Precious Plastic Pilot – Maldives, Beam Production

@pauldufour and I are currently in the Maldives, working in partnership with Parley for the Oceans, in an effort to setup local plastic recycling infrastructure.

We have a topic specifically for products we make while we are here.
You can find that here: Maldives, Product Design

This topic will focus on how we are producing beams with resources available here in the Maldives.


During v4, myself, @timslab, and @peter-bas were working on extruder development, with a focus on industrial beam output. You can see more here:
Extrusion Molds
Extruder Development

Our machine here in the Maldives is not what we were operating and testing with during v4. That being said, we are semi limited in several categories:
Width and Lengh
Production Time

I like to think the setup we are using here is more aligned with the extruder build most people are running, which is the current model PP has released.

So far, we have found that it is hard to find thick gauge steel tubing / and or does not exist here. Tubing is also almost always galvanized here, which means welding it without grinding is unadvised, due to zinc poisoning.

With those things in mind, we have already begun production of a 40×40 by just shy of 2 meter length. We purchased a 3 meter length of 22 gauge tubing from a local metal distributor and got to work.

Due to sketchy stick welding setups on thin gauge tubing and using scrap steel for bolt connections to the machine, we are getting the beam out of the mold from the non machine end, so we dont have to worry about any weld splatter / extra material getting in the way of removing the beam.
(Past beam molds were removed from the machine end, but with the upgraded v4 machine, we were able to keep the mold on the machine, and after a cooling period, restart extrusion which would push the old beam out of the mold.)

By extruding just to the 2 meter length, after a quick 10 min ocean cooling, the beam slides right out real easy. We are not producing extremely smooth beams, like ones seen in our v4 production, but they are also not extremely haggard, and very usable.

We have found that extruding a beam over 2 meters results in difficulties removing the beam from the mold. We believe this has to do with inherent pressure build up over length. We prefer not to use mold release if we can.

That’s all for now!
I leave you with a photo of our current little setup.
photos of the beam mold(s) will come within a week 🙂

Take it easy!

there are some ways to heat with compost, i heard of cases where it build up heat so badly that it caused fire. anyways, may be this could ease the filling phase

Ocean Cooling Process

We just let the thing sit in the breakers for 15 minutes. The beam slides out with a few taps of a hammer.

HDPE Beams

PP Beams

Update time!

Beam production is going along fairly smoothly.

We had some minor setbacks with our extrusion machine. Back pressure from a clog shattered our motor mount, so we had to rebuild the frame.

Shout out to Reliable Workshop (portside in Male) for machining the faceplates for the motor.

Make sure your machine has been heating for a fair amount of time before pushing any plastic!

With that we are back to extrusions. Here are some logistics:


Mold Size: 40×40 – 22 gauge

Melting temps: 200 / 220

40 minutes run time

15 minute ocean cool (see photos)

In an effort to try to increase production time, we tried increasing melting temps to 220 / 240. This did not change anything, with run time still at 40 minutes to fill the mold.


Mold Size: 40×40 – 22 gauge

Melting temps: 200 / 220

23 minutes run time

15 minute ocean cool

HDPE is much faster, and produces a much smoother product.

We are not plugging the beams with wood blocks / any resistance in fear of busting our very thin walled tubing. HDPE’s results are very consistent, and produce a smooth enough product where it feel unnecessary.

PP would benefit from some mold resistance; the beams are still strong, but potentially unappealing for a certain aesthetic. We still think they are very usable / if anything communicate the material more clearly than something super smooth.

So far we have used the 40×40 beams to make some comfy Maldivian hammock chairs. They can be viewed in the Product Design Topic

We will now be moving onto making a bench, using long 50×25 beams sitting on a rebar frame. Other molds we are going to be working with are 25×25 square, and 20mm round. We hope to make some planters from the square, and want to experiment further with warping / bending the round beams.

That’s all for now. Thanks for tuning in!