Tag Archives: press

Materials List for Making Machine

There are requests for more detailed information coming in about the block press.  Our original materials list works.  However, we also appreciate the cost and difficulty in finding exactly what we recommended under some conditions.  We have experimented with some lighter grades of materials and can suggest new minimums.

2″ square tubing                            4 each 52″ long  11 gauge is best but we have had success with 16 gauge but we recommend 14 gauge minimum

4 each 12″ long  recommendations the same as above.

2″ angle iron                                    2 each 49 1/2 ” long  1/4 inch wall is best,  3/16″ will work and is our recommended minimum

5 each 9″ long  recommendations same as above  These are for braces

1/4 X 8″ plate                                 2 each 49 1/2 ” long  we have used 3/16″ instead of 1/4″ successfully   3/16″ is our recommended minimum

1/2″ X 8″ X 7 1/2″  plate             2 each  our minimum recommendation on this is 3/8″  The piece isn’t square.  The top measurement is 8″ and the bottom is 7 1/2″

1/2″ X 12″ plate                             1 each 32″ long and 1 each 14″ long  These are the lids for the chamber.  We have used 3/8″ successfully and that is our recommended minimum

1″ acme threaded rod                 1 each 36″ long  We used 4 tpi (threads per inch) originally  We have since began using 5 tpi.  4 tpi means less turns per cyle but 5 tpi means easier turning and more power.  We recommend 5 tpi

1″ acme thread nut                      1 each

Progress has been made

It seems like only yesterday while at the same time it seems like it was last year when Ronald Omyonga challenged me to come up with a building product from plastic trash.  The reality is today, February 20, 2011 is day 104.  Less than a hundred days ago I woke up dreaming of making building blocks by baling them like one would bale straw or hay.  Seventy days ago we made our first block.  Today we made our first half block.  Half blocks are just as important as full blocks.

We need half blocks because our full blocks can’t be cut without losing their integrity.  We can’t use standard staggering of blocks to create structural strength without having half blocks.  Now we have a method for making half blocks.

What I wanted was a spacer that would displace half of a block in the recycled plastic block press.  I thought about it for awhile and this is what we have.

A single pin attaches it to the compression plate.  A nail, cotter key, or even a piece of wire is all it takes to hold it in place because the only pressure is the weight of the spacer itself on retraction.

The more I work with this press the more I like it.  I’ve fielded lots of questions about automating it with hydraulics.  I’m using an impact wrench instead of a ratchet to speed up the compression process.  It’s every bit as fast as a hydraulic method and it isn’t near as expensive to build or maintain.  All I need is a compressed air source and an impact wrench and the process goes fast.

Often I get the question about how to hold the small stuff like  plastic bottle caps, medicine bottles, single serving yogurt containers, etc. in the blocks.  I put them in plastic bags and then put the plastic bag into the press.  Here’s a good example of how it works.  I have a large plastic dog food bag.  I also have large pieces of styrofoam that was used in packaging flat screen television sets.  I broke down the styrofoam into pieces about eight to ten inches long.  They were still fat and wide, just not real long.  I put those into the plastic dog food bag.  I put that into the press.  I jumped up and down on the bag to get it to fit into the press.  Then I compressed it along with some bottles and other stuff.  I had a half block.

I like the idea that it takes imagination and skill to properly load the press to make good blocks.  That means some people are going to be better at doing that than others will.  The job of loading the plastic into the press will be a source of growth and pride for those that are good at it.  That’s a very good thing.  I’m not one of those people and I’m okay with that.  Those that find the job of loading the plastic rewarding would probably not like at all doing what makes me happy when it comes to working.

As I said a little earlier, the more I work with this the more I like it.  I’m working on a method for placing the blocks that I believe will not only make the recycled plastic block a good way to build houses, it will make the recycled plastic building block a great way to build houses.

We received some drawings today

These drawings are courtesy of Dr. Owen Geiger at www.GRISB.org

These are drawings for making the block box press. 


We have photos and a material list in another post.

Dr. Geiger has been involved from early on.  Everytime I would vary away from the original concept he would be on to me to get back on track.  He shares the vision of a manual system that can be used by the semi-skilled under the worst of conditions to create shelter and industry.  Dr. Geiger is now in Thailand working with locals who make CEB’s (compressed earth blocks).  http://www.motherearthnews.com/Green-Homes-Expert-Owen-Geiger.aspx

Another day in paradise

Before we bumped the table and the camera fell, fatal screw up on its part….

