Innovations In The Sport of Fencing - EpeQR, EpeSock
After returning to the sport of fencing a few years ago, I was surprised by how little the equipment have changed or improved. The electric weapon is essentially the same design. The scoring machine has also changed little except for the fact that touches are recorded for touch scored instead of touch received. The reel and ground strip is essentially the same and prone to wear and tear. The body cord is also identical to 50 years ago when I fenced in Varsity team at CCNY.
- May 20, 2019 Created
updated May 31, 2019
The Epee Point
The electric epee consists of a point, a V shaped steel blade with wires down the channel, a guard and a grip either pistol or French style. The point is really a push button switch that consists of three parts. A tip with a contact spring, a pressure spring and a contact base inside a barrel. When the tip is depressed, it closes the circuit and sends a signal down the blade, through the body cord and through the reels and finally to the scoring system and the light comes on. The tip is held in place by two small screws at 180 degrees apart.
Traditional Epee Point
An Improved Point Design?
One of the deficiency of the epee point design is the difficulty of replacing tips. These small screws are difficult to replace and require manual dexterity and a keen eyesight.
They also can loosen and fallout with constant banging of the blade. A new design called the “screw-less point” was developed in recent years. However, it suffers from reliability issues. It seems they are not as reliable as the traditional design that has survived for 40 years.
In the meantime, dealing with the screws can be a pain. I have come up with a little jig to help. It is called EPEJIG, a trademark in process. Here is my invention.
Another major innovation is the wireless scoring system that eliminates the need for reels. This came out last year in 2018 and is undergoing testing by the FIE. Here is a link to the details of this system by EnPointe.
I remember a similar system introduced by some Russian company about 10 years ago. It did not work in competition due to some technical issues.
It is my contention that wireless technology, when it is proven to work seamless, will change the whole game of fencing. You are no longer restricted to stay on a strip, hooked up to expensive reels that breaks from wear and tear, and indoors... Wireless fencing will be inexpensive and fun and open to all ages...and people can fence in their backyards, and driveways and basements...
Fencing Scoring System
The VSM system was developed by JS Hart. He modernized the scoring machine by using a simple computer laptop and USB ports to replace a hardwired system. The advantage is a cheaper more robust system. In addition, the timing of the system can be programmed and changed without having to replace the hardware. This is both a cost saving and a time saver. His system is being tested with the wireless technology of EnPointe. The combination will change the future of competitive fencing both for practice and for competition.
Some Ideas for Innovation...TBD
- a better body cord (magnetic contacts for quick release)
- portable grounded strips
- improved reels
- Screw-less point
A Better Epee Body Cord. May 24, 2019 (Designed and invented by Jack Lee and Rostislav Persion)
The epee body cord has not changed for over 60 years. It is prone to wear and tear and does fail eventually. The most annoying failures are the intermittent ones. We all experienced this one time or another. You hook up and test your weapon and it works fine. During a bout, you make a hit and it does not register. You test again, it works. You start to doubt yourself. Did I hit or not? Next time it happens, you think it’s the weapon or the point...? You change the weapon and it tests fine. You resume your bout...Another hit did not register. This time you are baffled. How can a weapon fail so quickly? You test again and it works. After a few try, you decide to change body cord. This finally solve the mystery. It was an intermittent body cord all along.
The problem arises when the banana plug breaks contact momentarily. This happens after many uses of the body cords, plugging and unplugging into the reel. The three prongs eventually gets worn out or loose such that during a heated exchange, one of the plug breaks contact.
A new invention try to address this problem, at least half the problem. This solution uses a magnetic socket and a corresponding magnetic cord instead of the banana plugs. The other part of the body cord remains unchanged. It still works the same and plugs into the reel. In the future, when wireless technology is approved, this side of the body cord can be replaced with magnets as well and an adaptor can be made to connect the magnetic cord to the wireless box.
Here is a working prototype. The 6mm magnets is glued to a bold using a special adhesive that conducts. The triangular shape is to help the magnets align. Also, it is more ergonomic to fit inside the guard.
This solution requires a modified body cord and a modified socket on the epee guard. The two parts are joined by the magnets and can be pulled apart. The magnets are strong enough that no claps are needed. If desired, they can be added as well. This is a “quick release” and I call this invention EpeQR and EpeSock.
I also envision an adapter jack to plug into existing reels. It will be called EpeJack.
EpeQR and EpeSock
EpeQR - EpeQR
Internal View of EpeQR
Left Handed EpeSock
Version 1 of EpeQR...
The first version was a little larger when fitted to the epee guard. A revised version is created with a 125 degrees inner angle instead of 110 degreeS. Also, the EpeQR was a little thick in height. A revised version reduced it by about 1/4 inches. This combined modification made this more contour and a smaller foot print. This allows the hand more room to move within the guard.
Version 2 EpeQR
Field Testing...On The Way
First configuration includes a modified epee body-cord with a EpeQR connector. The EpeSock replaces a traditional epee socket.
The end connected to the reel in unchanged. The body-cord with EpeQR connects to the EpeSock via magnets.
Testing in practice bouts in underway at the Fencers Club. Reliability, ease of use and environmental conditions such as temperature and humidity are also part of the testing. It will take a while to put this new invention under stress test.
A future improvement will add an adapter jack to connect to the reel. This EpeJack will allow magnetic connection to the reel side as well as to the Wireless EnPointe connector.
Testing of My New Invention
Testing of this invention in three phases.
