|Thursday, July 30th, 2009||Published in: Product Reviews|
I've been testing the new GRS GraverMach AT and thought I'd share my experience with this dual-mode system. It features conventional foot pedal engraving and Airtact palm operation in a single unit. Gone is the need for an outboard Airtact box!
You may recall that I've been using the Airtact for over 2 years, but still use a foot pedal for sculpting, stippling, certain stone setting functions, hammering, and undercutting and inlaying gold. The reason is because I grip the handpiece differently for these operations, which is more like a pencil grip as opposed to a palm grip. My foot pedal has been the low profile FootPod which has served me well, but the standard foot pedal is a bit easier to control but was not an option.
GRS designed the original Airtact system to enable palm handpiece actuation for all of the GRS engraving systems (except the GraverMeister). All that's needed is the Airtact box and handpiece knob and you can engrave by palm pressure. It only seemed logical that GRS would eventually combine the Airtact and GraverMach into a single system, and that's what they have done. This new combo version is not only convenient, but allows the user instantaneous change from palm to pedal engraving with the flip of a switch. Not only that, but the pedal is the conventional foot pedal that GRS users are comfortable with.
In addition to the standard GraverMach controls, the new GraverMach AT has its Airtact controls neatly arranged on the front panel. At the top left is the Airtact pressure gauge. In the top center is the Airtact regulator adjustment (I keep mine set between 10 and 15lbs). The power ON/OFF button is now located at the top right with a green light indicating power-on. Gone is the red GRS power-off light.
When powering off the GraverMach AT, you'll hear the pop of the internal solenoid which disconnects the air supply to the system. This is a most welcome feature! Leaving the compressor on when I go to lunch means it won't be cycling on and off as long as the GraverMach AT's power switch is set to OFF.
The front panel center section features the same bias control (micro adjustment for precise pressure regulation) and air gauge as before. The knob at center right is the same regulator adjust knob which has been relocated to the right of the gauge.
The lower panel section has the handpiece selector in the same area as before, but located slightly higher to accommodate the dual Airtact handpiece tubes. Having the tubes in one location is certainly tidier than the outboard Airtact unit. As a bonus, the selector switch also simultaneously switches both the power air (big handpiece tube) and the control air (small line for Airtact hand function) at the same time. Gone is the need to flip a second toggle when switching handpieces. Another very nice improvement.
In the bottom center is the SPM (strokes per minute) control which is unchanged. To the right of the SPM control is the foot and hand selector switch. Flipping this switch instantly places the GraverMach AT in pedal or hand mode and no additional adjustment is required. This makes for extremely fast and seamless operation of pedal and hand modes.
Some of my special purpose tools include beading tools, millgrain tools, and liners which are longer and not particularly suited to the Airtact without shortening them. With the GraverMach AT, the instantaneous change to pedal operation means more productivity with tools I might not choose because I don't feel like disconnecting a handpiece tube and reconnecting the FootPod tube just to make a few cuts. Now I only have to flip the switch to pedal, mount my long graver and start cutting. A flip of the switch takes me back to palm, so I have the best of both worlds. For my work, this is a huge benefit.
Lastly, the bottom right AUX knob remains unchanged. This is an auxiliary connection for air turbine handpieces, etc., but the front mounted AUX quick connect fitting has been relocated to the back of machine. This makes a tidier setup for those who keep a turbine handpiece attached by moving its air tube to the back and out of the way.
The box itself is 3/4" (1.9cm) wider and 1" (2.5cm) longer than the GraverMach, and has a nicely contoured front panel. The height hasn't changed and the footprint is slightly larger than the GraverMach.
In operation, the GraverMach AT performs as beautifully as a standard GraverMach. It's smooth, quiet, rugged, extremely powerful, and delicate enough to engrave a gnat's eyelashes. Others who have tested this system have reported enhanced sensitivity, probably due to the closer proximity of components as opposed to an outboard Airtact unit. Another benefit from the built-in switchover from foot to hand is it allows people to comfortably transition to hand control with the confidence of instantly returning to the familiar foot control.
While it's convenient to have everything in one box, the biggest advantage for me is the seamless operation from hand to foot pedal engraving. This has made my daily work easier and faster and I'm utilizing many of my tools that are not particularly Airtact friendly due to their longer length. The GraverMach AT's improvements and enhancements make this a really nice upgrade from the folks at GRS.
Review by Sam Alfano as published on iGraver.com's Hand Engraving forum on July 30th, 2009. Used with permission. © 2009 Sam Alfano