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  • Tracy Gunn

Equipment IDC Dive Theory

Updated: Jan 25




Are you struggling with your IDC Equipment dive theory or want to learn more? Do you need more practice with equipment exams? This guide has been created to support divemasters or IDC candidates in preparing for their final exams. It's also highly beneficial to have a basic understanding of the equipment that you'll be using as a professional.


TANKS


TANK MARKINGS


Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus

Tanks have various markings at the neck (they should never be stamped on the body). They may vary internationally but generally include


· Government Agency

DOT Department of Transport

CTC Canadian Transport Commission


· Alloy Designation

Steel 3AA

Aluminium 3AL


· Working Pressure

In Bar and/or PSI

A “+” after the current hydrostatic test date means the steel tank can be filled 10% beyond the working pressure


· Hydrostatic Test Date

Indicates both the date and the testing facility. A “+” after the test date on steel tanks only means the tank can be filled to 10% beyond working pressure


· Stamped serial number and manufacturer designation



Tanks should always, at a minimum, have the following markings

  1. Maximum working pressure

  2. Maximum capacity

  3. Hydrostatic/ pressure test date

These markings should always be checked before filling.

This is important even in different countries with different tank markings.


* Before filling a tank, always - check the tank markings, specifically looking for a current hydrostatic/pressure test date and maximum capacity/pressure.

Tank markings vary from country to country – if they’re not familiar, don’t assume that they’re unimportant.


STEEL TANKS Vs ALUMINIUM TANKS

STEEL 3AA

ALUMINIUM 3AL

RESISTANCE TO CORROSION

Quicker

​Slower Aluminium is less subject to structural weakening due to corrosion

GALVANIC ACTION

Brass valves can react

With Steel (rust)

Brass valves can react

With aluminium (Al oxide)


WEIGHT

Heavier

​Lighter

SIZE

Smaller (stronger)

​Larger (less strong)

BUOYANCY

​Less buoyant (diver is not affected as tank pressure drops)

​Can be more buoyant (more weight required as pressure drops)

NORMAL WORKING PRESSURE

​200 Bar (300 Bar Tec diving)

220 Bar

HARDNESS

Harder

​Softer

MAINTENANCE

​Harder to clean

​Easier to clean (preferred by dive operators)

AVAILABILITY

​Less available

​More available

TECHNICAL DIVING

More popular (Especially DIN)

​Less popular

BOTTOM

Round

Flat

  • Aluminium is less subject to structural weakening due to corrosion

  • Weight change in a steel cylinder from full to reserve pressure would be the same as in an aluminium cylinder – (air weighs the same, regardless of the cylinder). Steel tanks are less buoyant than aluminium tanks, so you would be less affected by the change.


Tanks should always be left with some air in them. The air pressure will prevent moisture from entering the tanks, causing internal damage. In steel tanks, moisture can quickly form Iron Oxide (rust) and in Aluminium tanks, Aluminium Oxide, although aluminium tanks are less prone to rust and corrosion. So, never completely empty a tank; always leave some pressure inside.




STEEL TANKS ARE STRONGER FOR THE SAME THICKNESS, SO HAVE THINNER WALLS AND LARGE INTERNAL VOLUMES FOR A GIVEN SIZE.

= MORE AIR AT A GIVEN PRESSURE OR THE SAME AIR AT A LOWER PRESSURE


ALUMINIUM TANKS ARE WEAKER THAN STEEL AND REQUIRE A THICKER WALL AND LOWER INTERNAL VOLUME FOR A GIVEN EXTERNAL SIZE

=LARGER WORKING PRESSURE, SO HOLD COMPARABLE OR SLIGHTLY MORE AIR THAN STEEL


VISUAL INSPECTION Vs HYDROSTATIC TESTING

VISUAL INSPECTION

HYDROSTATIC TESTING

Once a year · Inspector checks the internal and exterior of the tank to check for damage or wear that might cause the cylinder to fail between hydrostatic tests · Not required by law in most countries but is an industry-standard · Inside of the tank is inspected for corrosion (rust OR aluminium oxide). Any corrosion is machine or chemically cleaned. If damage has occurred, the tank may be destroyed · Check for buildup of contamination inside the tank · Removal of the valve to check for galvanic action between the threads of the neck and the tank. This also allows lubrication, reducing electrolysis. O-rings may be replaced as needed, and the valve examined · Thread of the neck is also examined for damage · If your tank has been empty for a while, feels heavy, and you can hear something loose moving inside but is within the hydro test date, you need a visual inspection.

