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June 2001 Vol. 16, No. 6   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Stainless Steel Fails the Titanium Atomic Regulator

from the June, 2001 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

The Atomic Regulator has been recalled, we reported in April, because of a failing first stage spring. Atomic President Dean Garraffa, told Undercurrent that although there had been no reported incidents of in water failure or diver injury, three regulators undergoing routine servicing were discovered to have cracked springs, which can result in a free flow.

Turns out the problem was bigger than that.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports that “The regulator’s first stage spring can break causing restricted airf low, posing a drowning hazard to consumers.” Atomic Aquatics has received 14 reports of regulator springs breaking, four of which occurred while the regulator was in use. No injuries have been reported.

The Atomic manual indicates the T1 model first stage housing, yoke assembly and their related external parts are titanium. For the B1 & Z1, these are chrome plated brass. However, the first stage internal parts — those which, if defective, can make the diver vulnerable — are identical in all models and are not titanium. Just the same stuff of all regulators. The two internal springs in all Atomic first stages are both stainless steel. The smaller one holds the piston bushings in place and has no real effect on air pressure. The main spring, the one at issue here, applies pressure to the piston and controls the reduction of the high pressure in the tank to the intermediate pressure delivered to the second stage. When it breaks — and it has 14 times, at least — the diver loses his air supply.

So, when the money parts aren’t titanium, why use titanium at all?

Bob Sterner, writing for the American Metal Magazine, calls titanium a “really hip” metal. “With a strength-to-weight ratio that’s 74 percent higher than that of aluminum and 102 percent above chrome-molybdenum alloys, titanium is ideal for sports applications, where weight and strength can mean the difference between winning and losing.” It’s widely used in performance bicycles and golf clubs.

High prices add to the appeal of titanium among established and upwardly mobile professionals. Steve Meredith, of Titanium Sports Technologies said, “People will pay a lot of money to have the latest and greatest. They’ll pay amazing amounts of money to shave a few ounces off their equipment.”

An extremely high resistance to corrosion makes the metal a natural for marine sports, where gear must withstand salt water. Atomic Regulators Inc., Huntington Beach, Calif., has a steady business supplying titanium air regulators to scuba divers, said President Doug Toth. He admits that “the $1,500 price tag is a stumbling block for many, but everyone who uses one loves it.”

Except, when the stainless steel gives out.

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