What is a Reciprocating Pump?

Reciprocating pumps are one of the two main categories of positive displacement pumps. The category covers some of the most versatile and useful types of pumps, including piston pumps, diaphragm pumps, plunger pumps, and many others. They range from the small, hand-powered pumps used prior to the Industrial Revolution, to massive pumping systems used in major industrial, mining, and agricultural applications.

How does a reciprocating pump work?

Reciprocating pumps use alternating force and suction to create a steady, pulsing flow. They contain a chamber that is repeatedly expanded and contracted to draw liquid through an intake valve and subsequently force it out through the other side of the pump. With a piston pump, for example, the piston is usually driven by an external power source­ which pushes down into the chamber, forcing fluid out, and then moves up, creating a vacuum that draws water from the intake valve. Diaphragm pumps work in a similar manner, except instead of an alternating piston, they use a steadily expanding and contracting membrane with a power source on one side and the liquid-filled chamber on the other side.

Where are reciprocating pumps used?

Because these pumps are such a broad category, they’re used across private, public, and commercial/industrial sectors. Originating from the crank-driven piston pumps of the 15th century, they’ve always played an integral role in all types of industry, and they’re also useful in irrigation, in public water supplies, and in fire safety systems.

Because of the high degree of force the pump can generate, they’re commonly used for pumping viscous liquids.