Periodically, as required by local law (generally every 5 years but not always)

  • (In the US, every 5 years; in the UK, every 4) Engraved on tank neck

Hydrostatic Test is done by

· Immersing the tank in water and measuring its volume

· Fills tank with water and pressurizes it to more than its working pressure (7/5 times or 166%) and measures the expansion of the tank.

· After releasing pressure, the tester measures its new unpressurized volume against its original volume

· If it contracts within acceptable limits, the tank passes, and the tester stamps the tank with the test date and tester identification symbol.


OTHER CONDITIONS FOR A HYDROSTATIC TEST


1. Tumbling (or sandblasting) to remove corrosion

2. Damage due to impact

3. Exposure to heat more than 82ºC/ 180ºF

Never repaint a tank using a heat painting process such as used on automobiles, as heat can weaken the cylinder.

4. Left unused for two years or more

(Especially if with zero pressure)

Visual Inspection - once a year

Hydrostatic testing - as required by local law





Would you like to test your knowledge on

Tanks

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VALVES



K valve and J valve are so named because it was their part number in a catalogue.



K-valves are simply an on-off valve. (Most used today)


Will have either a yoke fitting or a DIN fitting for the valve opening

  • Yoke is most common for recreational diving


  • DIN (Deutch Industry Norm) is where the regulator screws into the tank valve

  • DIN allows a better tank and regulator seal due to the O-ring being trapped between two valves (the tank is “female” and the regulator is “male”)

  • The tank and valve are secured by threads, so the connection is much stronger than the yoke. This makes it more desirable for cave and wreck divers who may accidentally strike the valve/ regulator on an overhead obstruction.

  • Superior O-ring positioning and strength enable the use of much higher air pressure.


J-valve is a valve with a reserve mechanism.


  • It contains a spring-loaded mechanism that, if activated (placing the lever in the “up” position), restricts the flow when the air pressure drops to between 20-40 bar/ 300-500psi

  • This alerts the diver to low air, who then pulls the lever into the “down” position, releasing restricted airflow.

  • This is a warning device and does not provide additional air volume

  • Tanks must be filled with the lever in the “down” position.

  • The advent of the submersible pressure gauge has made this valve uncommon.


 

BURST DISC


A burst disc prevents an over-pressurised or overheated tank from exploding.

  • It is required by law in many countries and installed in every valve

  • A thin copper disk that ruptures and allows air to vent when the pressure reaches 125-166% (generally above 140%) of the working pressure.

  • As they weaken over time, disks must be replaced regularly by a qualified technician. Installing the wrong burst disk can result in the tank rupturing before the disk.




Would you like to test your knowledge on

Valves

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REGULATORS


There are three types of Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus.


OPEN CIRCUIT SCUBA

Scuba is typically used by recreational divers. They are referred to as open circuit demand valves because they are activated by diver inhalation, and exhaust is vented into the water. Thus, the circuit is open because none of the air is recycled.


  • It is much simpler in design, which makes it reliable and less costly. Closed and semi-closed are prone to malfunction.

  • Much easier to learn to use.

  • It requires only a cylinder of air. Closed and semi-closed require chemicals and access to pure gases or enriched air.

  • Much simpler to maintain and service.

  • The ratio of gases in the breathing mix remains the same throughout the dive.


SEMI-CLOSED REBREATHERS

Drager Ray/ Dolphin

The diver inhales from a breathing bag that receives a steady flow of gas (usually enriched air). The diver exhales back into a breathing bag, and the gas has carbon dioxide removed chemically- excess gas from the steady flow trickles out through a valve. The circuit is semi-open because part of the gas is recycled, and part of it is released.



