Soil Pulverizer Annihilates Soil Handling Limits

We are glad to report that the LifeTrac-mounted, open source soil pulverizer has annihilated soil-handling limits from our compressed earth brick (CEB) pressing ability. Initial testing achieved 5 ton per hour soil throughput, while The Liberator CEB press requires about 2 tons of soil per hour.

We have shown the pulverizer rotor development in a previous post. See the build and testing of the machine after the addition of the bucket and lift cylinder:

Soil Pulverizer Prototype 1 Complete from Marcin Jakubowski on Vimeo.

The tractor-mounted pulverizer is used to dig soil and load it directly into the CEB machine. Other CEB pressing industry standards may involve a tractor loader, stationary soil pulverizer, conveyor, and then the CEB machine. See this example from Powell and Sons. We’re replacing the stationary soil pulverizer and conveyor with LifeTrac. This simplifies the equipment costs significantly – and our initial tests show that our strategy works well.

Stationary soil pulverizers comparable in throughput to ours cost over $20k. Ours cost $200 in materials – which is not bad in terms of 100-fold price reduction. The trick to this feat is modular design. We are using components that are already part of our LifeTrac infrastructure. The hydraulic motor is our power take-off (PTO) motor, the rotor is the same tiller that we made last year – with the tiller tines replaced by pulverizer tines. The bucket is the same standard loader bucket that we use for many other applications.

Yes, we are making the dream of a life-size lego set for heavy equipment a reality. This has huge economic significance, and is noteworthy from the post-scarcity perspecive.

It is interesting to compare this development to our CEB work from last year – given our lesson that soil moving is the main bottleneck in earth building. It takes 16 people, 2 walk-behind rototillers, many shovels and buckets, plus backbreaking labor – to load our machine as fast as it can produce bricks. We can now replace this number of people with 1 person – by mechanizing the earth moving work with the tractor-mounted pulverizer. In a sample run, it took us about 2 minutes to load the pulverizer bucket – with soil sufficient for about 30 bricks. Our machine produces 5 bricks per minute – so we have succeeded in removing the soil-loading bottleneck from the equation.

This is a major milestone for our ability to do CEB construction. Our results indicate that we can press 2500 bricks in an 8 hour day – with 3 people. One person is the tractor operator, the second person runs the controls, and the third person stacks bricks on pallets. Further optimization involves adding automatic controls to the CEB machine, so the same task can be accomplished with 2 people.

We haven’t seen a similar combination loader-pulverizer anywhere else. Have you? Our strategy appears to be the most efficient from the ergonomic perspective.

Completion of our CEB building infrastructure – a critical component of the Global Village Construction Set – is forthcoming. This includes the large CEB hopper, multipurpose slurry mixer for mortar, and mud sprayer for plastering. This will finally allow us to build effectively – and to bootstrap ourselves out of an inadequate built environment.


  1. Get a Real Job! | Open Source Ecology

    […] Take a look at the last post on the soil pulverizer […]

  2. anonymous

    Looking good! I’d maybe add some guard in front also for a bit of increased safety.

    Have you tested it with the CEB press yet?

    It seems the CEB press should be pretty easy to automate, when you get some electrically controlled valves for it. It’s probably been mentioned, but Arduinos are nice to program and interface with other electronics (but will probably need relays to drive the valves). A few potentiometers could be used to allow run-time adjustment of the pressing height and time, or whatever needs adjusting.

  3. Inga

    Hey “Q” just keep on building these incredible machines, they are awesome!

  4. Abe

    You’re gonna need at least 2 people stacking bricks, probably more like 3. I can tell you from experience, over 2000 bricks per day by yourself is exhausting, and you won’t be able to do it very many days in a row. 2 people can actually be very fast with it once they get synced up, and they can move a few thousand a day. Just keep that in mind.

  5. Ama

    Hmm – thats pretty great for earth brick and for prep of earth for mudchink and Cob as well… I like it.. Using the lifetrac is really saving money, like a real isolated post-inductrial farm will have to do: optimise what they already have.

    Hmm hmmm – SAFETY GATE or BAR needed in front so children or elders or residentclutzes do not get torn up & fed into into hopper(who come with Self Replication, yes yes yes when the village has women and children you dont want to have bloodbricks.)

  6. Pressing Times | Open Source Ecology

    […] we use the Soil Pulverizer/Loader for the first time in the CEB workflow to grind a pile of soil. Since there was not a single day […]

  7. Product | Open Source Ecology

    […] addition. In 2009, we were busy completing the CEB Prototype II and supporting equipment like the pulverizer-loader. Add the soil shaker in the last post, and we’ve got […]

  8. […] the soil pulverizer, we could throw a bag of cement in front of the pulverizer as we work the soil (80 lb for a 1000 lb […]

  9. […] the machine – as fast as it’s able to produce them. We will also have to upgrade our soil pulverizer to keep up with this demand for soil. We’ve achieved serious performance, sufficient for […]

  10. […] its initial, manual prototype, to our not-so-effective building adventures, to Prototype II, to the soil pulverizer, to the first prototype of the automatic CEB controls, to beta version product release with manual […]

  11. […] Plus, we still need to finish LifeTrac Prototype II, build Power Cube Prototype II, and build the Soil Pulverizer Prototype II – all in preparation for building, which we were hoping would begin on August […]

  12. […] 35 horsepower of drive in total. At the same time, we are beginning on the second prototype of the soil pulverizer for CEB […]

  13. […] have considerably different fertilizer needs than younger, less highly weathered soils. The soil also provides mechanical support that allows the plant to stand upright. Soil temperature and […]

  14. […] Power Cube I. This is not bad at all for a lawnmower engine. Also, compare the present results with Prototype I to see the simplifications. For one, we have eliminated the hydraulic cylinder of Prototype I for […]