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REVIEW: Fourth Element Ellipse Dryglove System

Discussion in 'Exposure Suits' started by Zef, Oct 11, 2020.

  1. Zef

    Zef Divemaster

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    PART 1
    Before purchasing the Fourth Element Ellipse system, I searched for reviews on the internet but could pretty much only find ad copy. So in an effort to be un-jaded and independent I purchased a couple of sets (one set for me and one set for my wife) so that we could test and offer an honest review.

    Some background on us:
    I have an Aqualung Fusion Bullet drysuit that had Si-Tech QCS oval wrist cuffs pre-installed. I dive all year round in the quarries and lakes in Belgium. The temperature of the waters here range from 21c in the late summer to 2c in late winter.

    My wife has a custom Teknodivers drysuit. She purchased it with the QCS oval wrist cuff system and the Si-Tech Virgo system pre-installed. She wanted something with a lower profile.

    My wife and I have experience diving the following systems:
    Si-Tech Glove Lock
    Si-Tech Virgo
    Waterproof Ultima DGS
    Fourth Element Ellipse

    Additionally, I regularly dive with people who use:
    Northern Divers
    Rolock
    Kubi

    General info about the Ellipse system
    Fourth Element designed the Ellipse system in conjunction with Si-Tech to make/market a low profile dryglove system designed to directly integrate with Si-Tech’s QCS oval system AND retain the systems oval shape. There are other dryglove systems on the market designed to integrate with the QCS oval system but with the exception of the Ellipse and Si-Tech’s Antares systems all the others render the wrist system round.

    The Si-Tech QCS oval wrist system (the platform the Ellipse integrates with):
    The Ellipse System was designed to integrate with the Si-Tech QCS oval wrist system. It is important to be familiar with the components of this system for the discussion of the Ellipse system. The QCS oval wrist system is comprised of the following elements:

    1. PU ring - This is a flexible polyurethane ring that is glued into the end of the arm sleeve of the drysuit. This is the base of the wrist cuff system.

    2. Rigid oval ring - This is a removable ring that retains the user’s choice of silicone or latex wrist seal. This rigid ring provides the oval shape of the wrist cuff system as it is pressed in into the PU ring to lock the wrist seal in place. The seal is effectively sandwiched between the PU ring and the rigid oval ring.

    3. The wrist seal - The QCS oval system comes standard with a silicone wrist seal but the system will work just as well with a latex wrist seal.
    QCS Oval.png
    QCS Oval 2.png

    The Ellipse System:
    The Ellipse system replaces the rigid oval ring of the QCS oval system with its own rigid oval ring (I refer to this as the “suit side ring”). This ring is slightly longer than the one that comes from Si-Tech as it has an additional groove for the o-ring that forms the seal with the glove side ring:
    Ellipse rigid ring.png


    The Ellipse System come in four flavors:
    1. The complete kit - this version of the Ellipse system comes with a pair of suit side ring, a pair of glove side rings, glove retaining o-rings, sealing o-rings, protective/cosmetic silicone bands, a small container of silicone grease, an o-ring tool, an instruction and care card, and a case
    ellipse full kit 2.jpg

    2. Dry Glove attachment only - this version of the system comes with just the glove side rings, glove retaining o-rings, sealing o-rings, a small container of silicone grease, an o-ring tool, and a case.
    Ellipse glove rings only 2.jpg

    3. Ellipse Suit Rings only - this verision of the system comes with only the suit side rings and the protective/cosmetic silicone bands and a case.
    Ellipse suit rings only 2.jpg
    (note: the suit side only option does not come with the wrist seals as depicted, but does come with the black and orange case)

    4. The 4th version of the system is unadvertised as it is primarily available to drysuit manufacturers and shops that do customization of drysuits. This version includes everything in the complete kit along with the addition of the PU rings and silicone wrist seals of the Si-tech QCS oval system.