CLOSED CIRCUIT REBREATHER

Buddy Inspiration

The diver inhales from a breathing bag and exhales back into a breathing bag. The gas has carbon dioxide chemically removed, and electronic sensors control the flow of oxygen and other gases as required, allowing the dive to carry much less gas. The circuit is closed because all gas is recycled, and none is released (except to vent upon ascent)

  • Modern closed-circuit rebreathers constantly monitor oxygen levels in the breathing mixture and can adjust the oxygen concentration to a level that is optimum for the divers’ depth. The result is much shorter decompression times and much less risk of oxygen toxicity.

  • Buoyancy is mainly controlled with the BCD using the LPI rather than the diver’s lungs, as in the case of open circuits.


OPEN CIRCUIT REGULATORS


1st STAGE

Reduces high pressure from the tank (220bar/ 3000psi) to an intermediate pressure (around 10-13bar/ 140-190psi above ambient water pressure)

  • Will channel high pressure to the high-pressure hose (which connects to the pressure gauge so the diver can monitor air) and the intermediate pressure to the second stages and low-pressure inflator hose for the BCD

  • Diaphragm or piston valves are most likely found in the first stage of a scuba regulator.

  • As the diver inhales, the air pressure drops in the first stage. This allows water pressure to flex a diaphragm or move a piston, opening a valve that releases air from the tank.

  • Air flows as long as the diver is inhaling, keeping the first stage reaching intermediate pressure.

  • When the diver stops inhaling, pressure rises in the first stage so that upon reaching intermediate pressure, the valve to the tank closes, and air no longer flows.


2ND STAGE

Reduces intermediate pressure to ambient pressure for breathing

  • As the diver inhales, water causes a diaphragm in the second stage to flex inward, depressing the downstream valve and releasing air.

  • As long as the diver is inhaling, air will continue to flow

  • When the diver stops inhaling, the diaphragm returns to a relaxed position, and the valve closes

  • Exhaled air exits through one-way valves

  • In some second-stage models, the diaphragm opens a small pilot valve, which creates a small pressure imbalance that opens the main valve.

Advantage- less breathing effort

Disadvantage – more complex design, more difficult to service and adjust

  • If the regulator wet breathes, it could be missing tabs or tear on the mouthpiece

  • Damage to a mouthpiece may be a potential stressor and can lead to more serious problems

PILOT VALVES

Are ONLY found in 2nd stages

Uses air pressure to both open and close valves




DOWNSTREAM Vs UPSTREAM VALVES

​DOWNSTREAM VALVES

​UPSTREAM VALVES

It opens with the flow of air​ Air pressure acts to open the valve Failure typically results in free flow Free flow is a fail-safe design

It opens against the flow of air​ Forced closed by air pressure Failure can shut off the air


ENVIRONMENTAL SEAL

Normal airflow causes regulator temperature to drop (expanding gases have a lower temperature. Look at what happens when you open a tank fully)

In extremely cold water, that temperature drop can cause the regulator 1st stage valves to freeze into an open, free-flowing position.

To avoid this, some regulators have environmental sealing. This seals silicone grease or oil, which doesn`t freeze, around the first stage. This silicon or oil transmits the pressure from the water to the diaphragm or piston so the regulator can operate normally.



BALANCED REGULATOR Vs UNBALANCED REGULATOR

BALANCED REGULATOR

UNBALANCED REGULATOR

· Neither assists nor resists (DOES NOT AFFECT) opening of valves · Breathing unchanged with cylinder pressure · Is more capable of supplying air to accessories, such as low-pressure inflators. · Is better able to supply the needs of two divers breathing simultaneously from the regulator. · Provides greater airflow and breathes easier at depth, so depth is not a concern · Virtually all modern regulators are balanced

​· Assists or resists (DOES AFFECT) opening of valves

· Breathing changed with cylinder pressure (more difficult)


· Breathing is more difficult at depth

· No longer commonly found

Alternate Air Sources

Generally, the Alternate Air Source is brightly coloured. Yellow is the most common and popular. It is widely accepted that the Alternate Air Source (AAS) should be attached to the diver somewhere within a "golden triangle" or "triangle of safety". This is an area formed between the chin and the two lower points of the rib cage.

