Steam Machines, Inc. SM1600
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|From Andrew Hawkins, January 2005|
|To all prospective rebreather buyers: |
If you have come across this testimonial, it means you are doing your homework. Keep up the good work. Because the more you know about the different CCRs currently available, the more the Prism shines. It's the only off the rack CCR the U.S. Navy has ever adopted (*see editor's note below). If it's good enough for them, then it's probably good enough for you.
|I now have 225 hrs on my unit, with no dives missed. |
The unit has preformed excellently.
I began diving with rebreathers 6 years ago primarily because of the advantages they offer in observing wildlife. I have not been disappointed. While other oc divers were lucky to see 1 shark, I saw 10. When I moved from SCR to the Prism CCR, I had even more successful interactions with animals.
After researching my options, I decided on the Prism because it's the best designed and thoroughly tested ECCR. It's the most compact, lightest and has the most efficient scrubber design. The work of breathing is far lower than other CCRs, especially those with back mounted lungs. After spending many hours on the Drager and other units with back mounted lungs, I can safely say that the difference is night and day. And when you are fighting a 3 knot current trying to get to that special spot on the wall where all the life is, the last thing you need is more work.
The safety features are also superior. Having 2 fully independent PO2 monitoring systems is a great comfort. The Prism is the only unit that has an analog gauge which is driven directly off the O2 sensors, no batteries required. Which means the Prism can still be easily dived with a total flood of the battery compartment. The electronics are driven by a single, common 9V batter which lasts 20 hrs. Maintenance and set up are a matter of minutes at the beginning of the dive day, which will give you 6hrs of trouble free diving.
The unit is very easy to travel with. I carry mine on in a small duffel, minus the the cover and cylinders. This still gives me enough room in my 2 checked bags for 2 pails of absorbent, and gives me 72 hrs worth of diving at my destination.
The Prism is the ultimate diving tool for the novice and the advanced diver. I look forward to growing into the capabilities of this impressive CCR.
Andy Hawkins, Brooklyn New York
(posted Jan 28, 2005)
(* EDITOR'S NOTE: The PRISM was the only recreational CCR to go through Phase I and II Testing with the US Navy.
ref: News and Testing and DEMA Press Release.)
|From Kevin Rottner, May 2004|
|Purchasing a PRISM rebreather from Steam Machines is the single best investment I have ever made in my safety, comfort and shear enjoyment underwater. I have been fortunate enough to dive my unit all over the world, from the warm sunlit water of Mexico, Honduras and Hawaii to frigid dark waters of British Columbia and Quebec. The unit has performed flawlessly during shallow wreck diving in five feet of mud to deep technical wrecks on three continents.|
|After very careful research I chose the PRISM for many factors that other rebreathers simply did not offer. In addition to extensive discussion with other rebreather divers, and watching rebreather diving being conducted under a wide variety of conditions, I test dove many units. Important factors I enjoy with my PRISM are outstanding work of breathing, simplistic ease of maintenance, unparalleled reliability in the field, absolute flexibility of cylinder choices, elegance of design, unmatched overall compactness and lower travel weight than any other ECCRs resulting in less hassles and no overweight or oversize charges (the unit minus the cylinders can be transported as carry-on!). Its just plain user-friendly and FUN TO DIVE!|
|There are many critical safety features that finalized my decision to purchase the PRISM. Just a few of these safety features include a completely and truly redundant monitoring system, which can allow the diver to fly the unit manually without even the battery installed. Not a slave or secondary, this completely independent and redundant system runs directly off the voltage of the cells. Large water traps in the breathing loop at critical locations virtually eliminate the possibility of flooding the loop. Fully potted electronics set in resin are flood proof. Clear see-through canister acts as both an insulator to keep your breathing gas warm and allows you or your buddy to visually inspect the scrubber both before and after dives, and your buddy on dives, with out any disassembly. Not a single tool or piece of equipment is required to assemble, calibrate or predive the PRISM. Excellent and un-matched scrubber performance allows the diver many hours of continuous use before changing. The safety and security of an oxygen addition solenoid outside the breathing loop, and a battery also placed outside the breathing loop were two critical design features I considered very important. From the simplicity of a standard 9 volt battery that runs the electronics to the universally available and rugged Scuba Pro components this rebreather uses time-tested and reliable components. The small HUD ( Heads Up Display ) mounted on the mouthpiece provides immediate access to critical information in the lower corner of your field of vision.|
