A simple pedal-pump

In the early 1970s Marc Vergnet, an engineer working in Burkina Faso, saw the terrible suffering caused by drought
Issue date 16 November 2007

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In the early 1970s Marc Vergnet, an engineer working in Burkina Faso, saw the terrible suffering caused by drought. Existing hand pumps were heavy, unreliable and hard to repair, so he designed a simple, lightweight pump that relied on hydraulic technology. The pump can draw water from a depth of up to 100m. It’s operated by a foot pedal pressing on a piston, forcing down a column of water and inflating a natural rubber sleeve. pump is placed at the bottom of the borehole and when the pedal is pressed, the sleeve swells inside it, pushing 0,5ℓ water to the surface. When the pedal is released the sleeve retracts, drawing new water into the pump. Finding a manufacturing partner Vergnet looked for an industrial partner to manufacture the pump, but the first company he chose used a sleeve that was unreliable and prone to failure.

When Vergnet saw his design was being discredited, he withdrew the rights to produce his patent and established the company Vergnet SA in 1989. This simple pump has made Vergnet SA a world leader in low- and medium-power wind-power generation and rural water-supply engineering. But the pump still needed a reliable, long-lasting, strong, yet flexible, rubber sleeve. C ollaborating closely with Vergnet, the company Trelleborg developed and supplied a finished product, complete with connectors, as a total solution component that slots straight into the pump. “We need consistent quality and reliability from our suppliers, or the repercussions could be catastrophic,” says Thierry Barbotte, general manager of Vergnet Hydro. “That’s what we got from Trelleborg. We have a strong working relationship. We know it’s not a big product for them, but it’s vital for us.”

“This type of project appeals to us,” explains Olivier Libes, Trelleborg’s product area manager for industrial hose. “It offers us the chance to develop a new product for a niche market, in close collaboration with the client. Our expertise on elastomers and textiles in the production of flexible tubing made the Vergnet sleeve possible.” Trusted by 40 million people urrently some 70 000 Vergnet pumps are in use worldwide, mainly in central and western Africa, supplying water to around 40 million people. They’re sold to international banks, NGOs and aid projects. One pump will serve up to 600 people and has an average lifespan of 20 years, thanks to affordable spare parts, good training and well established after-sales networks set up by Vergnet. – Chris Nel For more information contact Auriel Mitchley on (011) 889 0796 or e-mail [email protected]. |fw

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