    Unboxing and setup:

    Packaging

    The packaging of the system is snazzy. It all comes neatly packed in a nice black and orange case. What one will do with the case after installing the system, who knows....but it is a nice case. I guess one can use it to store things like the instructions/care card, the o-ring tool, and small container of silicone grease. Or perhaps some small backup dive torches might fit in and could be protected by the case during transit to and from the dive site....the sky is the limit for this thing.

    Suit side ring
    The suit side ring of this system is nearly identical to the rigid oval ring of the Si-Tech QCS oval cuff system. The primary difference is that the Ellipse suit side ring has an extension that juts out beyond the PU ring when installed that serves as the home of the sealing o-ring and the connecting point of the glove side rings.

    The wrist seal is mounted and sandwiched using the rigid oval wring the same way that it is with the rigid oval ring of the QCS oval system, the ring is pressed in the exact same way.

    Some tips for getting this setup properly:

    1. If you have the QCS oval system already installed in your suit AND you find the orientation of the oval comfortable for you, then take a sharpie and mark the edge of the PU ring or the edge of the cuff of your suit. You will use these marks to line up the suit side ring of the Ellipse system when you reinstall your wrist seal.

    2. If you are not happy with the orientation of the oval or only have the PU ring installed, then don the suit without wrist seals and rigid oval ring installed and shake out your arms. With your arms hanging comfortably at your sides have someone mark the PU ring in-line with the pinky and thumb side of your hand...you will use these marks line up the oval suit side ring of the Ellipse system.

    3. When you install the wrist seal on the rigid oval suit side ring, smear a light coat of silicone grease around the bottom portion of the wrist seal from the edge to about a half inch in-ward (13mm)...this will make installing the ring and seal a breeze. Don't use too much lube, just a very light coating. This helps things press together smoothly without damaging the silicone wrist seal.

    Glove side ring
    The glove side rings have very low height profile (measurements provided below) and are obviously designed to have the drygloves of choice mounted on them.

    All the product demo videos show a latex glove being mounted and I was concerned before purchasing them if I would be able to mount SHOWA 720 gloves on them. Impressively, i was easily able to mount the SHOWA gloves on the oval glove rings.

    When mounting the gloves one needs to be aware of the orientation of the glove on the oval rings. With SHOWA gloves this is easy as one just lines of the SHOWA trademark on the glove cuff with Fourth Element trademark molded into the glove ring.

    The suit side ring and the glove side ring are incredibly light weight. My initial impression had me questioning the robustness of this product...but I reminded myself that I would not be hammering nails with it. I am not a materials expert but I imagine the rings are some sort of fiberglass reinforced plastic and in use did not have any concerns about their robustness.

    O-rings, O-ring tool, Silicone bands
    The kit comes with a pair of orange o-rings and a pair of black o-rings.

    The orange o-rings are mounted in the groove in the edge that juts out from the suit side ring and serves to retain the glove side ring and seal the system water tight.

    The slightly firmer black o-rings are used to retain the gloves on the glove side rings.

    The silicone bands have an o-ring type lip molded into the inside circumference of one edge. They are stretch over the glove ring after the gloves are mounted to serve as a sort of backup reinforcement to keep the glove retaining o-ring in place, to protect the edge of the glove around the circumference of the glove ring, and as a cosmetic band adorned with the Fourth Element logo.

    Fourth Element recommends removing the orange sealing o-ring from the suit ring when not diving with drygloves, and replace it with the silicone bands. They provide a nifty tool to pry the o-ring from the groove in the suit side ring. This tool is sharp and is not really necessary to remove the orange o-ring.

    Silicone spaghetti equalization tubes
    The Fourth Element Ellipse system does not come with any of those thin spaghetti like silicone tubes that are used to equalize between the glove and the suit. Lots of divers seem to not use them, but they do work and not only help the diver equalize the gloves but also get warm air from the suit into the glove to keep hands a little more comfortable during cold winter dives. Even though lots of folks don't use them, their addition would have been a nice detail along with a 2nd pair of those silicone bands...but don't fret 15 feet of 2mm OD x 1mm ID silicone tubing can be purchased from amazon.com for a nominal fee....so nominal that one questions why Fourth Element didn't include any in the kit.