|On a recent technical trip aboard the Nautilus Explorer, to the deep wrecks and reefs of British Columbia, I dove side by side with just about every other rebreather out there. The PRISM outperformed every other unit by leaps and bounds. I saw first hand the electronics failures, hose failures and multiple daily scrubber changes that plagued the other units. There was no need to disassemble my PRISM between dives to calibrate electronics, drain the units of salt water, squeeze the salt water out of chamois cloths inside the head, or refill cylinders. I actually had to assist other divers into their rebreather before quickly slipping into my PRISM and joining them on the swim step. All this from a unit smaller and lighter than others.|
As a technical diver I believe in best mix for each and every dive. I used to be confronted with the problem of mixing and blending when we were not sure of the depths of the dive sites, when we hunt for new wrecks. Sometimes conditions and visibility will cause you to select sites of different depths than initially planned for. With the PRISM you get best mix automatically at every single depth you are at. All this without blending, filling and hauling multiple cylinders from your garage, to dive shop, to car, to boat, and then all back again at the end of the day.
|As a SCUBA instructor I was very pleased with the thorough training, having completed the course over two weekends of classroom, pool and ocean diving. Matt Elder took the time and patience to go over every aspect of rebreather diving in the real world, and the PRISM unit specifically.|
Ive used the PRISM on fun, shallow, beach dives with friends, off private boats, on the many local wrecks of Southern California; I have traveled with the unit on family vacations and made expeditions to some very remote dive locations to film documentaries on wrecks. I have enjoyed traveling with less gear, less supplies, less set up, breakdown and maintenance time than with any open circuit gear previously utilized for these types of diving. The PRISM has always performed, and is a pleasure to dive.
|The decision to purchase a rebreather is simple. Closed circuit diving affords the diver warm, moist air, no more sore throat, a normalized breathing pattern, best mix at every depth level, fantastic extension of time underwater, minimized decompression obligation, substantially reduced gas bills, is qualified for using helium mixes, silence underwater allowing a whole new perspective on wildlife, and the freedom from previously acceptable hassles and limitations of open circuit SCUBA.|
The decision of WHICH rebreather to buy is just as simple. Do your homework. Join the revolution. Join the PRISM revolution.
Los Angeles, CA
|I own and actively dive the Steam Machines PRISM Topaz CCR. I dive this system year-round in the "balmy waters" of the Great Lakes. I have been diving since 1997, now certified as a PSD (Public Safety Diver). When I am not training or being a PSD, I am tech-diving shipwrecks. I have had my PRISM under the ice on numerous occasions, but most of the diving is in "warmer" water ranging from (36-60) deg F. In any orientation you choose upside down, on your back, on your side and level, warm or cold, the PRISM breathes just like you are sitting there reading this. No Effort, No Issues.|
|To say breathing warm moist gas is a more comfortable way to dive is an understatement. Diving closed circuit keeps you warmer. Having a higher level of O2 throughout the dive not only gives you longer bottom times and shorter deco obligations, you will get out of the water feeling better. With quiet operation, marine life checks you out rather than fleeing on your every exhale. For you tech divers, there are no bubbles to disturb overhead debris in wreck penetrations, which means less silt.|
|I am a mechanical engineer and have been creating safety-critical automotive control systems for over a decade. Form follows function is a necessity. A rebreather is a complex safety-critical life support system. With increased complexity, comes increased potential failure modes. Knowledge of these failure modes can make the difference between a minor inconvenience and putting your life at risk.|
It would take a volume to discuss all of the engineering and failure mode handling that has gone into the design of the PRISM. I will list a few potential failures and how they are handled on the PRISM.