This approach is favoured by most divers because, being what most entry-level divers are taught, in an emergency, it is a familiar position located easily, built into the muscle memory of divers through repetition.

A panicked diver is focusing purely on locating a source of air. By having the octopus (AAS) identifiable by its colour and placement, much confusion is removed from a panicked diver possibly suffering tunnel vision.


Alternate Inflator Regulator

This combines a second stage with the BCD low-pressure inflator

In an out-of-air emergency, you breathe from this yourself and pass your primary second stage to your buddy.




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Regulators

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GAUGES


CAPILLARY DEPTH GAUGE


- A simple piece of tubing sealed at one end and open at the other with depth increments indicated according to where the water column rests based on Boyles Law.

In accordance with Boyle’s Law, the internal air space will fill with water in a predictable manner — half the original volume at 10 meters, one-third at 20m, one-fourth at 30m, etc. By marking off where the water column will be at various depths, a crude but highly accurate gauge can be constructed with no moving parts.

Best for when diving at altitude.

They are inexpensive and reliable but hard to read accurately much deeper than 10mt/ 30ft. It will show a relationship of atmospheres rather than actual ambient pressure, which is why diving at altitude requires special procedures and training.


A capillary gauge will give theoretical depths rather than actual depth.

If the atmospheric pressure is reduced (as in altitude), then the capillary tube will be filled based on the pressure. For example, if the atmospheric pressure is 0.8 ata (less than the 1.0ata at sea level), then doubling that pressure will decrease the volume by half.

2 x 0.8 = 1.6 ata.

This means the depth gauge will read 10 meters when the diver is actually at 8 meters. Capillary gauges read deeper than actual depth, which is in contrast with other gauges, which read shallower than actual depth when atmospheric pressure is reduced.

The indicated depth (i.e. 10 meters) is not the real depth but the equivalent sea level depth, which is the depth that divers would look at to find the no decompression limit (NDL) for an 8 meter dive at that specific atmospheric pressure. So, capillary gauges are best used in conjunction with the use of dive tables.


Think ABC - Altitude, Boyle Capillary

At altitude, it will read deeper than the actual depth (which makes it more conservative)


Capillary depth gauges have no moving parts and are generally very accurate in shallow water, making them excellent backup gauges.


OPEN BOURBON DEPTH GAUGE

- Contain a curved/spiral (C) tube. Water enters the tube end, and increasing pressure causes the tube to straighten if the pressure inside the tube is greater than the ambient pressure. The tube’s tip connects with rods and levers to an eccentric gear that, in turn, connects to a gauge needle. Thus, by increasing or decreasing the pressure inside the tube, the needle moves around the dial. This is how your mechanical, analog SPG works.


Because the tube is open, clogging can be a problem.


* At altitude, it will read shallower than the actual depth (which could be unsafe)



OIL FILLED GAUGES

- Also use bourbon tube design but use a sealed tube in an oil-filled housing. Pressure transmitted through the oil causes the tube to coil straighten. This moves the depth gauge needle. It is not open to water, and so is not prone to clogging


DIAPHRAGM GAUGES

- Function by connecting a flexible diaphragm to a series of levers and gears that move the display needle


DIGITAL GAUGES

- Are electronic gauges that read depth with a transducer, which varies the electricity it transmits depending on the pressure exerted. These provide a digital display. These offer the highest accuracy and are used in dive computers to determine depth.



 


SUBMERSIBLE PRESSURE GAUGES


Analog SPGs are based on the same principle as the Bourbon Tube Gauge.


Electronic SPGs use a pressure transducer like those in computers/ electronic depth gauges. These work by varying an electrical current depending on the pressure exerted on it

SPGs may be integrated with dive computers. Some designs have a transducer on the first stage that transmits to a wrist-worn computer, eliminating the SPG hose.




COMPASSES


The north needle always points to magnetic north because the needle is magnetic, aligned by earth's geomagnetism.

Divers read the compass by direction directly with the needle, but electronic ones read the heading digitally.