    Dimensions (with comparison to Ultima DGS):
    Ellipse:

    Glove ring oval long dimension: 133mm
    Glove ring oval short dimension: 114mm
    Stack height above edge of PU ring with glove ring attached: 17.3mm
    Stack height above edge of PU ring without glove ring attached: 13mm
    Weight (1 glove ring, 1 cuff ring, o-rings, silicone band, SHOWA model 720, size L glove): 154 grams.

    Ultima:
    Glove ring diameter: 125mm
    Stack height above edge of PU ring with glove ring attached: 40mm
    Stack height above edge of PU ring without glove ring attached: 25mm
    Weight (1 glove ring, 1 cuff ring, o-rings, silicone band, SHOWA model 720, size L glove): 276 grams

    (Continued in Part 2)
     
    laikabear, JBFG and -JD- like this.
  2. Zef

    Zef Divemaster

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    Part 2

    Overall impression:

    Once attached, the system provides a good watertight seal. The problems I experienced are with getting the system attached. One would think that since the oval shape basically provides a singular orientation to lock the glove side to the suit side that this would make life easier…NOPE! I find this makes thing more difficult…unlike the round system that is agnostic to positioning when pressing the two halves of the system together, the Ellipse system is very finicky in this regard, and requires things to be lined up perfectly or else the system will not press together. I found this frustrating especially once I had one glove side attached, causing me to enlist the help of others to get the second one on properly.

    Another issue is that the orange o-ring tends to get pushed out of its groove when pressing the two halves together. Fourth Element made two running changes to the system:

    1. They apparently had an issue with an early batch of the orange o-rings…they were not specific about what the problem was but they said the fixed the issue and provided me with new o-rings.

    2. To help prevent the o-ring being pushed out of its groove they changed the width of the groove from roughly 5.1mm to roughly 6mm…this is supposed to let the o-ring move/roll in the grove instead of being pushed out of it when the two halves of the system are pressed together.

    To Fourth Element’s credit they provided me with the new o-rings and new suit side rings to help alleviate the issue.

    Despite the changes to the o-rings and the suit side rings, I still experienced issues with the orange o-rings being pushed out of its groove, even after lightly lubricating it with silicone grease prior to donning my suit.

    I found the difficulty getting and keeping things lined up to get the system together a major pain, literally, due to the extra time I had to spend with my kit on my back. While it didn’t help the system go together any more easily, I highly recommend attaching the gloves prior to putting on one’s BP/W or BCD, as the bulk and weight of one’s gear just increases the amount of frustration.

    In the water I found the glove system worked well. The system provided a watertight seal. I did multiple dives with them averaging 45 minutes each. I did not have concerns about the system popping apart, and my hands remained dry throughout.

    A major selling point is the low-profile oval shape. I didn’t notice any advantage of this compared to the other setups my wife and I use, but then we are not tech divers so are not doing valve-drills and what not.

    If one is looking for a low profile dryglove system this system certainly fits that bill. Perhaps the light weight of the system is a benefit for air travel, but for local diving this benefit is negligible.

    In the end my overall frustration of the uni-direction attachment coupled with the o-ring extrusion issue has me shelving this system and going back to my Waterproof Ultima DGS setup for my next dive.

    If anyone has any questions or wants other info or measurements let me know.

    -Z
     
  3. Zef

    Zef Divemaster

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    If one has already purchased the Ellipse System or is planning to, measure the groove that the orange o-ring sits in.

    -If the groove measures close to 5mm wide then you have the original ring design.
    -If the groove measures close to 6mm wide then you have the current ring design.

    To my knowledge and making direct comparisons with a vernier caliper, there does not seem to be any other differences (the depth of the groove is the same).

    If you have the original rings, contact your shop or Fourth Element to obtain a set of the re-designed rings.