Sensors have multiple failure modes but a common issue is water vapor condensing on the sensor face. This causes the sensor to read the O2 content of the condensate and not loop gas. This can trick the electronics into dumping too much O2 into the loop. CO2 scrubbing soda lime produces heat and water vapor. The radial-flow scrubber design of the PRISM forces the scrubbed gas past the sides of the scrubber bucket first. Water vapor condenses on the bucket sides first so that the sensors are not directly in the condensate stream. The PRISM uses a voting logic to remove a suspect sensor from the O2 injection control should it appear that it has had a dropout.
Electronics / Batteries:
Water and electronics are never a friendly mix. The electronics in the PRISM are enclosed in a plastic resin. The single 9volt battery, which powers the electronics and injection solenoid, is in a separate waterproof chamber. (Some units place the batteries and electronics inside the breathing loop. Which is at a minimum of 100% humidity with elevated O2 levels.) Should the battery or electronics fail in the PRISM, the unit can be easily flown manually Closed Circuit using a secondary display. This secondary display directly reads the three O2 sensor outputs. If the secondary has also failed, the unit can be flown in a Semi-Closed or Open Circuit Mode.
|O2 Injection Solenoid:|
The PRISM mounts the O2 injection solenoid on the outside of the breathing loop. Should the seat or fitting leak, O2 is vented to the surrounding water rather than into the breathing loop. It might seem wasteful but you will not get a CNS hit because the PO2 level skyrocketed at depth. With Regards to design, O2 is injected before the scrubber. The scrubber acts as a mixer, so that when the gas finally passes over the sensors, they don't read a spike of O2. A spike can upset the controller causing it to skip a needed injection point. (Some CCRs inject O2 right at the sensors. From a control feedback standpoint this is a terrible design as no gas mixing has occurred prior to the control decision.)
It is possible for o-rings, breathing hoses and counter-lungs to leak. It is more likely that the diver did not hold his lips tightly around the mouthpiece and allowed water in. Condensate can also collect from scrubbing CO2 and human respiration. With the PRISM each counter-lung has a purge bleeder. It is possible to drain the entire breathing loop, including scrubber bucket and keep diving. (On many units there is no way to purge water or condensate).
Rebreathers are not foolproof. They are not well suited for lazy or complacent individuals. If you decide to go CCR, get the best training that you can and dive conservatively while you build skill.
The PRISM is very well engineered; Steam Machines has independent testing by the US Navy to back that statement up. This data is posted on their sight for all to see. No other CCR manufacturer does this. There is a reason: specifications are meaningless unless there is scientific data to support that those specifications have been met. Stating that a unit has undergone testing, is not the same as having been tested and passing those tests.
Engineering when done well is revealed by elegance of design. As an engineer, system design, functionality, failure mode handling, and most importantly test data are motivators. With Regards to these important matters, Steam Machines Inc. is dead on the mark.
I can say without hesitation that the PRISM has been money well spent. It is a solid, reliable unit.
David W. Weber
|I started messing around with closed-circuit rebreathers about six or seven years ago. Early on, I spent a large amount of time researching life support systems design and tinkering with various commercially available units. I eventually built several of my own experimental rebreathers (a couple of them actually worked!). This experience gave me an excellent background in how a solid rebreather should be designed and tested. However, I eventually outgrew that phase and decided to purchase a professionally built unit for myself. I closely examined most of the units that were either being built at that time, or were still available on the second hand market, and, due to my previous experiences, I had selected two major criteria to satisfy before I selected any particular unit: overall system engineering and test data.|
|In my search for the perfect closed-circuit rebreather, I found only a small handful of units that I felt showed good system engineering, and even fewer that had been through a rigorous testing routine. I eventually selected the Prism since it was compact, well designed, and well tested. Its elegantly simple design doesn't initially reveal the high level of engineering within the unit, but everything is there. It has a radial scrubber, which is necessary for deep diving, and the breathing loop is well designed to minimize gas flow resistance and hydrostatic loads, thus decreasing any chances of CO2 build-up. The sensor location is excellent to reduce condensation issues, and all gas injection mechanisms are exactly where they should be. An ADV is standard, and the solenoid and battery are both located outside of the breathing loop. In addition to having a full voting logic controls and primary display, the unit has an analog secondary display! While rare these days, an analog PO2 display allows the user to diagnose many subtle problems that may occur, and the user doesn't have to completely rely on complicated electronics or batteries to maintain system functionality. This is an extremely nice feature. All of this is designed into a unit that is much smaller and lighter that any other system available, but the unit still retains all of the capabilities of most, if not all, other systems.|
