Friday, 30 September 2016

Review: Smooth Artifact Flywheels and Straight (Red) Flywheel Cage

Aftermarket flywheel parts are somewhat of a rarity compared to the plethora of springer mod parts that are out there. While there are all kinds of springs, breeches and other internal parts available, flywheels and flywheel cages are pretty rare. These Artifact parts are only the 3rd aftermarket cage and flywheels I know of, and the first non-canted cage and first non-proprietary smooth concave flywheels I'm aware of. Given my love of flywheelers, I was naturally very excited to get my hands on them.
EDIT 8/10/16: Chrono numbers have been added.
EDIT 9/10/16: Some alterations have been made to the cage + flywheels segment.

A quick note, there are two slightly different Artifact flywheel shapes, and each comes in two different surface finishes. The difference between the two shapes is that one is slightly truncated (right). The full flywheel (left) is intended for the Artifact straight (red) cage, while I believe the truncated one is intended for the Artifact canted (gold) cage. The truncated one is also suited for stock cages.
The two surface finishes are smooth (the ones I have), and serrated (with grooves cut into the flywheel). I personally think that the idea of putting cuts or grooves in flywheels is completely ridiculous and is a recipe to dart destruction, so I went only with smooth ones.

Here are some comparative weights of various different flywheels. Top left is a set of stock Stryfe flywheels, top right is a set of truncated Artifact flywheels, bottom left is a set of full Artifact flywheels and bottom right is of course a set of Worker flywheels.

Using my really rubbish super cheap calipers (which I doubt can even be called calipers), I measured a difference in diameter of around 1mm between the stock and Artifact flywheels, with the Artifact flywheels being larger (Artifact wheels measured at their thinnest point). A set of real calipers will naturally yield a much better measurement.

A direct comparison of the different surfaces of flywheels. Note of course that the stock flywheel on the left has some foam residue on it. While the Worker flywheel has a diameter about the same to the Artifact flywheel, the Worker wheel is serrated and so has an inconsistent diameter and doesn't develop a foam buildup.

Something that concerns me a little about Artifact flywheels is the inconsistency in weights and general shape. Each of the above pictures are of a different truncated flywheel. Flywheels that do not match well in mass and geometry perform significantly worse than well matched flywheels, and also produce a much louder and harsher noise. With the truncated flywheels I was a little lucky, as I ended up with two sets of weight matched flywheels.
As for my pair of full flywheels however, they differed in weight significantly. I'm considering ordering another set just to try and ensure that I have at least one matched set. Regardless of which set you look at though, they are significantly heavier than stock or Worker flywheels. As a result, Artifact flywheels will spin up noticeably slower than stock or Worker flywheels.
The plastic that Artifact flywheels are made of is slightly malleable and soft, in contrast to the extremely rigid and tough plastic of Worker flywheels. As a result, Artifact flywheels are much easier to attach to and remove from motor shafts, and also slide on and off much more smoothly. The downside however is that Artifact flywheels are also easily bent. During my initial testing (as you would know if you keep up to date with my Facebook page), I ended up bending some of the flywheels slightly. Not enough to be visibly noticeable on their own, but enough to be distinctly obvious when on motors and enough to actually prevent them from working. I was able to bend them back, but nevertheless it was a little disturbing to see just how easily they could be deformed by hand.
There was also a significant amount of variance in the shape and machining of the Artifact wheels. Some of the wheels had shaft holes slightly off centre, and several of them were not even fully round. These naturally lead to severe issues, with poor balance leading to extreme vibrations and harsh noises, and inconsistent shape leading to inconsistent and reduced performance.

The full Artifact flywheels will not fit into stock flywheel cages without modification, at least not a Stryfe/Rapidstrike cage. The top and bottom lips will grind against the feed ramps.
The truncated flywheel is naturally a little bit smaller, and so will require significantly less or no modification to fit.

In the case of the Stryfe, even with the truncated flywheel, the bottom feed ramp needed to be trimmed slightly to accomodate the slightly larger wheel. The cause is the concavity of the flywheel, which is more extreme than that of the Worker flywheel (which itself will drop in with no modification necessary).

