Hands-on design by an industry legend

John S. Frater is a legend in the mining industry. With years of experience designing pumps for the mining industry, he is renowned for his millMAX pump that raised the efficiency of minerals mining at the end of the last century. John has endured company mergers, relocation and long periods away from his family to fulfil his ambitions. And today, his designs continue to enjoy industry recognition and commercial success.


When John sold his company in England, the Orion Pump Company, in 1984 he had already made a name for himself as a designer of slurry pumps. Part of the deal he made with the buyer, Denver Equipment Co., required John to work for them. So, with his wife and three children he packed just five suitcases and flew to Colorado to start a new life.

During his time at Denver Equipment Co., he travelled the world, spending as much time as he could at the mines talking to mining engineers and studying their pumps. But after Svedala and then Metso Minerals bought Denver Equipment Co., John decided it was time to strike out on his own once again. He already knew what he wanted to work on: an idea for a new pump design that would make it possible to adjust the critical wear clearance inside a pump without shutting it down. All he needed was a few months of peace and quiet to concentrate on his work.

Eager to start designing, John bade his family farewell and packed his bags for Sydney, Australia, where a rented beach house awaited him. It took more than two months of hard work before he made his first breakthrough – in a beach bar. Aftera couple of beers and some long, hard reflection, John began to doodle on a napkin. “It’s amazing what can help you overcome a block,” John says. By the time he left the bar, he had the initial sketches for the millMAX pump in his pocket.

“I know drawing on the back of a napkin in the pub is the apocryphal design story,” John says, “But my pump design came from spending years stripping down and rebuilding pumps in mines all over the world. Competitors design pumps on a computer. But I like to get my hands dirty. And I draw my designs for pumps in full size so I get a feel for exactly what they’ll look like.”

While in Australia, John was reacquainted with Dennis French, FLSmidth Krebs’ international sales manager, who was setting up a new sales office in Brisbane. After brief negotiations, John agreed to letDennis sell the new pump through FLSmidth Krebs. As a result, more pumps were sold in three months than John had managed in two years.
With his project well and truly off the ground, John called his wife to let her know he was coming home – after 18 months in Australia. She answered, with tongue firmly in cheek, “That’s fine, honey. Just remember the family is leaving Colorado Springs and moving to the heat in Scottsdale, Arizona.” Fortunately this was very close to Tucson, where FLSmidth Krebs is based! And that is where they live to this day.

FLSmidth Krebs recognised the potential for offering the millMAX pump to its mining customers and bought the rights to John’s design in 1999. More than ten years later, John Frater is still working for FLSmidth Krebs, and the millMAX Pump is still the standard by which all pumps are measured in the mining industry.

Read more about the millMAX here

CONTACT: John Frater