A HISTORY OF INNOVATION
The AP Valves and AP Diving Timeline
Innovation drives everything we do. How can we improve your diving? How can we make you more comfortable or increase your dive safety? What simple change could dramatically enhance your capabilities? Our product designers and engineers have been asking What ifs? like these for years. Take a look at the timeline to see some of the answers we’ve come up with so far...
CELEBRATING 50 YEARS
AP DIVING (originally AP Valves) turned 50 in 2019
To help us celebrate we issued 3 Challenges to the dive community. Enjoy seeing the results by clicking below.
The Original AP Valve
The first automatic emergency breathing valve for BCDs. The initial few hundred were turned from solid lumps of orange plastic on a small lathe in company co-founder David Parker’s workshop
In the mid-1960s, your dive partner was your emergency bailout. All well and good - except that your buddy normally had their head down a hole looking at something fascinating just when you needed help!
We invented the AP Valve for those critical first few 'out-of-air' seconds: no need to think - just put it in your mouth and breathe... then perform a controlled ascent or get to your dive partner. This simple system immediately calms a dangerous situation. Throughout my diving career, the knowledge that I always have an independent bailout system to hand has let me relax and really enjoy diving."
Angela Parker, co-founder AP Valves
The AP Direct Feed
Both the AP Valve and the AP Direct Feed were sold originally to fit other manufacturers' 'horse collar' style ABLJs (Adjustable Buoyancy Life Jackets). The Parkers supplement their business by opening a dive-shop with air-filling and cylinder test station. Visiting divers only recognise the hidden store by the "Divers Down" signal 'A' flag (if not the 'P' flag) painted at either end of the Parker Hardware shop-front
THE AUTO AIR
Invented by David Parker, the Auto Air was years ahead of its time preceding all the current crop of octo-inflators by over a decade. In one compact unit it combines the AP Valve’s jacket breathing facility, a direct feed power inflator & an alternate air source octopus bail-out with superb, regulator-standard, breathing performance
AP change to twin-bag BCD construction - with a welded PU inner bladder and a 1000 denier Cordura protective outer jacket. This rugged build technique proves so successful it is still used today for all AP premium quality jackets and wings. Note also, the direct feed inflator is now available incorporated with the AP Valve assembly.
Pioneered the use of mini-cylinders for both emergency buoyancy and, in conjunction with the AP Valve - the AP emergency bailout system
Double Gold and Pacific
Two new models developed in quick succession. The Double Gold is designed for use by RN Search & Rescue helicopter divers and is still in production over 30 years later
The BUDDY Seaking - the first stabiliser or ‘stab’ jacket - rolls off the production line and is awarded a British Design Council award, presented by HRH the Duke of Edinburgh
Fold-away Drysuit BCD
The 1st foldaway delayed buoyancy vest, the BUDDY Arctic, for use with drysuits
Reusable medium pressure hose fittings
Ultra simple. 100% reliable. You can remove and replace these in order to shorten or repair/replace a hose. One million+ in production over the past 28 years and not a single failure or leak
Supercam Webbing Cambands
Invented SuperCam webbing cam bands using non-hygroscopic webbing which, unlike other cambands available then and now, does not loosen when wet. The SuperCam concept completely transformed camband versatility and cylinder grip
Twinset Webbing Cambands
Developed the unique AP twinset webbing cambands with spacer blocks. Still used on AP BCDs today, they allow divers to upgrade their setup from a single to twin cylinders by simply rethreading (no tools required)
AP started designing BCDs for divers on Search & Rescue helicopters as early as 1981. Other BCDs followed for RN ships’ divers, special forces, bomb disposal and in 1986, the now famous BUDDY Commando BCD for the Royal Marines. The Commando was the world’s first twin-bag “jacket-style” BCD and became the blueprint for a whole range of AP sport, military and commercial jackets. All AP military BCDs are still in service with forces worldwide today
Stud System Construction
Developed world’s only BCD stud system construction: protects inner bladder, transfers stress to outer bag, allows free airflow around jacket and improves diver manoeuvrability underwater
The BUDDY Commando
