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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Products range from demining to braille machines

Products range from demining to braille machines


DTW started out developing and making low-cost demining equipment, initally prodders,

helmet visors and personal protection for the Mine Action Group, Cambodia. These

designs and staff were transferred to a local company which currently employs 30

disabled people and the products are exported world-wide.

The Mark 5 braille writer can be produced for $100 to $150, or about one-fifth the cost of other commercially available machines.

It went on to design, develop and manufacture the Tempest controlled vegetation and

tripwire clearance machine. Seventeen machines are now in use on demining operations

worldwide. Four more are about to be built for MAG. They cost $105,000 each. A fully

equipped portable workshop is available for $30,000 more.

The Tempest sells for one-third the cost of commercially available machines. It is

radio-controlled from up to 400 metres away, can remove thick vegetation up to three

metres high and small trees. It can safely explode anti-personnel mines but would

probably be overturned by an anti-tank device; this has never actually happened,

as pre-clearance surveys generally determine the type of mines laid, and also because

the unit weighs 2.4 tonnes, while anti-tank mines are designed to be set off by much

heavier vehicles.

The 36-chain flail head has an intelligence which, if the load becomes too great,

diverts power from the wheels or tracks to the flail and adjusts the forward speed,

so that more power is available to cut into vegetation. A cutting rate averaging

20,000 square metres per month is achievable. After the vegetation clearance, two-person

detection teams move through the minefield marking explosive devices for later defusing

or demolition.

While the Tempest is DTW's high-profile attention-grabber, it represents a relatively

small proportion of the product portfolio.

The workshop has developed and is manufacturing a unique low-tech towed grader for

maintenance of rural roads; a portable mechanical braille writer; collapsible walking

sticks for the vision impaired; and a range of modern lightweight wheelchairs.

All of these were developed on submitted specification or request for a specific

solution to a problem, for use in poor countries, are quality guaranteed and sell

at prices attractive to donor sponsors.

The "Cam-Grader" features a significant number of used Toyota Camry components

and is seen as having sales potential in many countries. It is designed to be towed

by a 35 horsepower agricultural tractor and has been successfully field-tested for

six weeks in Svey Rieng. Three more units have been pre-sold for $2,500 each and

are under construction for delivery to villages in Takeo, Siem Reap and Kampong Speu


It has no mechanical gearing nor hydraulics, yet the blade has four-way pitch, angle,

height and tilt adjustment. A Khmer team headed by West German-educated engineer

Soeur Phal Khun (using CAD) designed and built the grader from a request by the UN

Office for Project Services, which put up $6,000 development capital.

"The gravel roads are being built or improved but they are difficult or costly

for villagers to maintain," he says. "The Cam-Grader can reshape the road

for runoff and fill potholes in four passes. It can grade about eight kilometers

per day. A typical road needs maintenance about four times per year.

"Most areas have agricultural tractors, which often sit idle outside the rice-paddy

plowing season. The grader is suitable as a business investment by a tractor owner,

or by a village group."

Richard Pullen says there are almost unlimited opportunities in developing countries

for DTW to start similar production units and receive royalty payments in exchange

for quality control assistance until handover to a local organisation.

"Unfortunately there is nothing to stop anyone copying our products. Our advantage

is we're six months ahead, we guarantee quality, we have credibility on the Third

World market, and we can produce much cheaper."

The mechanical braille writer is another DTW success story. It is a significant improvement

on its wooden braille predecessor which, although very cheap, had functional flaws.

The UK Department for International Development funded development of the improved

writer using machined parts which could be locally produced in developing countries.

Other development partners were the British Embassy, Krousar Thmey (Cambodian school

for vision impaired, French-run), Dark and Light (Holland), and Sight Savers International.

The developed and tested Mark 5 writer can be produced for $100 to 150, or about

one-fifth the cost of other commercially available machines. The project manager,

Harold Pearson, says DTW is planning to set up a regional production workshop in

Cambodia, where local vision-impaired people can be trained and employed in the manufacturing.

The current production line aims to produce 40 units to meet anticipated demand after

being promoted at a vision-impaired trade fair in Capetown in December.

The machine doesn't yet have a trade name; Pearson will run a competition among the

associated NGOs to find one.




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