will move from mode 0 to 1, or rebound. Pressing again will move up to mode 2, 3-shot burst, while another press will move up to mode 3, full-automatic. Pressing the trigger will lock in the selected mode and exit programming.

Optimizing the Dwell time:

Optimizing the dwell requires the marker to be unloaded of paint, with a barrel blocker securely in place and paintball goggles on. This procedure must be done in a safe area – many paintball fields do not allow dry-firing (shooting gas without paint) in their staging area, so this task is often undertaken at a chronograph station. The marker must be on, with Vision mode disabled (pressing the power button once while on and not in a programming mode.)

The grip must be opened and the programming button pressed to select the Dwell Down programming mode (solid red.) The power button is then pressed repeatedly until the bottom of the dwell adjustment range is reached (signified by a red blink, instead of a red and yellow blink after the power button is pressed.) The dwell setting is now 0 clicks, or 8 milliseconds.

The programming button is pressed and cycled to the Dwell Up programming mode (solid yellow.) Here each press of the power button raises the dwell setting one click, which increases the length of the dwell time by 0.5 milliseconds.

The dwell must be raised to the point that it is just high enough for the bolt to fully close, and make a firing sound. It may take some upward and downward adjustments to find this exact point. The dwell setting is tested by simply pulling the trigger which exits the programming mode and attempts to fire the marker (this is why Vision mode must be off, so the marker can dry-fire without paint.)

Once the minimum dwell needed to close the bolt has been found, the dwell needs to be adjusted upward another 15 to 20 clicks. According to Smart Parts, this adjustment point 15 to 20 clicks higher than the minimum time needed to close the bolt, is the optimal dwell range for the Ion, SP-8 and Epiphany.

If the marker begins exhibiting signs of First Shot Drop Off (FSDO) where the first shot after sitting for some time is slow, but the follow-up shots are at full velocity, it may be necessary to clean and lubricate the marker. If it is clean and lubricated and the problem persists, it may be necessary to increase the dwell setting a couple of clicks at a time until the problem goes away (note: the Blackheart board has an anti-FSDO setting which can automatically increase the dwell of only the first shot in a string after the marker has been sitting.)

When changes are made to the marker, such as adding a QEV, or changing to a bolt of a different design, the dwell setting should be re-optimized.

Setting the ROFD for 15 bps limit tournament play.

To use the ROFDelay to cap the marker's maximum rate of fire, we first need to know the marker's current dwell setting. The best way to do this is to start out by optimizing the dwell with the above procedure, and keeping track of the dwell setting by counting button presses.

If you've lost track of the number of button clicks used to set the dwell, but have found the perfect setting, its value can still be counted out. Simply select the Dwell Down (solid red) programming mode, and press the power button repeatedly, counting the number of clicks needed to reach the bottom of the adjustment range. Then select the Dwell Up (Solid Yellow) programming mode and press the power button that same number of times to return the dwell value to its previous setting.

Let us say for the sake of the example that our dwell optimized Ion has a dwell setting of 41 clicks, or 28.5ms. We can set the dwell value of the Ion calculator to 41 clicks. With the default ROFDelay setting of 50 clicks, this yields a maximum speed of 12.73 shots per second. By lowering the ROFDelay in the calculator until our maximum speed is 14.81 shots per second, we find that a ROFDelay value of 28 clicks (39 ms) will cap us just below that 15 bps limit.

So, we now need to set the ROF delay. This adjustment is done just like the dwell – with no gas or paint. The programming button is used to select the ROFDelay Down (blink red) mode and the power button pressed until we reach the bottom of that adjustment range. The programming button is then pressed as many times as needed to cycle us over to the ROFDelay Up (blink yellow) mode. Then the power button is pressed 28 times, to set our ROFDelay at 28 clicks (39ms.)

Any changes to the dwell setting will then require a new ROFDelay to be calculated and set, in order to keep the 15 bps limit in place.

* Editor's Note: Some manuals and guides state that blinking red raises the ROF while blinking yellow lowers it - the opposite of what is written here. They state this because lowering the ROF Delay (blinking red) speeds up how fast the marker can fire (i.e. Like raising a rate of fire cap.) While this terminology make make it easier to explain to someone that a blinking red adjustment can be used to allow the marker to shoot faster, it makes the blink patterns of the programming modes more difficult to memorize and leads to the false impression that ROF adjustment sets a rate of fire cap independent of dwell timing values. While it requires a little more explanation, we have chosen a more technically correct and complete explanation of how the programming modes work, as we believe that in the long run it is easier to understand and avoid programming mistakes that can cost a game forfeit (something we have seen happen.) Timing values for the calculator are based on data supplied by Smart Parts.


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