The BUDDY Commando, originally developed for the Royal Marines, is made available to the sport diving market for the first time. It became an instant hit with amateur and professional divers in the UK and Europe for decades and remains our best-selling BCD
AP introduce the world’s only
First-owner Lifetime BCD Warranty
Well... it was the '80s! From power dressing, shoulder-pads and ra-ras to a day-glo BUDDY... this is what the well-dressed diver wore on the weekend in the late 1980s. The see-you-coming colours proved immensely popular and dominated dive sites all over the UK for many years as AP expanded the range to include new models, the Commando Slimline and the Profile. The Profile featured a high pressure feed from the mini-cylinder to a tap at the front of the BCD
The Commando TD
The BUDDY Commando TD was introduced with it's all-black tekkie looks and extra stainless D-rings, this top-of-the-range model quickly became AP's best-seller throughout the 1990s
Invented the self-sealing
Surface Marker Buoy
Much copied but never bettered, the ingenious duck-bill self-sealing valve in the SMB’s mouth was later also used in the BUDDY 25kg and 65kg Lift Bag range
SMBs & Lift Bags
Pioneered use of mini-cylinders with SMBs and Lift Bags to allow ease of filling and for breathing gas conservation
Invented the Verti-clip
The Verti-clip allows you to extra stainless D rings to any area of 50mm webbing and hold the D ring vertical - the original “stand-off” D ring - allowing easy one-handed clip attachment
The Trimix, the Tekwing and the Redwing
Tech diving takes off and in response AP produce the Trimix, the Tekwing and the Redwing - 22kg lift wings - aimed at the Nitrox and Trimix markets. Both proved very popular and other wings followed: the Travel 13, Travel 16 - lighter weight for the travelling tekkie. The Redwing was designed to be configurable with any AP jacket or wing to offer 22kg of redundant buoyancy. The Trimix (renamed the Trident), the Tekwing and the Redwing are still popular 20 years on
The Jump Jacket: the world’s only deep-sea saturation-diver commercial BCD
Developed in partnership with experienced sat-diver, Garry Jones, the Jump Jacket revolutionised productivity and safety for commercial divers. Being able to achieve neutral buoyancy enabled workers to swim to and from the bell and ‘jump’ around the work area without the time and expense of repositioning the ship. The Jump Jacket remains the workhorse of the sat diver worldwide today
The Rebreather Revolution
Not many companies can claim to have invented an entirely new sport on the back of an existing one. But in 1997, after many years of intensive R&D, AP did, when we introduced the world’s first production closed circuit rebreather – the award-winning and best-selling 'BUDDY INSPIRATION' - and changed the way people dived forever. The INSPIRATION encompassed a multitude of world firsts:
- 1st rebreather to achieve CE certification.
- 1st (and only) rebreather to feature dual independent - master & slave - oxygen controllers
- 1st rebreather to achieve minimal breathing resistance in all diver positions & attitudes
- 1st mass produced, affordable CCR on the market
- 1st to achieve worldwide distribution
- 1st unit-specific training courses by the major training agencies
- The individual 1sts achieved by the many thousands of AP Diving rebreather divers in the world today - from the discovery of virgin wrecks to personal depth and exploration records.
Award Winning Company
Design Award - The Seaking (British Design Council 1987)
Brand of the Year - A.P.Valves (Diver Awards 1997)
Innovation of the Year - The Inspiration (Diver Awards 1998)
Award for Innovation (Winning By Design 1999)
Special Award for Design & Innovation (In Pursuit of Excellence / Int. Business of the Year 1999)
Millennium Products Award (2000)
Sexiest Things In the World: Scuba Kit - The Evolution (FHM Magazine 2006)
Innovation Award - Inspiration & Evolution (Eurotek 2008)
Lifetime Achievement Award - David Parker (2008)
New-look, New Models
The BCD range was redesigned in the late 1990s with high-viz reflective stripes, new colours and new models - the BUDDY Explorer and the BUDDY Ranger
THE BUDDY NEXUS OC/CC DIVE COMPUTER
Launched the BUDDY NEXUS - the world's first Open Circuit / Closed Circuit stand-alone dive computer. The NEXUS was a multi-mode computer developed primarily for use for Inspiration CCR divers but also featuring Open Circuit modes - from Air up to 2 mixes of Nitrox. The NEXUS was a pioneering cross-over computer for divers aiming towards CCR divers or instructors alternating dive kit depending on who and what they were teaching.