We were having an awesome day.  After that it was just a really good day for inventing in general.

This is the bottom of the new block box, alpha 2 I guess we can call it.  The two pieces of angle iron or for the future stand that will support the block box.  The three pieces of flat stock welded in the middle are to keep it from spreading when compressing a block.  The angle iron is 2″ X 2″ X 1/4″ .  The flat bar stock is 1/4″ X 2″.  The spacing is even spaces, about eight and  a half inches as I recall.

I cannibalized the ram and screw mechanism from the original block box press for the new one.  Here it is installed and ready for compressing the first block.   The next picture is of the business side of the ram with the wires in place.  The next picture is from the other end.  Notice the wires coming out of the bottom.

This is pre-compression chamber I made.  Basically it smashes the material a bit before I put it into the block box press.  I just put the stuff in there and pound it down with a sledge.  Works great.

With the ram back as far as possible I filled up the box press with plastic trash.  Most of it had been through the pre-compression tool.  Then I put on the cover.  I haven’t put on the permanent lid because I wanted to make sure that the new press worked first.  Once the lid was on I ran the screw down all the way as you can see here.

When I pulled back the ram this is what you could see at the other end of the block press.

I added some more plastic and ran the ram down one more time.

This is the good part.  I removed the cover plate. and pulled the wires up for tensioning with my tensioning tool.

First the wire is pushed through the eye or loop at the ram end of the block.  Then that slot you see on the bottom of the tension tool is pushed through the eye or loop and down the wire about five inches.  The loose end of the wire coming through the eye or loop is folded over the handle of the tension tool.  Then the tool is pushed over the eye or loop towards the end of the block.  This action pulls the wire to the loop tightening it.  When the tool folds the wire over the eye the wire is tight.  If it isn’t the tool can be relocated and it can be done again until the wire is tight.

This is when I broke the camera.  So I don’t have any pictures of the finished block.  First thing, the three wire block is a much better block.  Second thing, removing the block was much easier with the tapered sides.  I believe this design will be the final design.  There might be some tweaks but this thing here works.  I’ll get the top hinged and come up with an exact material list and dimensions so that others can copy it if they want.

I’m getting a lot of suggestions about using hydraulics to make it easier, faster and better.  My concern at this point in time is to prove that a wired recycled plastic block is a viable building material.  People a lot smarter than I am will come up with making the blocks faster and easier.  I’ll leave that up to them.

Good News and Bad News

The bad news is the original press has some issues.  One of the problems is the sides are vertical and that makes getting the block out of the press difficult.  Another is it is difficult to remove the trash from the press between blocks.  And then there’s the wire guides, difficult to use when operating the press, too far apart,  and generally awkward to use.

The good news is

I spent some money for some more materials.  I decided to use three wires for the new version of the blocks.  The size is the same.  But the new press has the outside wires closer inside and then I put in a middle wire to contain the middle bulge we get.

I’m trying to get the machine down in cost material wise.  I also want the materials to be as common as possible so that the presses can be made on site if necessary just about anywhere in the world.  I’m trying 11 gauge 2″ X 2″ square tubing for the floor and base end.  I hope this will be substantial enough to hold up over time.

If you look close you and see I”m using quarter inch spacers between the tubes for wire guides.  I believe this will simplify the compression phase because the tie wires will be lying out of the way.  The tie wires will still have to be attached to the ram.  But we won’t have to fight keeping them in the guides like we did with the original press design.

I’ve decided to put an eighth of an inch taper in each side to make removing the completed block easier.  The top has an 8 ” inside measurement.  And the bottom measures 7 3/4″ inside.

We’ll be making blocks with the new design tomorrow if everything goes right.

Bottle Bricks

This post has been left up for historical reference.  It reflects an opinion based upon the information we had at that time.  We now believe using bottles to make bricks is a misguided endeavor.  Bottles are worth too much for scrap value to be using in blocks.  If bottles become as worthless as foam and film plastics then we might advise using them again.  We doubt that will happen as their scrap value depends upon the current price of crude oil.

A bottle brick is a building block made from empty plastic bottles.  It is a form of recycling plastic bottles.  The bottles are compressed together in a mold.  Depending upon the pressure used to compress the plastic bottles in the mold the brick can be of the density of a bale of straw or it can have the density of a block of concrete.

