Smart Parts

Smart Parts It is a manufacturer of paintball markers and accessories based in Latrobe, PA. Their popular line of markers include the "Shocker", "Impulse", "Nerve", "Epiphany", "SP-8",Sp-1, Vibe, and the "Ion". The re-designed Shocker has become very popular and is used by many professional paintball teams. Smart Parts magazine ads from early 2007 claim that twice as many professional tournaments from 2003 to 2006 were won with their markers than all other brands put together. Smart Parts has recently released four new markers, mostly modified versions of their current markers. There are many different versions of Smart Parts markers that are customized with different features.

Products

Clay Nunley of 1 yard uses smart parts jersey but he is small.Smart Parts has produced many marker accessories and unique products/platforms over the years; they've been in business. Their first product was the All American Barrel, a two-piece barrel system using spiral porting and a front bore diameter of 68 caliber. In the early to mid 90's SP's products ranged from barrels and clothing to a few generic accessories along with some marker specific ones (such as parts for the AirGun Designs Automag series).

Markers

pneuVentures Shocker & Shocker Sport

In 1996 Smart Parts began selling their first marker, the Shocker. This was actually manufacturered by a company called pneuVentures, but was sold exclusively through Smart Parts. This original Shocker was a dual-solenoid, closed bolt, hammerless marker that was large, heavy, inefficient, and could fire a max speed of 9 shots per second. A couple thousand of these were sold over the course of its lifetime, but not an extremely large amount. Other companies that had been working on their own electronic markers also released them about the same time (WDP Angel - 1996, Brass Eagle Rainmaker - 1997).

The pneuVentures Shocker was sold up until 1997 when SP redesigned it and started producing it themselves. This redesigned marker, which became known as the Shocker Sport, was released in 1998. It included a number of major revisions to the original design, including a more lightweight profile, improved electronics and grounding, a faster cycling set of internals, and better solenoids. The Shocker Sport was sold from 1998 to 2002, and the design of its external look changed a few times over the years. A few companies even released their own customized versions, mainly the Planet Eclipse Shocker (which was manufacturered by SP for the company Planet Eclipse, which at the time didn't make any markers of their own). Another customized Shocker was the SL Shocker from HyperSportWorks.

Shocker Sports were the first factory marker to feature an enhanced firing mode, which later became known as "ramping". This firing mode was called Turbo mode by SP, and involved a firing program whereby the user would pull the trigger around 5 times per second, and the marker's actual firing speed would increase to over 9 shots per second. This type of firing mode was largely unheard-of in the industry at the time, so people were conflicted about its use. Turbo mode became illegal to use in tournaments and on some open-play recreational games due to the obvious advantage it gave the user.After the turn of the century, ramping modes have become more and more popular, and many markers come with them as stock from the factory. As a result, the use of ramping modes has become more mainstream, and is allowed in some recreational games and some tournaments. However, this varies from game to game and tournament circuit to circuit, so it is still disallowed by many fields.

Impulse

The Impulse was released in the year 2000 and was the sister design to SP's other marker available at the time, the Shocker Sport. Over the course of its lifetime the Impulse became one of the most popular markers available, and was notable for following many trends for parts, style, and features in the paintball industry on the turn of the century.

Impulses used a smaller appearance to the Shocker Sport, however they were internally quite different; Impulses were based of the common "stacked-tube" hammer/valve layout (two bore design, bolt on top with the hammer on bottom). In contrast to the Shocker Sport, Impulses were capable of faster fire rates, were more lightweight, were cheaper, and also experienced greater tank efficiency. As a result the gaining popularity of this product over the Shocker was foreseeable. Impulses were one of many stacked-tube electronic markers developed around the same time by opposing companies. Markers such as this were considered to be the top-end by many players (typically those involved with tournaments), and as a result the cost for upgraded versions was quite high ($1000+).

