Technical Info: How Inflatable Life Jackets Work

How inflatable lifejackets work

Automatic lifejackets activate when detecting water. Upon detection of water, a firing
mechanism will activate and pierce a CO2 cylinder. The air coming out of the cylinder will
inflate the bladder of the lifejacket and create buoyancy. Buoyancy is created by any
material that is lighter than water. Manual-only lifejackets are activated by the user by
pulling on a toggle or handle. By pulling on the toggle or handle a lever system gets
released which will pierce the CO2 cylinder. Lifejackets detect water depending on the
type of operating/inflation mechanism the manufacturer of the lifejacket has chosen.
Most lifejackets use CO2 cylinders as CO2 has proven to be adequate because of its
properties of being non-toxic, non-inflammable, and because it can be stored in small
disposable cylinders. The Deckware by Spinlock Lifejacket harness is currently fitted
with a United Moulders operating mechanism.
With regulations getting stricter, most manufacturers of inflation systems are now redeveloping
their systems to have indicators that will show if the systems are operable or
need servicing.

United Moulders inflation system


The UML Automatic system activates when the Cartridge Mechanism comes into contact
with water. The cartridge mechanism is a compressed high powered spring which is held
by a paper element. When the paper element comes into contact with water it releases
the spring which pushes a plunger forward, in turn forcing a cutter into the CO2 cylinder.
The cutter allows the CO2 to travel through the CO2 gas hole in the inflator head and
inflate the lifejacket.
The Automatic system is backed up by a manual override, which allows the user to pull
the toggle and inflate the lifejacket. All lifejackets also have a third oral inflation method.

Halkey Roberts inflation system

The Halkey Roberts Automatic system activates when a salt bobbin gets in contact with
water. When the bobbin is in contact with water, it dissolves, allowing a spring to be
released which pushes a plunger forward, in turn forcing a cutter into the CO2 cylinder.
The cutter allows the CO2 to travel through the CO2 gas hole in the inflator head and
inflate the lifejacket.
The Automatic system is backed up by a manual override, which allows the user to pull
the toggle and inflate the lifejacket. All lifejackets also have a third oral inflation tube.

HAMMAR inflation system

The Hammar Automatic system is activated on water pressure (hydrostatic). It has a
hydrostatic valve in place of the bobbin or cartridge. When submerged in at least 10 cm
of water, the hydrostatic valve is activated, piercing the CO2 cylinder and allowing the air
to inflate the bladder of the lifejacket. The cutter allows the CO2 to travel through the CO2
gas hole in the inflator head and inflate the lifejacket. Unlike the other two systems, the
CO2 cylinder is positioned inside the bladder.
The Automatic system is backed up by a manual override, which allows the user to pull
the handle and inflate the lifejacket. All lifejackets also have a third oral inflation tube.

Secumatic 4001 and 3001 inflation system

The Secumatic system activates when a tiny pill comes into contact with water. The pill
dissolves when it gets in contact with water, and releases a lever system so that the CO2
can discharge into the buoyancy chamber and inflate the lifejacket.
The Automatic system is backed up by a manual override, which allows the user to pull
the toggle and inflate the lifejacket. All lifejackets also have a third oral inflation method.
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