|Two-in-one: Dang Thanh Lam operates his excavator, which is capable of loading and transporting. — VNS Photos Hoang Nam
by Hoang Nam
Most farmers are content with bumper crops, but for 43-year-old Dang Thanh Lam, inventing agricultural machines is just as rewarding.
The farmer from Thuan Trach Village in the central province of Quang Binh recently came up with a revolutionary two-in-one excavator, which has been highly praised by building contractors as both practical and efficient.
After graduating from high school, Lam joined the army. He then worked as a security guard for a seafood-processing company located in the central province of Hue. However, the salary was so low that he decided to return to his hometown to work as a farmer and get married.
In 2008, he invented the first electric rice mortar. Since he knew nothing about bending and welding, Lam drew his design on paper and had it produced by others. When the other villagers saw how efficient the device was, they asked him to produce more. But by the third rice mortar, Lam realised he would not make much of a profit and switched to working as a contractor in construction.
The strenuous and time-consuming process of bending iron motivated him to invent a hoop-iron bending machine. Lam spent over VND10 million (US$500) on this invention, but costs eventually forced him to sell the machine to another contractor for VND6 million ($300).
A year later, he won the contract for a drainage construction project. Under pressure from those in charge of the project, Lam came up with a JCB capable of rotating 360 degrees. In barely one year, the machine brought him over VND100 million ($5,000).
|Weight of his mind: Lam and one of his inventions, a heavy-lift crane.
Credit was also due to his contracting team, Lam said. With only six members, the team has successfully carried out projects worth millions of VND.
In early 2011, the inventor came up with the idea of creating a two-in-one excavator. Unlike other excavators in the market, which only have a loading function, Lam's machine can both load and transport more than one tonne of gravelly soil – saving both labour and fuel.
To see how such machines worked, he spent VND16 million ($800) to buy a secondhand UAZ vehicle and take it apart. It was easy to dismantle but impossible to re-assemble, so Lam had to sell the parts to scrap iron collectors.
Not discouraged, he bought a second UAZ. He soon realised that only the gear-box, propeller shaft and wheels could be re-used; the other parts of his excavator needed to be made from scratch.
"To be honest, it took me years to finish the excavator," Lam recalled. "Whenever I started to work on a part, I had to draw it on paper, and the designs for each of those parts – such as the bucket – might have to be corrected four or five times. The most difficult parts were the operation and force-resistant systems. I had to spend nearly three months searching all over the country for just three parts – two force-resistant pipes and a supporting post. I looked throughout the central provinces of Hue and Da Nang, but not until I arrived in the southern province of Ca Mau could I find those parts."
After all Lam's efforts, he was greatly disappointed when he turned on the excavator for the first time and it did not work. Once again, he had to dismantle the entire thing and adjust the components. But ultimately, Lam's excavator worked smoothly, to the admiration of the villagers.
Many local contractors tried to place orders after hearing about Lam's vehicle, but the inventor has turned them all down. He is currently completing the documentation to enter a competition held by the department of science and technology in Quang Binh. If successful, Lam will register for a patent and find a partner who can produce his invention on a large scale. — VNS