In 2001, Smart Parts released a variety of upgrades and enhancements to the Impulse line, including the Vision eye system, upgraded bolts, improved valves and internals, and other smaller upgrade components. The Vision electronic eye system was particularly popular since few other markers were available with such a part from the factory (this has since changed, and the feature is a near-requirement from manufacturers). In 2002, the electronics were redesigned to the "Cricket" version, which involved a more reliable circuit board that also used more developed programming.

The other growing trend that Impulses followed were the addition of stylish milling patterns and designs, suited for different retailers and sponsored teams. This has become a popular trend for the more expensive markers of today. There were over 30 customized body styles and parts available before the marker was discontinued. Contingent to this was the growing number of parts and accessories available for the Impulse line as well, from various manufacturers and developers, which allowed nearly every part of the marker to be swapped for an "aftermarket" version.

hocker SFT & Shocker NXT

The year 2003 brought several new markers and products from Smart Parts, due to a reshuffling of design engineers. The most notable new product from this time period was the Shocker 03 marker (whose name soon after became Shocker SFT). The Shocker SFT was a redesigned marker that used a single solenoid open bolt, cock valve operation capable of high firing speeds,small body size, but an average efficiency without a Smart Parts High Efficiency Bolt. Although this marker was given the name "Shocker", it actually shares virtually no design aspects with its namesake the older Shocker Sport. However, Smart Parts decided to call it the next-generation "Shocker" for marketing purposes, since the older Shockers were already discontinued.

Ever since having been released in July 2003, the Shocker SFT has remained the premier Smart Parts marker, representing top of the line performance and reliability. Shockers have been chosen by the majority of Smart Parts' sponsored teams since their release. The Shocker's popularity also brought along many upgrades and customized versions, available from various manufacturers and developers, similar to its older brother the Impulse. Base-model Shockers currently retail around $700, with the more customized "private label" version around $1000 or more (depending on the model).

In late 2006 (sometimes described as 2007 for simplicity) the Shocker SFT was redesigned into the newer "Shocker NXT" version, which is the same internal marker as the SFT, except it uses upgraded parts from the factory, and has a few enhancements to the frame, reg, and other parts of the marker to increase performance and reliability. The cosmetics were also changed to reflect the new internals. Some Shocker SFT parts are no longer compatible with the newer Shocker NXT model.

Private Label Shockers Include:(SFT)
Octane [http://www.zdspb.com/tech/mguide/shockersft/pl_octane.html]
Nasty [http://www.zdspb.com/tech/mguide/shockersft/pl_nasty.html]
Strange Vision [http://www.zdspb.com/tech/mguide/shockersft/pl_strange.html]
Shocktech [http://www.zdspb.com/tech/mguide/shockersft/pl_shocktech.html]
Toxic [http://www.zdspb.com/tech/mguide/shockersft/pl_toxic.html]
Dynasty [http://www.zdspb.com/tech/mguide/shockersft/pl_dynasty.html]
06 Dynasty [http://www.zdspb.com/tech/mguide/shockersft/pl_dynasty06.html]
Ton Ton [http://www.zdspb.com/tech/mguide/shockersft/pl_tonton.html]
Dark [http://www.zdspb.com/tech/mguide/shockersft/pl_dark.html]
Hybrid [http://www.zdspb.com/tech/mguide/shockersft/pl_hybrid.html]
Freeflow [http://www.zdspb.com/tech/mguide/shockersft/pl_freeflow.html]