Here's a set of the truncated flywheels in my Stryfe. Besides trimming that lower feed ramp slightly, no other modification was necessary. Note that this Stryfe has already been rewired and currently has Blade 180/-3240 motors.
Like with stock flywheels, the smooth Artifact flywheels can build up foam residue over time, which improves performance slightly compared to clean flywheels. The above flywheel is installed in my Elite Rayven, where no modification at all was necessary to fit them in.
I've tried truncated Artifact flywheels in both my Stryfe and Elite Rayven with stock cages. As mentioned before, the Stryfe has Blade 180/-3240 motors, while the Elite Rayven has Black Dog/Pig 130s. Performance with a good set of truncated Artifact flywheels in a stock cage (in my Elite Rayven) is quite good. Accuracy is roughly comparable to having Worker flywheels, if not perhaps a little better as the foam starts to build up. Spinup time is noticeably increased as mentioned before, but with 180s the difference is minimal. I heard a much more significant increase on 130s so that may be something to be aware of.
The flywheels in my Stryfe are not very well shaped, and are noticeably not round or level. Even with these unbalanced flies however, performance seemed quite promising. Accuracy was naturally pretty poor due to the poor shaping, however when it shot well, it shot really well. While I don't currently have a chrono to verify, it definitely looked and felt like it was hitting much harder than with stock flywheels, and possibly harder than Worker flywheels as well (approximated with both Kooshes and FVJ5s). I do intend to add some proper numbers in once I have access to a chrono.
At the October MHvZ event, my Elite Rayven was averaging just over 130fps with used G3 pink Kooshes, on par with my Rapidpistol with Worker flywheels. Considering that the Rapidpistol has no faux barrel at all and the Elite Rayven quite a long length of it, this would suggest that the truncated Artifact flywheels do beat Worker flywheels for muzzle velocity, though by a relatively small margin. It was the same story with FVJs, the Elite Rayven achieving roughly the same muzzle velocity as the Rapidpistol, despite its much longer faux barrel.

The Artifact flywheel cage is something that interested me greatly, as it's a drop in (almost) replacement flywheel cage for the Stryfe and Rapidstrike. It's also an aftermarket cage that (finally) isn't canted (I personally think that canted flywheel cages are stupid, but more on that in a future post). The above pictures demonstrate the similarities and differences between the Artifact and stock cages. The Artifact cage is overall a much simpler and more solid piece, though it does also contain a lot more material, making it much heavier. The motor mounts and screw ports however are all in the same place, so the motors can be easily moved straight from the stock cage to the Artifact cage, and the new cage can be slid into place without issue. I have heard suggestions that a little bit of cutting may be required to fit the Artifact cage into certain blasters, but certainly no more than just a slight adjustment.
Note that the stock cage pictured here is from my now Bullpup Rapidstrike. It is similar but not identical to a Stryfe cage, and itself has also been slightly modified.
One key feature that the Artifact cage is missing however is a group of flywheel removal holes. In stock flywheel cages, there are holes next to the motor slots that fit thin screwdrivers and other similar thin objects, which can be used to push out the mounted flywheels with ease. With the Artifact cage however, there are no such holes, and so no easy way of removing flywheels.

I had Ryan of MTB drill some flywheel removal holes in my Artifact cage with his drill press. To create these holes you will need to drill through around 1.5-2cm of solid aluminium, which I couldn't do myself.

A look at the magwell side of the two cages. While the stock cage has two flat feed ramps on the top and bottom, the entire entrance to the Artifact cage is tapered.

While stock flywheel cages secure their motors purely by friction, the Artifact cage secures them with two screws. The cage includes 8 such screws. Just about every 130 or 180 sized motor has these screw ports, and when screwed in the motors are very secure. I used spare screws from my Blade 180/-3240 sets as they were longer, for added peace of mind.

130 and 180 sized motors fit into the Artifact cage very nicely, and with the screws in, are very secure. If the motors have already been wired up for a stock cage, they should drop in nicely as my Hellcats did.
Depending on how well your Stryfe/Rapidstrike receiver was manufactured, the Artifact cage might fit in very nicely, or it might take a bit of jiggling and force to fit. In my case, it was a very tight fit, and took a bit of brute force and fiddling to get it in place. Once in place though, it screws down into the same screw ports that the stock cage uses, and is very secure.
The front of the Artifact cage fits Nerf faux barrels relatively tightly. Note that due to the lack of a front barrel mount (as seen on stock cages, see above), a longer faux barrel is needed to connect the Artifact cage with the muzzle piece of the blaster.