Divers use liquid-filled compasses so the gauge withstands pressure and dampens the needle movement for easier reading.




 

DIVING WITH COMPUTERS


  • Each buddy has their own computer.

  • Buddies follow the most conservative dive depth/time.

  • During a dive on which one buddy has a dive computer and the other is using tables, both divers should dive within the limits of the most conservative too.l

  • All dive table guidelines and manufacturer recommendations apply

  • If a computer fails underwater, ascend to 5 metres/15 feet and make a long safety stop, perhaps lasting as long as your air supply permits. This includes both buddies, as a diver cannot continue sharing one diver's computer.

  • Computer decompression mode – if you ascend before the required decompression time ends and the computer locks you out, stay out of the water for at least 24 hours, monitor yourself for DCS symptoms, and only then re-enter the water

  • Dive computers with integrated SPGs or gas pressure features can track your depth, time, and gas consumption. An enriched air dive computer can also calculate your oxygen exposure.



 

OPTIONS FOR CARRYING GAUGES


Gauges were first worn on the wrist

Then they went to the console

Now, returning to the wrists


Wrist mount

  • Useful for compact instruments

  • Most accurate for compass

  • More streamlined, especially with overhead environments

  • May be prone to entanglement


Console

Combines several instruments into a package on the SPG or several instruments into one

  • Speeds up dive preparation

  • Keeps arms clear

  • It requires securing so it does not drag and damage itself or the environment.


Retractable mount

Clips to BCD with a spring wound retraction cord.

  • Popular for hoseless computers with divers who do not like wrist mount

  • Makes it convenient to hand-hold a compass for the greatest accuracy



Divers should avoid diving to the no decompression limits because depth gauges, timing devices and dive computers may not be precise — even a slight variation can put a diver at risk if the limits are pushed.


Failing to monitor depth and timing devices is the most significant equipment malfunction that can be directly linked to Decompression Sickness.




Would you like to test your knowledge on

Gauges

Do the exam below





 

ENRICHED AIR CONSIDERATIONS


Because enriched air has more oxygen than air has oxygen, there is a greater potential for fire or explosion related to improperly cleaned equipment. Materials such as neoprene rubber, lubricants such as silicone grease, and contaminants, including dirt particles, could pose a hazard using enriched air.


Enriched air presents oxygen toxicity hazards not common to diving with air (21% O2) within recreational diving limits. Divers must know they are using enriched air and what blend they are using.


INDUSTRY GUIDELINES


  1. Most current regulators, alternate air sources, SPGs and BCDs can be used with EANx blends of up to 40% oxygen without modification. This guideline is in place due to the increasing risk of oxidative reactions with higher percentages

  2. When using 40% oxygen or more, special cleaning or materials are recommended. (40% rule)

  3. You need to oxygen clean equipment for enriched air use when:

  • Oxygen content will exceed 40%

  • The equipment manufacturer guidelines say so

  • Local regulations require it


FOLLOW MANUFACTURER'S GUIDELINES WITH RESPECT TO USING EQUIPMENT WITH ENRICHED AIR


Any equipment exposed to more than 40% oxygen requires special cleaning, lubrication, and materials to meet oxygen service specifications. If such equipment is used with air from a standard source, it will need to be re-cleaned


ENRICHED AIR CYLINDERS REQUIRE SPECIAL MARKINGS


A 15cm band at the shoulder. The top and bottom of the band should be a yellow 2.5cm band with the centre 10cm green with the words “Enriched air”, “Nitrox”, or similar. Yellow cylinders need only the green/label portion.


It also requires a visual inspection sticker stating that it has been specifically serviced for use with enriched air.




A contents sticker or tag identifying the current blend, fill date, blend maximum depth and the analyser name/diver name.


ENRICHED AIR DIVERS MUST PERSONALLY ANALYSE THE CONTENTS OF THEIR CYLINDERS BEFORE USING THEM




On some dive boats, the standard practice is to grab any full cylinder. This is not appropriate with enriched air, which practice calls for divers to use tanks they have personally analysed.