Nerve

The other new-to-2003 Smart Parts marker was called the Nerve. It has since been discontinued. Nerves are a next-generation Impulse design, featuring a smaller and lighter profile, improved internals, upgraded and streamlined components from the factory, and a sleeker external look. It shares many parts that are interchangeable with the shocker, however it uses a different platform for operation. When Nerves were first released (several months late due to manufacturing and development issues), it was designed to be Smart Parts flagship "no upgrades needed" marker. It came packed with Smart Parts best accessories. The high end features resulted in the MSRP costing $1200 for the base model, or $1500 for the upgraded package with HPA tank included. The reasoning for this was based on the previous customized Impulse markers, which retailed for $1000+, however the Nerve's high pricetag didn't fare as well with the public. This was partially because public trends were already shifting away from the stacked-tube hammer/valve markers which the Nerve was based from, and toward more advanced designs such as the Shocker, Dye Matrix line, and others (this trend proceeded through 2004). To combat this, Nerve price was dropped a few months later to $1000, then again to $850. At this point Nerves were finally gaining popularity as originally expected, however one final blow was dealt to the Nerve which would put it away - the release of the Ion (below). In late 2005 SP produced an additional large batch of Nerve parts, however after this the line was halted and the marker was unofficially discontinued in light of other products.

Ion/Ion XE

In March 2005, Smart Parts released their most popular marker, the Ion. The development, production, and eventual release of this product were completely unanticipated due to being conducted in relative secrecy by Smart Parts. As a result, when the Ion became available it was an immediate hit in both sales, demand, and expectations.

The Ion was the trend starter for a new marketing idea in the paintball industry, whereby relatively high-performance parts would be sold after the absolute lowest price markup, thus allowing the product (Ion) to be sold for an extremely reasonable price. The Ion uses similar principals in design to the higher-performance Shocker marker, however several key factors to the Ion design were altered to allow it a drastic reduction in production cost (allowing the low MSRP pricetag for the end-user). In particular, the Ion was cheaper to produce due to its modular body/exoskeleton design, newly-designed inexpensive solenoid, and use of internal air tubing instead of machined manifold ports like high-end markers. These, combined with a reasonably low markup in price for retailers, allowed the Ion to debut with an MSRP of $275. The MSRP was later reduced to $200 for about a year-long period, but was increased back up to $225 at a later time. It was again reduced back down to $200.

The Ion has quickly become one of the most, if not the most popular markers ever available. This is justified by it selling over 100,000 units in a one-year period, a feat which few if any paintball markers has ever done to date; some markers that have been available for over a decade haven't been able to match these numbers. The release of this marker dealt a noticeable blow to nearly every competing product across the globe, and was so strong that it even affected the resale and demand of used products as well. The release of the Ion had more than doubled the size of Smart Parts itself, in both manufacturing space and workforce. A few years after having been released, the wake of the Ion's blow to the paintball industry actually hit Smart Parts themselves, which contributed to the temporary increase in MSRP. This particular year in the paintball industry (2005) saw the most closed stores, fields, and manufacturers than all previous years combined. The release of the Ion being coincidentially in 2005 surely couldn't have helped, however factual evidence either way is circumstantial.

Other paintball companies have matched this low-cost, low markup marketing concept (examples being the Proto Rail (based on the Proto Matrix), ICD Promaster, Eclipse Etek Ego (based on the Planet Eclipse Ego), and others). However, these competing products are notably less popular in comparison, likely due to their higher price tags, although still remaining very economic alternatives to their respective "high-performance" counterparts. The popularity of the Ion also allots it a massive amount of upgrades and specialized products, and like the older Impulse literally every part of the marker can be replaced with an aftermarket version.

In 2007 Smart Parts released an updated version of the ion called the ION XE, that includes built in B.O.B (bolt out back) function, which allows easier removal of the bolt. This makes maintenance considerably easier, as one must only take out a single screw as opposed to taking apart the entire marker. This was one of the major criticisms of the original Ions. The new Ion XE also consists of a new and improved low profile feedneck and a new body design. Ion XE colored bodies are available. [http://www.smartparts.com/#/ion-xe/home/]

P1

The SP1 is a woodsball/scenario marker, being released in the same lineup as the Vibe, EOS, and Ion XE. It is the Vibe's woodsball counterpart (it has 7 mounting rails on its body for flashlights, laser sights and scopes), in the same way that the SP8 is the Ion's counterpart. It is also limited to 11 BPS. It uses the same internals as the Vibe, but has two different shells to protect them (an internal shell and an external "cosmetic" shell). Smart Parts claims that this marker has many possible upgrades, although most of these are limited to the guns mounting rails thus far. As with the Vibe, players whom own this marker are finding ways to shut off the MROF limiter.