The BUDDY Pocket Reel
Developed the unique Pocket Reel - just 7.5cm in diameter it fits in the palm and the 40m floating cord is completely enclosed to prevent line tangle
The BUDDY Blast
Emergency Air Horn
Developed the BLAST air-horn. It is compact, easy to use with cold hands and packs an almighty punch with a huge 136dB blast of attention grabbing noise. The BLAST can be used with either AP emergency breathing valve without impeding gas flow
The new company Ambient Pressure Diving Ltd was formed to focus solely on research, development and manufacture of CCR technology
'BUDDY' is dropped from the name and the rebreather is branded simply as the 'INSPIRATION'.
Auto Diluent-addition Valve (ADV)
Developed the ADV to automatically add diluent gas to the loop in response to pressure change - maintaining a breathable volume in the counterlungs
ANSTI R&D test facility built on-site
Installed state-of-the-art custom specified test centre adjacent to the factory in Cornwall, UK. This enables unlimited scope to research and develop all aspects of CCR and OC design and performance with dive simulation to 200m. It is the world’s most advanced commercial dive equipment test centre
VISION electronics introduced
From now on, all AP rebreathers have Vision electronics at their heart - with ultra reliable performance, benchmark oxygen control, intuitive, versatile operations and crystal-clear messaging
The unique AP dual O2 controllers and full unit status information, including integrated deco with graphic and text warnings are now displayed on a single wristset with secondary warnings delivered via a unique dual controller Head-Up Display and audible alarm
Featuring the new VISION electronics package with single wristset, buzzer, HUD and Tempstick option - the Evolution rebreather is a more compact unit with smaller 2 litre cylinders and a smaller scrubber unit.
For compact, light, go-anywhere diving
Scrubber Life Monitor
Developed the 'Tempstick' CO2 scrubber life monitor. Scrubber activity is measured and displayed on the wristset in real-time, accounting for depth, work-rate and water temperature - allowing the diver to extend durations with complete confidence in remaining scrubber capacity
HUD – fibre optic
Developed the world’s only fibre-optic no-flood HUD with two independent displays - one for each controller.
No distractions, simple messages - Green for Go…
The Reflex Range
The entire BCD range is redesigned in 2007 introducing the reflex comfort-fit adjustment system - which allows the diver to adjust back-plate length, waist-strap height and shoulder buckle position - to achieve a customised fit. The system is a key and unique feature of the AP range today
The world's first, production-made Open Circuit Bailout mouthpiece (BOV)
Evolution Plus launched
The EVO+ is a hybrid rebreather, combining all the benefits of size, weight and portability of the EVOLUTION with the extended scrubber duration of the INSPIRATION
The Commando Escape and the Travelwing
AP develop a sub-three-zero travel BCD range - the Commando Escape and the Travelwing - the first single-bag design BUDDY BCDs since 1981. All weigh-in at a 'flight-friendly' sub-3kg. In order to not compromise quality, AP commission a brand new 800 denier weldable material - Oceanseal 800 - which is light-weight but twice as tough as most other single bag BCDs on the market - travel or otherwise!