Here's the full setup of Artifact parts in my Bullpup RS. Note that the faux barrel is the same length as from a stock Rapidstrike, yet does not reach the flywheel cage. The cage and flywheels slotted in nicely with just a minimal amount of modification necssary to one of the orange parts that sits above the flywheel cage (not pictured above).
My Bullpup RS's 19/32" brass guide passes through the Artifact cage with no issues. I had to do a bit more grinding down to accomodate for the slightly larger flywheels, but there were no other problems installing it.
For testing purposes I also removed the faux barrel with the brass guide, replacing it with one of my spare faux barrels. It slotted in nicely and stays in place, despite not being secured to the muzzle.
I had one issue testing the Artifact cage + flywheels set, that being my only spare faux barrels are "rifled" inside, and so sent Kooshes on whirlybirds far too often to be useful. As a result, I was only able to test the cage + flywheels without my brass guide with FVJs and USCs. In terms of accuracy, it performed fairly well, certainly far better than any stock cage + flywheels setup I've seen. It also appeared to achieve noticeably higher muzzle velocities than stock cage + flywheel and at very least comparable to stock cage + worker flywheels, though I didn't have a chrony on hand to verify. Torukmakto04 however has a set of data of the Artifact Red Cage + Smooth Flywheels in a Stryfe, with Blade 180/-3240s for flywheel motors. His data is extremely impressive, consistently above 140fps with new G3 Kooshes, which is beyond any single stage flywheel build I've seen.
Like with the truncated flywheels, spin up time is noticeably increased with the heavier Artifact flywheels. The Artifact cage however helps keep vibration down, and so the noise produced is a much cleaner noise than from any of my stock cage flywheel builds. It produces a much more refined high pitch whine, rather than the typical roar of flywheelers.
Performance with the brass guide reinstalled was very impressive. Though I have yet to test my set on a chrono, muzzle velocity certainly still seems to be well above performance with stock flywheels, or even Worker flywheels. Accuracy is very impressive, and feels even better than what it was before.
Muzzle velocity with G3 Kooshes is quite good, averaging just below 130fps from my Bullpup RS. Removing the brass guide would likely eliminate the small difference in muzzle velocity between this set and the truncated flywheels in the Elite Rayven. With FVJs however, I was seeing a 10fps drop and an increase in variability with the brass guide compared to the Elite Rayven, which I will be investigating.
Interestingly, I was actually getting universally better performance without my 19/32" brass guide. Muzzle velocity with both FVJs and Kooshes seemed improved slightly, however more importantly consistency was also significantly improved, and accuracy did not seem to be affected.

The Artifact flywheels and (straight) cage have impressed me greatly in performance. The muzzle velocity they achieve is quite impressive, and the cage is a very nice piece that really helps refine a flywheeler (provided it's a Stryfe or Rapidstrike, since those are the only two compatible blasters). I would definitely recommend the truncated Artifact flywheels as the best stock cage replacement flywheels in terms of raw muzzle velocity. They easily match or beat Worker flywheels for muzzle velocity, and are much easier to attach to and remove from motor shafts. The full Artifact flywheels + straight (red) cage combo is also extremely good, producing a ridiculously high muzzle velocity for a single stage flywheeler, while also producing a much nicer noise and quite good accuracy. I would definitely recommend the full set if you're doing a Stryfe/Rapidstrike build and intend to go all out on it.
However, the variance in weight and shape is very disturbing and annoying. The severity of it is often enough to significantly affect a blaster and drastically increase vibrations and inconsistency. It's taken far too long for me to set up my two sets of truncated flywheels as best I can, and yet neither of them is particularly well balanced. My set of full flywheels is fine shape-wise, so perhaps weight matching is the only matching required for those. The shaping issues are blatantly obvious in noise, performance inconsistencies and watching them spin. I would recommend ordering several spare sets of flywheels so that you can pick the best shaped and balanced ones to achieve best performance and the least vibration. That in itself is rather annoying and very time-and-money consuming, and also wasteful. I'm inclined to suggest that Worker flywheels are much better balanced as a single set, as both of my sets were well balanced and shaped, however their performance is not quite as good as with Artifact wheels, and the shaft tightness is extremely annoying and painful.

I will be getting some chrony data and adding it in as soon as I can get access to a chrony, most likely at the upcoming MHvZ event.
Exact chrono data can be found here: link


  1. Hi, it seems like I've ordered the truncated wheels for my straight (red) cage instead of the full flywheel. I did this in my haste before reading your review. Is this going to be an issue?

    1. I don't think so, but having not tried it myself I can't say for sure. As far as I'm aware, the truncated flywheels are just a slightly modified version of the full flywheels intended for the canted (gold) cage and stock cages.

    2. That is unfortunate, the cage and truncated wheels are already shipped after being consolidated at the warehouse.

      I realized what happened now. The smooth full flywheels were out of stock and only the serrated wheels were showing, so I look around his store for a smooth flywheel and landed on the truncated one. I'm now pretty sure that datasheet he has listed is a compatibility chart, however, it is an image and was not translated by Chrome. I would like to blame Taobao's UI when it comes to out-of-stock items, but it's mostly my fault for not doing the research.

      Thank you.

  2. Hi, I'm back.
    I decided to stick with the truncated wheels... and it seems to working out fine.

    Latest Chronograph of Gen 3 Kooshes shows numbers very similar to Torukmakto04. This might be a combination of better foam build up on the flywheels and/or I'm getting better at centering the flywheels. -I failed miserably with trying to make a brass dart guide earlier

    1. That's awesome, great work! That's actually quite promising for me, I actually switched my full flywheels for a set of truncated and I seem to be getting better muzzle velocity (pending actualy chronying of course). This seems to further confirm my suspicion that the full flywheels I got are defective, or at very least the weight imbalance is screwing them over.