Epiphany/EOS

The Epiphany marker represents an upgraded version of the Ion. The Epiphany is a more stylized, upgraded Ion which comes with several factory enhancements out of the box, saving the user from buying the more inexpensive Ion and having to buy separate upgraded components for it over time. Besides for the obvious cosmetic difference, Epiphanies feature a metal exoskeleton and frame (with plating, to avoid threading problems), upgraded Firebolt, Freak barrel starter, integrated ASA dovetail, Q-Lock Feed Neck (Eos only), and Smartvalve ASA among other things. Internally the Epiphany also gives the user the ability to alter the marker's internal firing air volume. This is carried out by select from three different internal air volume "inserts" which are used to take up slack space in the marker's fire chamber. The smaller air space in the fire chamber can refill faster, which allows the Epiphany to fire faster without velocity drop-off when compared to the Ion and SP-8. The fire chamber inserts allow fine-tuning and adjustment that wouldn't be previously available without developing a homemade modification. The Epiphany fire chamber, inserts and valve spring are available as performance upgrades for the Ion and SP-8. Epiphanies are available in multiple colors and cost around $300.

Vibe

The Vibe is the latest marker in Smart Part's low cost lineup, as it was released at the same time as the SP1, the EOS, and the Ion XE. It is an electropneumatic marker operating at approximately 180 PSI, similar to that of the Ion. It is also extremely inexpensive for an electropneumatic marker - it can be bought for $140. It doesn't include eyes, instead it has a low force bolt. With the low force bolt - chopping is nearly eliminated. The newer Vibe has 4 firing modes; tournament lock semi auto, semi auto, 3 shot burst, and fully automatic. The first batch of Vibes didn't include these modes and because of the upgrade so close after the release - Smart Parts will upgrade your non select fire board free of charge.

The marker weight is only 1 lb. 11 oz. The length (w/out barrel)is 8.75 in. The vibe is made of Glass fiber reinforced nylon grip (frame/body) and accepts Impulse threaded barrels.

Barrels (All American; Freak)

Smart Parts has sold their two-piece All American barrel system since 1989. This was changed in 2001 to the current version which uses a standardized thread compatible with Freak barrel backs (below). The cosmetic milling was changed on the AA barrel in 2006 (along with most other barrels from SP).

SP has sold or is currently selling several one-piece barrels, including the Progressive (stock on Impulses), Teardrop (Progressive barrel with upgraded porting), Linear barrel, and the Tactical 21" barrel (used mainly on SP8 markers).

Smart Parts' major barrel product is the Freak barrel system. This is an "insert" barrel kit, where the user selects one of a number of different-sized bore inserts to use (eight different sizes and a barrel back and barrel tip come with the full Freak kit). There is a total of 9 inserts in normal sizes and a 10th one (reball sized) . The boremaster sets are : the aluminum boremaster set is .679,.682,.684,.687,.689,.691,.693,and .695 and the stainless boremaster set is .682,.684,.687,.689,.691,.693,.695,and .697. The insert is then installed in the back of the barrel (a two-piece barrel plus the insert, making three pieces total). The alternative to this is a "multi-bore" kit that consists of varied barrel backs for a two-piece barrel. The advantages to using an insert instead of a multi-back kit is greatly reduced price and versatility of use on more than one type of marker. The disadvantage is that inserts are more fragile (aluminum moreso than the stainless )than a typical barrel back, so care must be taken.Freak barrels are available in aluminum and steel versions, compatible with both Freak and All American style fronts (varying color, length. Freak barrel backs and all American backs are compatible with the "Stiff tip" (carbon fiber tip made by SIFFI). The insert sets are compatible with white wolf airsmithing's "justice barrels" aka phantoms "Frantom", and Deadly Winds "Fiber barrel" . Freak styling was changed in 2006 along with the other SP barrels.