Laurent Ballesta goes face to face with the Coelacanth
World-famous marine biologist Laurent Ballesta and his team dive to 110m, 21 times (each dive over 5 hours) in a 29 day expedition, searching for the extremely rare, pre-historic Coelacanth, the world’s oldest living fish, believed to be a key link in evolutionary terms between fish and land reptiles. The team succeed - going face-to-face with the giant Coelacanth on 6 of the dives. These historic discoveries are only achievable thanks to the extended dive duration allowed by AP's world leading CCR technology
There was before and after... Before the Inspiration then after the Inspiration - when everything changed. Before, our dives were just short round trips. Now diving is more like underwater trekking. We leave in the morning and get out of the water by midday or in the afternoon, after we’ve swum a fair few kilometres, at depths reaching 100+ metres.
As a child, I thought I was born too late for exploration. But with the Inspiration, a whole new territory opened up for us, and there was much more time to explore it.
Without the Inspiration my team and I wouldn't have been able, in 2010, to see the mythical Coelacanth up close, couldn’t have spent half an hour with him almost every day, and there’d be no still and video images of the amazing face to face with our oldest aquatic ancestor. Actually, I’d say 99% of the photos I’ve taken since 2000, wouldn't have been possible with bubbles and open circuit time restrictions…"
James Cameron dives 7 miles to the bottom of the Mariana Trench
AP conceived, built and tested the life-support system for James Cameron’s record-breaking 10.91km submarine dive to explore the Mariana Trench at the ocean’s deepest point. This consisted of 2 systems – one for the life support within the sphere, and a second fully closed circuit system in case the sub’s atmosphere became un-breathable for some reason, for instance, in case of fire. Each system had two oxygen controllers, each with its own power supply independent of the submarine power – each capable of 30 hours life support. The specially designed scrubbers kept the background CO2 level at only 0.1% - five times lower than existing systems. Both life support systems sent data continuously to the onboard PAC for transmissions in data packets to the surface – allowing 'top-side' to monitor the atmosphere in the submarine throughout the dive. A further development included a G filter for emergency CO and smoke removal in the event of a fire, allowing the pilot to clear the air in the submarine
When you dive solo to the bottom of the ocean, there's enough task-loading without having to worry about your life-support system. That's why National Geographic Explorer of the year, James Cameron, chose AP Diving to develop a new scrubber system - named the 'Acheron' - for the Deepsea Challenger submersible.
AP's system, incorporating VISION electronics, was used inside Deepsea Challenger during all 14 dives of the expedition - including the record-breaking dive to the bottom of Challenger Deep (10,908m/35,787ft) on March 26th 2012. The dual Acheron system was specially designed by AP to provide full redundancy and over 100 hours of life support. The unique design included a fully closed-circuit breathing loop for emergency.
The Acheron system never missed a beat during any of the dives - and sets a new standard within the submersible industry."
John Garvin, Project Manager Sub Internals, Deepsea Challenger
PADI approved Rec2Tec range launched
New (PADI approved) range of CCRs: the Rec2Tec range launched, with the ability to limit the dive depth to suit the various PADI training levels – recreational through to technical
Launch AP Back-mounted Counterlungs with the best WoB of any back-mounted lungs on the market and become the only CCR manufacturer to offer divers the choice of front or back-mounted systems
The AP Diving CO2 Sensor is an ‘active warning device’ designed to alert the diver well in advance of the CO2 content of the breathing loop reaching a dangerous level if, for example, the absorbent has become depleted or CO2 by-pass has occurred due to incorrect assembly
Back Together Again...
