March 10, 2015

Airbrush innovations

Since Jens Paasche built the AB - better known as the Turbo - there haven't been an awful lot of innovations in the world of airbrush. Testor conceived the Aztek, which is basically an idea bordering on brilliant design, that was ruined by the use of inferior materials. It keeps production costs extremely low, which is always good for profit, as does the limited durability of the parts, both of which are the result of the poor materials of which the airbrush is constructed. One of Testor's officers told me during an airbrush fair of many years ago, that the Aztek was built from only 8 dollars of materials (....). Testor stopped the production of the Aztek recently (2022). But when the thing was relatively new and used with a properly diluted paint - rather thin than more viscous - it did not perform bad at all. In addition, the materials from which it was built, made it work with the more aggressive thinner and solvent based paint. So, unfortunately the commercial aspect prevailed over usability for creative artists.

Paasche Turbo

Testor Aztek

Fischer AeroStar

In complete opposition to Testor's approach French manufacturer Fischer invented the AeroStar, that featured an innovative design and functionality, while using exotic materials like titanium and magnesium. The combination of design and use of costly materials made this airbrush extremely expensive. It sentenced the fabulous tool to a lamentably short career, in spite of its absolutely unparalleled performance. Somewhere between these two extremes Iwata operates. It produces high quality airbrushes that are deliberately made incompatible with each other (it is not possible to exchange nozzles between Iwata's models, needles and other parts) and sells them for the highest prices in the airbrush market.

Iwata HP-BH

Harder & Steenbeck Infinity

Harder & Steenbeck Evolution, which parts are
interchangeable with the Infinity shown above

Yet an other policy is maintained by Harder & Steenbeck (recently bought by Iwata) that favors exchangeability of parts of its models, which resulted in gaining a considerable market share. But neither Iwata and Harder & Steenbeck have introduced any stunning real innovations, that probably is accepted by airbrush artists, because they simply don't know any better than what they are currently offered and familiar with. Up to now Iwata has not changed anything about the optimized usability and reasonable price of the Harder & Steenbeck airbrush guns.

I posted an innovative airbrush construction idea some time ago, that probably is too far out; the device would have an ultrasonic pump that would be capable of pushing out the smallest clusters of pigment, while agitating the paint (and therefore make the paint flow better). But besides such a revolutionary idea (for the airbrush trade anyway), there are enough improvements that are possible, but few of them are found in airbrush guns currently on offer.

Colani airbrush

One such improvement could be a pistol grip like in the Colani and similar brushes (Grex, Sparmax etc.), but with the possibility of double action operation. This could be done by using a split tall pistol type trigger of which the upper part (colored red) controls the amount of paint and the bottom part (colored blue) the amount of air given. An other improvement could be the attachment to the brush of a small paint container by a flexible hose. This would result in the benefit of gravity feed, without the nasty risk of involuntarily spilling paint on the artwork. The container could be clipped to the easel or even to the top pocket of the artist's shirt.

Airbrush gun concept

I may elaborate on construction details later (still brainstorming...). But the above image may already give a rough idea about what is taking place in my brain concerning a more ergonomic and effective type of airbrush gun. The hose at the top leads the paint from the container (not shown) to the brush, the hose at the rear end is for the air supply. Turning the brass wheel controls the air pressure, the wheel at the bottom adjusts the response sensitivity of the airbrush (by relocating lever hinge points). Spring tension can be adjusted at the back (above the air hose) as in traditional airbrushes.