Apparel

In addition to equipment, Smart Parts manufactures different types of apparel, such as jerseys, pants, pod packs, barrel socks/plugs, and casual wear. Smart Parts develops customized jerseys for their sponsored teams and can also be contracted to making a team number of jerseys for private use.

Air systems

Smart Parts has continuously strived to market non-screw in type tank systems for use with their markers. These types of air systems are mounted directly to the marker and don't use a standard "screw-in" type ASA adapter. The first version of this air system was the Max-Flo manifold in 1999, which continued until mid/late 2003. This regulator system used a large regulator and attached manifold section to operate. This was redesigned into the Max-Flo Inline in 2003, which continued until early 2006. The Max-Flo Inline was similar to the previous versions except drastically reduced in size and appearance. In 2006 SP released the Max-Flo Micro, which was their first non-adjustable tank system. The Micro version is the smallest air system to date from SP.

Smart Parts also produces in-line ASA on/off valves (called the Smartvalve) which gives standard screw-in tanks the ability to use an on/off shutoff valve. It should be noted that the Smartvalve system does not include a bleed feature. The Smartvalve is also available in a CO2 tank version, giving the CO2 tank integrated shutoff capability as well.

Prominent members and employees

Smart Parts is a family-owned business that was started by William Gardner jr, reportably out of his garage. The company is jointly owned by him and his younger brother, Adam Gardner, and involves over 300 individual employees spanning two separate locations (manufacturing/engineering in Latrobe PA, and assembly/playfield/offices in Greenburg PA). The majority of the manufacturing employees are machinests and technicians related to the machine shop and/or production lines.
* William Gardner Jr.: Originally a buinessman by trade, however took an interest in manufacturing and pursued it after obtaining his business degree in the 80's. Founded the company Smart Parts in 1989.
* Adam Gardner: Co-owner; plays on team All Americans (Philly Americans in the NXL league). Provided development for the Impulse and Shocker Sport.
* William Gardner Sr.: Coordinates legal work as well as general shop operation.
* Most (if not all) of the production CAD work seems to be done by James DiBattista jr.
* Darrel Trent: Regional sales.
* Hans Semelsberger: Head of the engineering department, also involves coordinating the assembly effort and devices, production parts sourcing, etc.
* Aaron Stephens: Lead prototype engineer until 2001, when he left to pursue other projects (his developments for PMI/Evil followed). Development in the Impulse and other products around the turn of the century.
* Roderick Perry: Currently designated the general manager (machine shop, etc). His contributations included development for the Impulse, Shocker Sport, Max-Flo manifold tank systems, and various barrels over the years (notably the Freak).
* Sean Scott: General sales representative. One of few employees to have an online presence.
* Danial S Jones (aka "Legion", "TSF", "Nadsenoj"): Former machinist with expertise in metal manufacturing and mechanical engineering; contractually worked for Smart parts in 2001, was hired as lead prototype design engineer in 2002-present. Logistically, most functional items produced by Smart Parts post-2002 were the result of his design, notably including the following: Shocker SFT, closed bolt "Legion" Shocker (unreleased), Nerve, later model Impulse accessories, Ion/SP8/Epiphany, all regulators including Max-Flo Inline, Max-Flo Micro, vertical regulators as seen on the SFT line and later the Ion and NXT, LPRs used on Impulse and a later variant on the Nerve, as well as unreleased or shelved projects that have yet to be described. Also responsible for smaller developments such as the 360º QEV for the Ion, post-2001 Smartvalve ASAs and adapters, Ion solenoid (jointly developed by Smart Parts and Tri-Tech [manufacturer] ), and miscellaneous equipment necessary for the assembly effort.
* Kevin Rayman: Advertising and creativity agent for the company since the early years. Passed away in September 2007.

