The Volaser is an opensource measuring device and can be built and deployed anywhere in the world. It contributes to a sustainable and healthful faecal sludge management.

Eawag, the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, develops solutions for the sustainable management of water as a habitat and resource. One of their programs aims at creating know-how and tools to improve faecal sludge management worldwide.

Source: JPM Joint Monitoring Program for Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene by WHO and UNICEF

In 2020, nearly half of all people worldwide still did not have access to safely managed sanitation facilities. 3.4 billion people live with very basic or inadequate sanitation. About 42% of people live in a household connected to a sewer system, an equal share use latrines and septic tanks (source JPM Report 2020).

In places without sewer infrastructure, faecal sludge is often collected underground. It is difficult to determine sludge volumes and accumulation rates, which are critical for planning and safe disposal. We supported Eawag in the development of a measuring device - the Volaser. It uses a probe and laser scanner to record the volume and level of septic tanks.

The concept was tested in diverse situations in different locations around the world and developed iteratively. ©Eawag, Zambia

The Volaser is built from a few components that are available worldwide plus from 3D printed parts. A standard tripod serves as the base and a simple Android cell phone as the computing unit. The corresponding app, the construction plan, the parts list, 3D print data and operating instructions are publicly available.

The big challenge was to create a professional and yet most accessible solution that works reliably in very different situations. To achieve this, the concept was tested in various locations around the world and developed iteratively. To realize a most expedient system, an elaborate reduction to the essentials is key – frugal innovation, based on a lot of development work.

Early sketch of the measurement concept
The situation: diverse
The measurement concept is tested in the field.
It turns out that the compass is not accurate enough for all mobile phones. The measuring instrument therefore has to fall back on the gyroscope.
Evaluation of electronic parts
Mock-ups: quick & dirty
to quickly try out variants ...
... and to iterate
Realistic test setup in the office
In-house 3D printed parts
... for the construction of the first production-ready specimen.
“Based on the field-testing, the Volaser concept was validated, and we have received many requests for prototype versions.”
sandec news 21 / 2020

First application:


Our contribution:

Measuring concept
Conception for assembly and manufacturing
System engineering
Support App Programming


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