1. Personal use of epee in practice sessions.
2. Stress testing - under temperature, humidity and physical abuse of banging and clashing of blades.
3. Competition use but it will require approval of FIE and the proper standards committee.
I. Reel - (Banana plug - wire - EpeQR) - EpeSock (modified weapon)
ll. Reel - EpeJack - (EpeQR - wire - EpeQR) - EpeSock (modified weapon)
First stage of testing is with Configuration I above. This will allow for quick release of the cord to the weapon.
Configuration ll will require a new part to be made - EpeJack adapter. This will convert the banana plug into the magnetic contacts. This will allow for quick release on both end.
May 28, 2019 - Initial model created version 1.0.
May 29, 2019 - Model version 2.0 created.
May 30, 2019 - First live test at the Fencers Club. Results are summarized below.
June 1, 2019 - Version 3.0 created.
Testing Summary Report - 5/30/2019
I tested version 2.0 at my club and fenced 13 bouts in total. Each bout is first 5 touches win. I won 10 and lost 3. It was a very good night for me. My usual record is 50-60% win/loss.
During these bouts, I estimated approx. 100 hits in total were registered and more than half were by my weapon. This is a good test sample. There are also numerous hits on the guard which is suppose to be grounded and did not register by the scoring machine. It worked exactly as it should.
Before the bout, I informed my opponent the fact I am testing a new body-cord and showed them how it works. They were all impressed with the novelty. They had no problem with my using this modified cord/weapon which I called EpeQR, for Quick Release.
During the bouts, one time, the connector came off when my opponent did a strong beat to my blade. A few other times, at the conclusion of the touch, I noticed the connector came loose and I had to reconnect before the start of the next touch. Both of these incidences convinced me I needed to add a clip to hold the connector in place in addition to the magnets. Apparently, the magnets are insufficient to hold on during some actions of physical contact. For the rest of the night, I added a rubber-band to help hold the connector in place and it worked fine.
At the last touch of the last bout in the evening, I noticed one of the magnet came out on the EpeQR socket. Apparently, the adhesive had failed and the magnet came out of it’s seat, and stuck to the EpeSock.
After examination, I found a deficiency in the original design. The magnet is not seated deep enough within the connector. This allowed the magnet to be pushed around and eventually came loose. My next attempt would be to redesign the EpeQR to make the magnets seated well within the socket. The magnet is 3mm in thickness. My new design would make the holes deeper so that 2mm of the magnet is below the surface and only 1mm is above. This will also allow some room for the adhesive. I think this will prevent future incidences of magnets coming loose.
Overall, the testing was a success. It identified the few problems and hope the next round will prove to be better.
Photo of Rubber-band Temporary Solution
Photo of the loose magnet...
This version involved seating the magnets in the EpeQR a little deeper. Also adding the clip to hold the two parts together during bouting. The design is taken from exiting epee sockets, it is simple and works well.
Testing of new version will continue...
Adapter Converter - for Testing of New Body Cord Design 7/21/2019
One of the steps required to get acceptance of this new design is to be able to test the body cord for functionality. I came up with a converter in order to allow this new design to be tested by an armor with existing test jig.
The following is just a prototype which can be improved and streamlined into one complete molded plastic piece of equipment. It will adapt the new Body cord to existing 3 prong plugs for testing.
Potential for Trademark and Patent...
EpeQR, EpeSock and EpeJack are to be Trademarked.
This invention has the potential for a patent application. Using magnets to make electrical conduction can have multiply usages and advantages. Any charging device, cell phones, cameras, or appliances can use this invention.
It will make many connections standardized and not subject to the physical plug configuration. It is also a reliability issue and an ease of use issue.
I don’t want to get ahead of myself but if this works as designed, it may be the first successful use of magnetic contacts for electrical conduction. This will be useful for many potential applications.
There are systems on the market that uses magnets to mate two plugs but it does not make the electrical conduction through the magnet.
Jack and I are working on a new project having to do with a quick and easy magnetic conductor system for a fencing sword. The original design was 3 inline banana jacks that plug into hole on the receptical. The new idea is to use electrically conductive neodymium magnets instead of banana jacks. The benefit is a quick and easy solution that does not wear out over time. The new system consists of two components, EpeQR and EpeSock. One of the parts is attached to the inside of the sword with 2 screws. The other part snaps on to the former part and has a 3 line wire running from it to the main wire spool. The system might be made even better in the future. The parts were modeled on software called, Fusion 360. After the parts were designed, they were exported to STL file format, which is a standard 3D file format used with 3D printing. The STL file then goes into a program called a g code slicer. The slicer turns the STL model into code which is used by the 3D printer to control all the motors including the extruder motor, which feeds PLA plastic into a heating chamber where it is melted and forced through a 0.4mm diameter nozzle. One of the parts printed is made up of two prints and the other is just one print. Each piece takes about 15 to 30 minutes to make at a cost of around 2 cents per gram. The geometry of the new connector is a bit different from the old one. The old one used 3 inline terminals, however this was not possible with magnetic contacts. If one contact was slightly off in the z axis, it would not touch the connector that it must mate to. The only solution was to make a triangle shaped module.
A 3D Printer
Some Related Information
In the 50 years since 1970, electric fencing has progressed very little. The exception is adding electrified Saber. In my days, saber was the only weapon not electrified. It relied on a Director and four judges to keep track of right of way and target hits and misses. This lead to lots of contention especially in close bouts. The bias and cheating is par for the course. At least, with electric scoring, the touch is registered correctly but the right of way is still debatable.
It is my opinion that fencing as a sport is about to be revolutionized. The advent of wireless technology will open the sport up to a new generation of kids. We are no longer restricted to a strip. It will allow kids to compete anywhere and in any format.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Jack Lee