Patent controversy

Pneuventure

Smart Parts was the first paintball company to enforce it's patents in a very public manner. This caused the paintball community, namely the online portion, which was unaware of many past intellectual property disputes, to criticize it as being greedy. This image was reinforced by confusion over the method in which Smart Parts obtained the patents in question: in the mid 1990s, Smart Parts contracted with PneuVentures, Inc., to produce the original Shocker, with the two companies sharing ownership in its patent filing. After PneuVentures, Inc., went out of business, sole ownership of the patent fell to Smart Parts. That patent application was based on the design of the Shocker marker. As the patent was revised, it covered additional features used in later editions of the Shocker, and Smart Parts' Impulse marker. However, Smart Parts claims that the patent covers the concept of using electronics in a marker, not just the specific marker(s) at the time of the patent.

Post-PneuVenture

After the issuance of the patent, Smart Parts made notification of the patent and offered license agreements to companies producing electropneumatic paintball guns. Companies contacted were mixed in their reaction. Many disregarded the notification under the belief that electronics in paintguns could not be protected by patent, or that the patent could not be applied to their products. Some companies including Planet Eclipse, DYE and National Paintball Supply, under threat of legal action, entered into agreements to produce their paintball guns under license from Smart Parts. These agreements included paying royalties to Smart Parts, in turn driving up the cost of products competing with Smart Pars own markers. Smart Parts took legal action against other companies which were building electropneumatic markers. Most of these cases were settled out of court without going to trial.

WDP

WDP, the makers of the Angel line of paintball markers successfully defended themselves against Smart Parts in court by proving that one of the engineers from PneuVentures, Inc., had never signed his contract. Although he had been paid for the rights to everything he designed for PVI, he never signed over the rights, and the court ruled that he therefore owned part of the patent. WDP purchased that portion of the patent from him, essentially making them co-owners of Smart Part's patent. WDP's partial ownership of the patent has given them protection for their paintball guns, but they have not used it to allow other companies to produce electronic paintguns.

Previous openness among designs

When paintball was a relatively young sport, designs were openly shared and largely unprotected, as seen by the plethora of pump markers utilizing the Nelson powertube assembly (Nelsons, Phantom, Trracer, maverick, Ghost, etc.). Early semiautomatic markers were similarly unprotected designs, as shown by the similarities of the Spyder, Ranger, Piranha, Rebel, and other stacked-tube blowbacks. Pneumatic operation is used in both Bud Orr's autocockers, Glenn Palmer's Typhoons, Strokers, and Blazers, and a variety of autococker "clones".

The Reaction of the Paintball community

However, when Smart Parts began filing suit against other companies for simply applying an electronic triggering system to a pneumatically operated paintball marker, it was seen as a betrayal of the general openness of design and dedication to furtherance of paintball marker technology. Although the US Patent Office has since declared the mere application of electronics to a previous invention does not constitute sufficient innovation for a patent, the Smart Parts patent has held, and thus been a source of much disagreement in the paintball community. Smart Parts has used this patent to successfully sue AKA out of the right to produce the Viking and Excalibur, both considered premier high-end electropneumatic markers, claiming patent infringement. Bill Gardner, owner and president of Smart Parts, claimed "AKA had every opportunity to license, we did not put them out of business. They put themselves out of business," in a discussion thread on the forum pbnation.com. However, the owners of AKA voluntarily ceased production as an alternative to paying a royalty for a patent they did not feel was fairly acquired. Since this time, many other paintball companies have filed suit against each other for trademark and patent infringement issues. However, being the first to gain such publicity over such a widely disputed patent has left some players with a cold and greedy impression of Smart Parts.

External links

* [http://www.smartparts.com Smart Parts Official Website]
* [http://smartcorps.smartparts.com SmartCorps, scenario division]


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