Quick math suggests one bottle brick will hold approximately ten and  a half twenty four bottle cases of empty one liter water bottles.  Approximately 600 bricks to build a twelve feet by twelve feet room with seven foot high walls.  One such home removes approximately 180,000 empty plastic bottles from the landfills.  That’s 7,500 cases of empty one liter bottles or approximately 6,400 cubic feet of space.  That’s almost the volume of two fifty three foot semi truck trailers, 7,600 cubic feet.  Look at it this way, if the bottles were crumpled to fifty percent volume arriving at the recycling center every truck load could provide the materials for one 144 square foot one room home.

The inspiration for this invention was a speech and later conversation with Ronald Omygon.  Ronald is an architect in Kenya.  His passion is holistic building methods that help the poor with sanitation, drinking water, and housing.  I told him at the meeting that I believed there had to be a way we could tackle the problems with plastic waste and poverty at the same time with the same product.  I just knew that there had to be a product that could be made with plastic refuse.  And that product could be made with simple machinery and the product would be best if it was a new building product that could be installed with local traditional methods.

A week after that meeting I was awakened out of sleep that night with the idea of baling plastic bottles.  I can’t take credit for the idea  because it came to me, I didn’t seek it out, it found me.  The idea was to compress one liter drinking bottles into a block the size of standard adobe brick that is used in the southwest of the United States.

I couldn’t go to sleep after that.  There was too much to think about, so many ideas.  I had to address how to keep the bricks from expanding and falling apart after being removed from the mold or press that manufactured them.  I had to address how and if they would take mortar as a method of joining them together for form a wall.  I also had to figure out the plastic could be isolated from the living area and the exterior elements once the walls were formed.  There was how to form doorways and window openings.  Roofs were another consideration.  And then there was the subsistance level manufacturing if necessary.

That last part, subsistance level manufacturing if necessary, was of critical importance to me.  That’s because I see most of our aid and charity being almost as much of a negative as it is positive once we get beyond emergency relief.  Aid and charity is a horizontal transaction in a world built on vertical transactions.  A lot of the time aid and charity teach help is on the way and you just have to wait for it.  I wanted the bottle brick to be more than that.  I wanted it to be a vertical impetus instead of the traditional horizontal one.

The subsistance level manufacturing is easy.  All I need is a mold or press.  The one I have built in my mind is a three sided affair.  The mold is four inches or so high, width is eight inches or thereabouts, and the length is about two feet even though the finished brick will only be sixteen inches long.  It will be made of steel, simple design.  The compression will be accomplished with leverage.  It will work a little like a tractor jack with its ratcheting action.  You move a lever about five feet long and that movement moves the compression plate an inch or so.  A stop holds the compression plate in the position and the lever is moved once again.  This is done until bottles are compressed into a firm brick about sixteen inches long.

There were two problems with mortar as I saw it.  The first thing was this kind of construction would be perfect for Haiti and Pakistan.  One of the reasons for the horrific destruction in their earthquakes was the mortar fails first and then the walls fall down.  The other was one of the problems with plastic and cement is they don’t bond without special polymers, expensive special polymers.

I had already decided that since I was laminating plastic bottles into a bale then maybe tying it together with wire might be the proven tried and true method.  And since one of the slickest things I had seen was using barbed wire for stabilizing earth bag construction then I could have not only a secure method for attaching the bottle bricks to each other with a system like they use in earth bag.  I would also greatly reduce the potential for damage in an earthquake.  The flexibility inherent in the bale and the plastic along with the slack in the wire method would allow movement and not collapse.

There was one other thing that got me excited about this idea.  That was one of the common methods of building in the places where I could see this being used was the use of plaster.  Plastering the inside walls would separate any bad stuff in a bottle brick from the inhabitants.  Plaster on the outside insure a longer life for the bottle bricks, even though they supposedly have a three to five hundred year life span in a land fill.

The mold is like I described earlier with the addition of two quarter inch in diameter metal rods running parallel with the floor or bottom of the mold and on a center line of the mold.  The rods are to create a pathway for additional tie wires after the bale is removed from the mold.

