Invention of the Spoutnik, 25 Years Already!

8 Oct

Spoutnik is a device that was invented at the Minnova Mine in Rouyn-Noranda in 1989. Over 10K Spoutniks have been sold worldwide. Serge Dion created this invention when he was working as a miner.

 

In an underground mine, ore is poured into an ore-pass where sometimes the rocks become blocked between levels. It is therefore necessary to remove the obstruction, a dangerous and difficult task.

Serge didn’t like this work; he used wooden poles that were attached to one another with explosives. Workers were exposed to falling rocks. Several deaths occurred back then while carrying out this work.

One day he was doing his job with a compressed air hose when he was struck by power and the idea to use that driving force to raise an explosive container in ore-pass. One evening he asked his wife Nicole to sew him a small hose about three centimeters in diameter and eight meters long.  For his part, he modified a tin can with his idea. This first small prototype had to be small so that he could hide it in his lunch box.

 A few days later, he was alone and he took the opportunity to test his theory. He pointed the tin can toward the ceiling of the gallery and it climbed all the way up to the ceiling and remained in place until the air was turned off. What joy! …He now knew that his principle of using compressed air as a driving force worked. 

He sought help from the manager of the mine to test his idea. He built the first prototype. On the first try, Spoutnik was able to lift a load into the ore-pass. Mr. Desrosiers, the Mine Manager, assigned someone to help Serge to produce industrial drawings to help protect his idea. All that he asked in return was that Serge be available to deal with blockages. 

Given the magnitude of the problem in the mining sector, Serge was advised to protect the device with a patent. Given that Serge did not have much formal education, his wife, Nicole, helped him. She became completely involved in making applications and keeping track of all the expenses from their personal savings accounts… The product was finally patented in 1991.

 

The first requests for the product in its prototype form introduced the couple to the business world. The device’s first showing at a CIM mining exhibition elicited many requests from several countries.

The couple took the necessary steps for the technical development of the product that required several changes to be made to improve its performance.  

Serge and Nicole who had previously travelled very little, began visiting mines in several countries and attending exhibitions in the United States, South Africa, Chile and Peru.

The product was a huge success and customer testimonials began coming in from all over the world to emphasize the progress in safety.

 

In 1994, exports accounted for 20% of sales and ten years later, it accounted for nearly 50%. However, the company remains small because the sale volumes for such a specialized product remain modest.

 

The two entrepreneurs might have become richer if they had kept their jobs, but they’ve experienced so much pride, challenge and great experience and they have never regretted their choice. 

 

Plastiques G+ came into being thanks to Spoutnik in 1995 because the fact thatSpoutnik was made of plastic gave Dan (the son in law) and Nina (the daughter) the idea to launch a plastic company for mines.

In 2006, seeing retirement approaching, Serge and Nicole decided to sellSpoutnik to Plastiques G+. Serge and Nicole are still working for the company.

 Since its invention in 1989, this product has undoubtedly saved lives and has allowed the mining industry to have an efficient solution for blockages. It has helped shine the light on Canadian mining expertise throughout the world and has even given rise to a second company…

 

 

Not bad for an idea…

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