 

THERMAL PROTECTION


THERMOCLINE is a steep temperature gradient in a body of water, such as a lake, marked by a layer above and below which the water is at different temperatures.


When conducting deeper dives, especially those deeper than 18 meters and especially in freshwater lakes where thermoclines are more common, divers must consider thermal protection adequate for the temperature at depth.



DRY SUITS


If a dry suit seal that has recently been replaced or on a new suit feels too tight, you can trim it with scissors in small amounts until you get the correct fit. Latex seals are tapered and have a series of trim lines (small, raised lines on the outside of the seal) that start at the seal opening and progressively get bigger. When trimming, use these to keep the lines even, and use good scissors. Trim in small amounts until you get the correct fit.


WET SUITS


Wetsuits are made of closed-cell foam neoprene, a synthetic rubber that contains small bubbles of nitrogen gas when made for use as wetsuit material. As you dive deep, the gas bubbles in the neoprene compress, and the diver will have less insulation.



 

WEIGHT SYSTEMS

  • A diver must wear sufficient weight to be neutrally buoyant at the surface.

  • All weight systems should be quick-release, regardless of type.


Remember, you should do a buoyancy check

  • When we change our dive equipment

  • When we change our dive environment

  • When I haven’t been diving in a while.

(As you may recall, to do a buoyancy check, you adjust your weight so you float at eye level with a deflated BCD and holding a normal breath. Then add two kg/ five lbs if you do this with a full scuba cylinder to account for the weight of the air you use during the dive.)


 

LIFT BAGS


  • Use a lift bag for objects heavier than 4kg/10 pounds but not more than 45kg / 100 pounds.

  • Choose a lift bag with the lifting capacity as close to the object’s negative buoyancy as possible.

  • If the bag capacity is close to the object's negative weight, expanding air will bubble out the bottom, making a runaway ascent unlikely. If using a larger capacity, then if a runaway ascent occurs, it will accelerate as expanding air increases buoyancy. When the bag pops the surface, it will spill and sink.

  • Put a puff of air in, just enough to make it stand up and pull tightly on the rigging.

  • Using your Alternate, slowly inflate in short bursts. Do not use primary because it is unnecessary task loading. Hold the inflator so you can pull it free easily and so it cannot tangle in the rigging.

  • After each burst, pull up to see if you can lift the object. Continue until the object rises gently when you pull up and hover off the bottom. You are trying to make NEUTRALLY buoyant, not positively buoyant,

  • Position yourself beside and level with the lift bag

  • Ascend at a maximum of 18mt / 60ft per minute

  • You need to vent air from both your BCD AND the lift bag



 

REELS, SMBs and DSMBs

Dive reels

- can be used for multiple purposes.

  • Search Patterns

  • Towing a dive flag or float

  • Measuring things

In Tec Diving, they’re standard equipment in open water to

  • Use with a lift bag,

  • Critical in cavern, cave, and wreck penetration diving to provide a continuous guideline back to the entrance and surface


SMBs and DSMBs do exactly the same thing and are intended for the same purpose: to let people at the surface know where divers are located.


​SMB

​DSMB

​Surface Marker Buoy

​Delayed Surface Marker Buoy

​· A long bright collared tube deployed at the surface after a dive · Can be attached to a line and towed during the entire dive

· DSMB is only deployed at the end of the dive, on the ascent or during the safety stop. · The DSMB is deployed to alert the surface that divers have started to ascend. · Generally deployed at the safety stop, so have lines that measure 5mt and up. · Always tied to a line · DSMB has an over-inflation valve and no spill design


Would you like to test your knowledge on

Enriched Air, Reels, SMBs and DSMBs, Lift Bags, Weights and Exposure Suits

Do the exam below






 

Here are all the equipment exams



If you would like to test your knowledge on

Tanks

CLICK HERE




If you would like to test your knowledge on

Valves

CLICK HERE





If you would like to test your knowledge on

Regulators

CLICK HERE





If you would like to test your knowledge on

Gauges

CLICK HERE





Would you like to test your knowledge on

Enriched Air, Reels, SMBs and DSMBs, Lift Bags, Weights and

Exposure Suits









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