This page was originally not meant as a technical page about the improved Iwata CM-Bs I'd been working on in 2007. It was, indeed, a warm "Thank you!" to everybody (17 researchers and many co-workers!) who helped me in this project done in cooperation with "Marissa Art Productions", triggered by the many questions raised by "???" who was very friendly during the two years when he's used our knowledge and when I've taught him everything he wanted to know for free.
"???" asked the Univeristy Governance (not me directly for some strange reason what only he knows) on 9th of January 2013 not to be referenced on this page anymore. This research was not funded, therefore, being the University of Brescia a public institution, it has the right to mention all the individuals and companies benefiting from its services, working with or for it. Referring to "???" by name has no effect on the activity, so his request to be deleted was granted. This is why I've removed his name, even if I always prefer giving credit to my partners and not hiding them.
What was done is not a simple amateur airbrush tuning as often painters do, so, replicating it at home is not possible.
My original agreement with the companies and "???" was to publish this information by the end of 2008. This was not done so I do it on this page. The companies I mention here worked for free, so from my personal point of view, showing what they did is mandatory. This is the reason why I've added now a more precise description to this page and to the needles page. Moreover, many people wrote me asking what was exactly done. After 3 years a scientific research is dated and the information can be released without harm. Moreover, in 2010 an airbrush with the same improvements was sold (except the airbrush body coatings), so no patent can be filed with this information anymore. I'm not interested in making business with this stuff and, according to what "???" wrote me in June 2008 when we were still in touch, he wasn't interested in using it either. In the meantime I've given needles and springs to a lot of people and they've confirmed that the improvements are useful and make their job more enjoyable. I hope somebody can benefit from this activity somehow by reading what was done.
First of all, the Iwata CM-B (SB) was chosen to work on. This choice was driven by the fact that these airbrushes are among the finest airbrushes in the world. Trying to find new solutions or improvements is meaningful only starting from the state of the art in the airbrush world. Improving something which has been already improved by others would be a waste of time and useless from a scientific point of view. Improving state of the art airbrushes, on the other hand, needs a lot of effort and the results can not be ground breaking without re-designing them. Designing a new airbrush is, however, a project I've started in 2011 with a little group of friends.
The CM-B was carefully checked by X-ray (courtesy of Giuseppe CORVO at AQM, Provaglio d'Iseo - BS, Italy):
I've also cut a full headset in half and then a SEM and EDS analysis was done (courtesy of Valentina FERRARI, University of Brescia, Italy). I've sent the half headset to "???" as one of my presents in 2007:
The result, as expected, was that the materials are of the highest quality available in 2007.
Several ceramic coatings (courtesy of Delia MONDINI at Protim Lafer, Bedizzole, Italy) were used to reduce nickel corrosion of the cups caused by cleaners and abrasion due to hard pigments. I've bought 3 cups (these were not part of the Iwata donation): they were covered by 0.4um of ZrN resulting in a light gold color, by 0.4um bronze TiCN and by 1um of TiN+CrN+C giving a beautiful shiny black surface. I've sent them to "???" as one of my presents in 2007:
These coatings are still nice and functional after many years (2013). There are several images of these cups on the Internet showing their success, also with parts of the "Nr. 2 - Marissa" mounted on some microns. Showing pictures of specimens created during this research activity and letting belive that they were created by new-born companies is a misleading advertising strategy. The University of Brescia doesn't endorse directly or indirectly this type of behavior. It also reserves the right to take further legal action if devises any harm towards the University or University employees.