    -Z
     
  4. formernuke

    formernuke ScubaBoard Sponsor ScubaBoard Sponsor

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    The bigger issue i had was the position of the oring having zero protection from dirt. I do a lot of shore diving and dry as I might I could not keep that o-ring clean.

    I switched to ultima system
     
  5. Zef

    Zef Divemaster

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    I had posed that as a potential issue to Fourth Element and they responded with the following information:

    [referring to the exposed o-ring] "This was decided to allow the user to easily check the
    orange oring for damage and debris before installing the glove ring."


    They also suggested that to prevent the o-ring from being contaminated/damaged between dives such as when traveling to/from a divesite the glove side can be reinstalled.

    In there response, the expectation is that the o-ring is left in place between dives and only removed and replaced by the silicone band that comes with the system during long periods when the dryglove system will not be used such as during warmer months when wet gloves would be used.

    I assume they would offer that in yours or similar situation that one should remove the o-ring if the plan is not wear the complete system.

    To be honest, even with the Ultima, with the sealing o-ring in groove on the inner diameter of the glove ring side, one needs to ensure the sealing surfaces of the cuff ring side are free of contaminates before attaching or else one risk not getting a good seal.

    I totally get your point though, and I am not trying to be apologetic for the system.

    With regards to my concern about not getting things lined up here is a cut and past of the exchange:

    Me:
    Attaching the glove side to the cuff side - They keyed orientation of the two halves of the system is
    not pronounced enough for the system to be easily aligned to facilitate locking the 2 halves together.
    This is frustrating as the rings need to be aligned fairly perfectly for the system to be pressed together.
    This creates frustration when donning the dryglove system.

    4E:
    Through all testing this key height was proven to be optimum for most users, I am certain that with the replacement wrist rings and improved orange o-rings this point will be dissolved.


    Perhaps with enough time I would develop a technique to get the system attached quicker and more easily....right now it is just easier for me to swap back to my Ultima DGS than be frustrated with lots of kilos causing my upper back to burn as I stand there in frustration trying to get the second glove on while my partners stand there waiting.

    Every system has its pros and cons. I am fortunate to have 3 systems in my garage that are designed to integrate with my suit's cuff system to test/experiment/play with....Ultima DGS, Si-Tech Virgo, and 4E Ellipse. of the 3 I prefer the Ultima DGS.

    I would like to get my hands on a set of Rolock 90s to test out...but I am not willing to shell out $134 euros for them at this time.

    -Z
     
    laikabear likes this.
  6. lexvil

    lexvil ScubaBoard Sponsor ScubaBoard Sponsor

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    What I do to protect the oring.

    9BA27526-245A-45F1-B692-DFFD682EFCC8.jpeg 572A38EB-180E-4014-86AC-2AD394979914.jpeg
     
    -JD- likes this.
  7. formernuke

    formernuke ScubaBoard Sponsor ScubaBoard Sponsor

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    Without grease on it getting dirt on the other side is no big deal, brushes right off, no need to apologize.

    I was stating my experience with the gloves.
     
    Zef likes this.
  8. Zef

    Zef Divemaster

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    With the 4E Ellipse system one can't do that when they dive because the sealing o-ring is on the outside diameter of the cuff side ring, as shown in this picture:

    upload_2020-10-23_18-59-6.jpeg

    -Z
     
  9. lexvil

    lexvil ScubaBoard Sponsor ScubaBoard Sponsor

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    Agree, that was so far down the list of what I didn’t like about the ellipse that I never got that far, my glove the oring is what I do for the ultima.
     
    laikabear and Zef like this.
  10. laikabear

    laikabear DIR Practitioner

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    Thanks for the review! I love my Ultimas. Are you just looking for an alternative because you find the rings too fat? Or is there another problem you have with yours? Or just like to try stuff out?

    Could you use a sharpie to mark where the glove and suit line up since the oval-ish shape isn't obvious enough?
     
    JBFG likes this.

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