Sister companies - AP Valves & Ambient Pressure Diving reunite and simplify all brands under the one redesigned flag - AP Diving
The name 'BUDDY' is dropped from the BCD range but the 'Commando' goes on, rebranded - the 'AP Commando'
A new website and web-shop is launched and all AP BCDs are sold direct to the general public for the first time
World Record Dive
Following on from the famous Coelacanth expedition in 2012 – marine biologist Laurent Ballesta and his team of biologists, photographers and film-makers completed another successful mission to French Polynesia – studying the unique and mysterious annual mass congregation of the Marbled Grouper
In the process, Laurent clocked up another world record dive – 24 hours underwater using AP Inspiration rebreathers. Only two hours of decompression were necessary for 22 hours spent at a depth of 20 to 25m. The team introduce a new way of fathoming saturation diving by using successive gas mixes
3m SMB with Easifil
One of 3 new products launched at the Eurotek 2014 Dive Show, the AP 3m self-sealing Surface Marker Buoy with Easifil inflator stem is more than double the length of a regular SMB and provides extra visibility in the open ocean
Rechargeable CCR Battery Pack
Introduced the AP Rechargeable Battery Pack as a standard and retro-fit feature on all AP rebreathers. It incorporates two separate, large capacity, power supplies – B1 & B2 – hardwired to the rebreather controllers and supplied with a universal charger compatible worldwide
The rechargeable, intelligent, dual power system almost doubles the capacity of regular batteries and is rapidly recharged in just 4 hours from the mains power (100-240V) or 12 volt DC car or boat supply
HUS- Head-Up Screen
Also launched in the Autumn of 2014 the HUS - Head-Up Screen - is a near-eye secondary display communicating real-time rebreather and dive computer information
It offers hands-free monitoring of the rebreather in-line-of-sight throughout the dive. The full colour display conveys all the key information clearly with conditional colouring to highlight status changes and warnings
2020VISION Colour Display Launched
The AP 2020VISION Colour Display is an ultra-bright, high-resolution, full-colour display delivering real-time information directly from the rebreather controllers. It’s all about improving communication and understanding – with colour conditional status changes; larger, ultra-crisp fonts & icons on a bigger screen; and state-of-the-art IPS technology which offers brightness and clarity from all viewing angles.
Laurent Ballesta and his team of Inspiration divers joined an expedition initiated and directed by world famous film-maker Luc Jacquet (“March of the Penguins” 2005) to film, photograph and document the flora and fauna beneath the sea ice of Antartica. “Each of the dives was a world first represented an achievement on both human and technical levels and delivered the very first naturalist images of Antartic’s deep-sea eco-systems.”
Marine biologist, photographer and film-maker Laurent Ballesta and his Inspiration dive team returned to Fakarava atoll in French Polynesia - site of the 2014 Gombessa II “Mystery Grouper” expedition - this time to film and study the hunting behaviour of the 700+ grey reef sharks that congregate in the pass to feed on the annual gathering of spawning groupers. Using pioneering film techniques (famously used previously in the film “The Matrix”) the team was able to capture stunning images of the hunt and revealed for the first time ever, the collaborative pack hunting behaviour of this species. Worldwide photo exhibitions, a book and an ARTE documentary were subsequently produced.
SWIVEL INFLATOR RANGE
The new range of inflators replaced the previous solid block single counterlung inflators The rotating part of the inflator offers new hose routing possibilities - allowing gas feeds from off-board cylinders or rotated forward to allow side-mounted or deco-station cylinders to be plugged in.
Offered as single or dual inflators for both the diluent and oxygen sides and also available with gas shut-off versions which allow the isolation of either the oxygen solenoid or the diluent gas ADV.
CELEBRATING 50 YEARS
1969-2019 - AP turned 50 and to help us celebrate we issued 3 Challenges to the dive community in 2019: to report 50 Dive Adventures, to do 50 Beach Cleans and to find the 50 oldest BUDDY BCDs still going strong.
Enjoy seeing the results by clicking or tapping below.
4 Divers - 120m Down - 28 Days
8 Hours Diving per day on Inspiration CCRs
Marine Biologist and photographer Laurent Ballesta and his team spent 28 days exploring the 100m+ zone of the Med in 2019.
Using saturation-diving techniques the 4 man team lived in a 5 msq bathyal station for the entire expedition. Diving on Inspiration rebreathers for up to 8 hours a day, they were able to explore the deep Mediterranean like never before.
The documentary film Gombessa V “The Deep Med” is now available on ARTE.
See the trailer here: https://www.blancpain-ocean-commitment.com
2020 and beyond...
We can’t reveal the details yet but you can rest assured, the next generation of AP products will continue our pioneering tradition - manufacturing quality, game-changing dive kit through constant R&D, innovation and attention to detail - equipment that is 'built for adventure'