Many experiments were carried out to reduce needle tip dry: PVD, CVD, nitriding and other much more advanced techniques were employed as detailed on the needles page. The following images show an original tip (left or top) of a CM-B needle and what can be obtained just smoothing the surface (right or bottom) with the correct methods reducing the tip dry significantly:
The trigger technology of the airbrush was studied as well. I've computed the parameters of the softest possible spring (which still works correctly) to reduce finger fatigue and manufactured it also thanks to a local industry. My spring needs about 75grams to open the air flux (@0 air pressure), the original CM-B spring needs 160grams, while the HP-B needs 320grams. The air is perfectly closed up to 4bars (or more, but I didn't check above 4bars which is much more than what is needed for detail work). On the left the original Iwata CM-B spring is shown (bronze color: made of Phosphor Bronze), while on the right my spring (gray color: steel) is shown, made of austenitic stainless steel (parameters: length = 14mm, external diameter= 2.9mm, wire diameter = 0.25mm, number of turns = 16):
I've sent many springs to a lot of people starting from 2008. I've sent several hundreds of these springs to Antwerp in 2008 and also to Marissa in 2011. I've given many of them also to airbrush artists who came to visit me during these years. Also my friend Alberto Ponno has been using my spring since 2008 in his airbrush. In this case, the spring was cut in half, because the Paasche spring has the same diameter, but only half length compared to the Iwata spring. Its worth to note that using softer springs than the original ones is not a novelty: airbrush artists use to cut their springs to make them softer since ancient times.
Other improvements were done to obtain a nearly ideally soft and smooth trigger. A Delrin Ring (T shape) was created (courtesy of Giuseppe STEFANA at STEGAR, Brescia, Italy) to have a solid lubricant between the brass parts:
In order to improve the trigger control, I've designed a spring-divider:
By adding a spring (made of austenitic stainless steel with length = 15mm, external diameter = 4.9mm, wire diameter = 0.35mm, number of turns = 4.5) between the slightly modified Needle Chucking Guide (courtesy of Giuseppe STEFANA at STEGAR, Brescia, Italy) and the Delrin Ring, the motion of the trigger is transmitted to the needle reduced by 3. Thus, a spring-divider is formed between the original Needle Spring and the new one I've added (on the right of the image above). It means, that the trigger sensitivity is increased by 300%. Compared to the original trigger, when the finger moves 1mm, the needle moves 3 times less, giving a huge control. The idea is nice, but due to the small movements, static friction makes things cumbersome and continuous adjustment of the Needle Spring Adjuster is necessary. This is the reason why a new cutaway handle was also created in order to reach more easily the Needle Spring Adjuster, as shown on the "Nr. 1 - Zsolt" prototype. The original cutaway handle shown on the "Nr. 0 - Zsolt" prototype doesn't allow to reach the Needle Spring Adjuster.
I've modelled the crown cap to reduce air turbulence, so working with the unprotected needle becomes unnecessary. This is a common shape on spray guns too. Moreover, the NiPTFE coating of the cap (courtesy of Mariangela BRISOTTO at Metal Work, Concesio, Italy) prevents the paint from sticking on it:
At the end, 3 improved CM-Bs were created. (Other 2 will be created in 2012 with several new features as part of the new airbrush design)
"Nr. 0 - Zsolt" is my working horse. This airbrush was used to try everything out (here the crown cap has longer pins, but it works fine anyway):
"Nr. 1 - Zsolt" started as a perfectly working new CM-B, never used before, and only the most significant improvements were added to it. It is titanium coated (courtesy of Delia MONDINI at Protim Lafer, Bedizzole, Italy) with a modified trigger, a re-designed crown cap, a modified cutaway handle and other goodies, like a 3 times finer trigger control compared to the original airbrush (and other NiPTFE parts which are not relevant, just nice):
"Nr. 2 - Marissa" is a modified CM-SB and I've created it as a gift and a surprise to Marissa Oosterlee. Nobody knew about it until my trip to Antwerp in 2008. It is titanium nitride coated (which is extra hard with a nice golden color - courtesy of Delia MONDINI at Protim Lafer, Bedizzole, Italy) with super-smooth needle, re-designed crown cap, a modified cutaway handle, an ultra smooth trigger and other goodies, like a 3 times finer trigger control compared to the original:
In February 2008 I've decided to go to Antwerp for a short one-day visit, just to deliver the "Nr. 2 - Marissa" with spare needles and springs. I've also transferred to "???" all the technical information I've used to improve the airbrushes and needles. Obviously Marissa doesn't need such a technological airbrush for her art, but I loved the idea of giving her one of these jewels. Regretfully this gift was taken away from her, so she doesn't have it anymore. The good news is that she is a real artist. I personally saw her painting wonderfully using standard airbrushes as well as tuned airbrushes. So, it is worth noting that an airbrush is just a tool: the artist creates art. A good airbrush is important to make the painting process easier, but owning one is not mandatory at all. A good example is my friend, our Italian airbrush master, Alberto Ponno. He is certainly the best free-hand airbrush artist in the world, but his choice is a Paasche VJR, one of the cheapest airbrushes available today!
