Origins of the Air Driven Liquid Test Pump

I first came in contact with High Pressure Air Driven Liquid Pumps in 1964, as a young man employed by Pongrass Industries. Pongrass were one of Australia’s leading manufacturers of compressed air powered valves and cylinders (pneumatics) at that time. Pongrass’ head office was at Botany, Sydney and I was employed by W.O. (Bill) Sundin as his assistant, not long after he had opened up a one-man Brisbane office, a couple of years earlier.
The Brisbane market for pneumatics was limited in those early years and by virtue of Bill being an excellent “bib’n’braces” marine engineer, we became involved in many related products and applications not then strictly referred to as main-stream pneumatics. One those applications was the filling of CO2 fire extinguishers for Wormald Brothers Pty Ltd and the subsequent pressure testing of various pressure vessels used by the firefighting industry.
Bill designed an electric driven CO2 transfer pump which we manufactured in our small workshop situated in the Hedley Park Wool stores, near the Brisbane airport at Hendra. For pressure testing, we used a Madan Airhydropump sourced from H.G. Thornwaites in Sydney. Thus the Madan Airhydropump became the first air driven pressure test pump to be installed in Brisbane.
Bill retired in 1969 and I became the state manager but a lot of water has flowed under the bridge, since then.

Madan AirHydroPump

Early days of the Air Driven Liquid Test Pump:

Recent research leads me to believe that the Madan Airhydropump was one of the earliest, if not the earliest, commercial product range of this type. A Google search of Charles S. Madan and Company Limited indicates that the company dates back to 1900. The earliest reference to the Airhydropump I can find is 1943 Charles S. Madan and Company, which, in the 1930’s appears to have been involved in brass foundering. The Brass Foundry probably explains why those early Madan pump models had many brass components within the design. Models such as Madan: Junior and Ghurkha come to mind but there were quite a few. The factory was situated in that hive of engineering expertise, Altrincham, Cheshire, England. Madan Pumps and parts are still manufactured by Hydraulic and Pneumatic Services.

Madan AirHydroPump Advertisement 1943
The development of the Air Driven Liquid Test Pump, by Charles S. Madan and Co appears to be related to applications arising out of aircraft production during the Second World War. This is interesting because the development of such equipment in the USA, certainly has a connection with the U.S. Aircraft Industry.

1950’s and 1960’s: Competition increases in the Liquid Pump space.

During the 1950’s and early 1960’s California based companies such as Haskel, SC and Sprague, whose founders all knew each other I am told, developed their own versions of air driven test pumps and those brands are still manufactured currently. There was a lot of competition to obtain the business from the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation situated in Burbank, California. I became involved with the Haskel Product Line in the late 1960’s after a visit by Haskel Inc’s CEO, Richard (Dick) Hayman to Pongrass’ Sydney office and the subsequent arrangement whereby Pongrass was appointed the sole Australian distributor for the Haskel Line. I remember this event as Bill Sundin was flown to Sydney to be involved in this decision. Flying to Sydney was a major event in those days.
Haskel also developed both an hydraulically driven and an air driven gas booster product range and this is the subject of a separate article. What is interesting, and also very curious, is that a search of relevant patents shows a patent being awarded to Charles S. Madan and Company in 1978: Patent 4068983. The wording of the patent is also interesting. The patent lists John Francis Perkins and Roy Balme as the inventors but searches of these names only reveal that Mr Balme was a director of Bridge Hydraulics which now appears to have ceased trading. How a patent was awarded so long after the event makes for an interesting later research and possible article.

More recent times: Improved Material Quality & Cost Reduction.

Most of the brands of the early designers and manufacturers of these types of pump, are still available despite numerous corporate take-overs and the like. Many other brands have been released, but the technology has changed very little, if at all, since the 1950’s and 1960’s. The most significant development of recent times is that these pumps are becoming much less expensive while, at the same time, using better corrosion resistant materials as a standard bill of materials. It is in these areas of improved material quality and cost reduction that the ProTech range excels.

The future:

Current designs and proto-types are being tested that focus on other areas. In particular, ProTech Pumps is developing a new linear air motor design that greatly increases efficiency. The production of compressed air is energy consuming and expensive and the new design will produce savings of up to 50% on current popular models. Interfacing air driven pumps with electronics is another area ProTech is working on. Such initiatives will allow for very accurate flow and pressure control from other control systems while keeping the inherent advantages of the Air Driven Liquid Test Pump.

ProTech Pumps - Air Driven Liquid Pumps, Gas Boosters and Air Amplifiers.

About the author

Colin has over 50 years of hydraulic and pneumatic engineering experience in the design, manufacture and sale of pumps and systems for pressure testing and chemical injection. We put Colin’s vast knowledge to good use here at ProTech Pumps in all areas of the business and now we’ve given him his own blog so he can share that knowledge with you too.