Here is the way I see it working.  The first bottle is flattened and then placed horizontally in the mold.  First it is pierced with the rods in the middle and then it is slid down the rods to the end of the mold.  The same thing happens with the next bottle except that the bottom of the new bottle is at the open end of the first bottle.  Bottles are flattened and installd repeating this pattern.  The bottoms of the bottles are alternated as they are installed.  When the mold is full of bottles then the manual press is put in place.  The lever ratchets the press plate towards the closed end of the mold.  If the brick isn’t firm the pressure plate can be backed off and more bottles installed.  The compression is repeated until the brick is the right length and density.  At this point the brick is secured with wire similar to the way a bale of straw is secured.  The brick is removed from the mold and additional wire is placed in the two tunnels made by the steel rods.  Ideally there will be short tie wires placed during the building of the brick.  These wires will be placed so they will secure the horizontal wires placed in the tunnels.  Those ties wires will be used to secure the bricks to the stalilizing wires that run on top of each course.

Let’s build a small one room building using the bottle bricks.  We would start with laying out the perimeter, round is better, and two doorways.  The two doorways is important for one reason.  That reason is the purpose of vertical movement by the residents.  As times get better and they want to add a room they already have the doorway for it.

At the corners and edge of the doorways two re-bar pieces are driven into the ground.  This is where the courses stop and start.  Those ties at the ends of the bottle brick are tied to the re-bar uprights.  A short piece of re-bar is driven in at the end of the bottle brick.  The end of the re-bar stake is at the same height as the bottle brick.  The next bottle brick is placed in the same way.  It’s attached to the previous short stake and the new stake driven in at its end the same way.  This is repeated until the next doorway or corner is reached.  Two pieces of heavier gauge wire is placed between the two ends or doorways.  Barbwire would work good for this.  So would nine gauge wire for instance.  The heavy gauge wire is attached to the re-bar posts at each end.  It is then tied to each brick with the short ties that come out of the top of the bottle bricks, the ones that are attached insdie the bottle brick to the wires that go through the middle of the bottle brick.  Once that course is secured then the next course is placed starting with a half bottle brick of course.  These bricks are tied to the wire secured to the course below.

Every course is secured the same way.  It’s secured to the barbwire or heavier gauged wire below with the end tie wires.  It is then attached to the next heavey gauge or barbwire placed on top with the middle ties.

Keep in mind this is work in progress.  There will be changes and we might even find the finished product resembles little of what I’m proposing here.  That’s progress.  It’s also the reason I’ve went public so quickly with it.  I want this to be an open source product.  I want he participants to make it their own.

I have some thoughts that I’d like to share about my bottle brick concept.  One of them is most societies would find this system similar to their traditional methods with the exception of the tie wires and the blocks being made of plastic.

Another thing is the blocks will be light enough that women and children can handle them easily.  If the society allows it then there can be more participants in the building process.  It also means widows and single mothers can build their own housing if their society allows that.

This system offers more resistance to earthquakes than conventional mortar and block construction.  If the roof is made like an igloo then this design would also offer more protection from high winds because it would be more aerodynamic.

This is a beginning.  I can see recycling plants making bottle bricks designed for building retaining walls.  I can see subsidizing bottle bricks by government and industry because it not only recycles plastic waste, it offers opportunity and housing.  I can see bottle bricks being built that would offer armor protection for our troops.  Bullet proof glass is laminated plastic and glass.  A bottle brick is made by laminating you might say plastic and plastic.  Engineers are amazing.  One of them might be able to figure out how to use the bottle brick to stop bullets.

If you wish to to discuss this with me I’m in the book Wylie, Texas.  My email address is my first name at this web address.

I am very interested in critiques.   Consider this open source, a work in progress, dream the dream…

What would be the best thing ever though would be for the bottle brick to become recyclable itself.  When a bottle brick building is demolished the bottle bricks are recycled and used again.

Another aspect that excites me is the idea of it creating commerce.  There could be employment creating the bottle bricks.  The construction could also provide employment.  Procuring the materials, bottles, would also be employment and commerce.  Rooms could be bought and sold, rents could be arranged.  Wealth would be generated at all levels of involvement.

There is one and only one difference between communities as I see it.  Commerce, the business of business is what took Japan from desolation to wealth.  The same thing has happend to China.  Japan is a democracy and  China is communist.  But they both escaped poverty as a nation through commerce.  Suggesting poor countries can’t do the same is ignoring the most obvious thing of all.  We’re people first.