I am not working on this project anymore. Please be aware that after more than three years the technology described above is dated. Today we have new materials and techniques which can be used to improve many things like needles, shapes and coatings.
In 2011 I've started a new airbrush design (not just modifying parts) following the hints of Alberto Ponno with some friends at the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering. The project is not funded, so we take our time and we are having a lot of fun.
This time I won't make the mistake to send out all the information without control, just because I trust friends, and leaving my partners and colleagues without a public "thank you for your hard job and for sharing your knowledge for free".
When a layman has an excessive self-esteem and gives unsolicited advises to scientists, he can easily miss the target: it was suggested that researchers should look at facts. A fact is that showing pictures of specimens created during this research activity without saying where they come from and letting belive that they were created by new-born companies is a dishonest and misleading advertising strategy. A fact is that mounting specimens created in 2007 in random order on some Iwata Custom Microns doesn't make any wonder airbrush, just hype. Other facts are that the 3 special airbrushes are all based on standard Iwata Custom Microns and that their modifications were 100% made in the Brescia area with technologies belonging to the partners listed below. This can be easily verified by quantitative and qualitative techniques available at the University of Brescia, which is a leading institution in the field of engineering and material sciences. The consequence, proof and the next fact is that when in 2012 I've decided to modify other two airbrushes, namely the "Nr. 3 - Carlo" and "Nr. 4 - Marissa" with many additional new features, they were ready and delivered in a few weeks. A fact is also that after 2008, in about 5 years, no super airbrush was made available to the public. The last fact, a really sad one, is that Albert Einstein quote "Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former" also works replacing "stupidity" with "ungratefulness". These are all facts, so no comment is necessary.
I would like to thank very much my friends and colleagues at the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering for ideas and precious technical information, namely in alphabetic order, prof. Giorgio DONZELLA, ing. Michela FACCOLI, Valentina FERRARI (especially for the SEM/EDS analysis), ing. Marcello GELFI, Alessandro RIVETTI and prof. Roberto ROBERTI for the technical information and contacts. I'm very grateful to Giuseppe CORVO (AQM) for the X-ray analysis and to ing. Delia MONDINI (ProtimLafer S.r.l.) for the coatings of the airbrush bodies and cups. Huge thanks to my friend ing. Giuseppe STEFANA for modifying and re-building the parts I've needed and for the magical birth of small 2mm parts from a huge 3m long machine! A heartfelt thank you to my friend prof. Costantino DE ANGELIS working at the Department of Electronics with me for his friendship, his knowledge of physics and math, and for being able to answer questions I didn't ask yet but wanted to.
A warm thank you to ing. Alberto FERRERO (Anest-Iwata) and to "Marissa Art Productions" for the donation of all the material I needed to experiment with.
I would like to thank so much the university and industrial partners creating the prototype parts and allowing me to check the state-of-the-art techniques to improve the airbrush needles:
Finally, a huge thank you to Marissa Oosterlee for the giclé prints donated to the research team of her gorgeous painting celebrating this activity.
January 10th, 2013