|After I ordered my unit and completed training, and the system was delivered in a timely manner. Since then, I have used the Prism in many different diving environments, some of which have been very demanding. Another researcher here at UCD was impressed enough to also purchase a Prism, and he has had similar success with his unit. The system has preformed flawlessly for almost two years now, and I am completely satisfied.|
|In addition to solid design and a good product, Steam Machines has also provided excellent support. Even though my warranty is well over with, the factory continues to fully support the system and upgrade it free of charge. This is well above the call of duty, and never ceases to impress me. With the good design, ease of use, excellent service, and incredible diving experiences, this is by far the best piece of diving equipment I have ever invested in. It was definitely money well spent! Thank you Steam Machines.|
|I started diving in 1974, and have logged over 2500 dives. I purchased my Prism Topaz in May of 2001, and have logged 83 dives with the unit as of December 2002. In that time, I have not had to cancel any dives due to equipment malfunction. I have never had any regrets whatsoever in choosing the Prism. It gives me substantially longer no-decompression bottom times, shorter deco times, and greater margins of safety than I have with tank dives. The Prism is also much lighter than the double tanks plus bailout I had been using, with more capability, which makes this old man happy.|
|Perhaps the best feature of the Prism Topaz is the service provided by Steam Machines. I have found Peter and Sharon Readey to be extremely friendly and accommodating in providing a wide range of support for my unit. I honestly have never experienced better support for any product I've ever purchased. And, the fact that the shop is less than 2 miles from my house doesn't hurt, either!|
|Seriously, if you are considering spending money on any rebreather system, I urge you to compare the Prism with everything else available. It is a complete closed-circuit system, which I found easy to get used to. Although I was apprehensive about maintenance at first, pre-dive preparations are now second nature, and barely more than what is required for tank diving. And I don't have to lug those big tanks!|
-Phil Bergeron, December 2002
|To any prospective Steam Machines Customer: |
|I have heard many interesting comments about the Topaz Prism, some of which have prompted me to make a few comments of my own. |
As an anesthesiologist, I am intimately familiar with closed circuit and semi-closed circuit gas management systems, I use them daily. I am bothered by a rumor that the Prism is a "prototype". Let me assure anyone who is interested, that the Prism is definitely not a prototype. It is a fully functional and safely designed closed circuit rebreather, with multiple bail out modes and "fail safes".
About one month after first seeing the Prism and talking to product managers of another 4 leading CCR manufacturers, I was convinced that the Prism is the safest CCR on the market, and decided to undertake CCR training on the Prism. I was also impressed to see that the US Navy is involved in extensive testing on the rig, and has also decided to purchase Prisms. To date, the US Navy has only suggested minor changes to the current model.
Shortly after completing training on the Prism, I placed an order for it. Since placing my order for the Prism about 4 month ago, I have seen Steam Machines make continuous refinements to their CCR. I have also had an opportunity to accrue about 45 hours on "rental" equipment, free of charge. I will be receiving my Prism this week, and will have their latest modifications included, free of charge.
Richard B. Diamond, M.D.
From Ernie Santiago, March, 2002
I am still diving the heck out of the Prism Topaz. To date I have past 30 dives and should have 60 under by belt by the end of May. I am planning a trip to the Cayman Islands in early May and should have an opportunity to really work the rig completely.
I wanted to let you know that previous to the Prism I dove the Draeger Semi Closed Rebreather for about two years. Desiring to move up to a closed circuit rebreather I did extensive research on various units in the market. Without a doubt from a standpoint of safety and redundancy the Prism wins hands down. In fact, even if the lead time to acquire the unit was long, there was no other rebreather I was going to purchase-the Prism was it. It has paid back many times over. Its reliability and ability to deliver a wide range of diving options are unsurpassed. If you want to go deep or shallow the unit performs flawlessly.
Keep up the good work. Please continue to inform me of any updates and I look forward to many years of exciting diving on my Prism.