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HOLLOW BLOCK MAKING PROCESS

ALT PROCESS NO. 1


1. Pulverized soil is passed through a wire screen, 1/4 inch wire mesh to separate
larger pieces. A mixture of 1 part cement to 3 parts waste products is formulated.
2. Mix all materials together, add water and pour into molds.
3. Let stand for several hours until dry.
4. After drying, remove from molds and let stand along one side for 10 days while
sprinkling water at regular intervals to avoid cracking.

ALT PROCESS NO.2


Mixing

1 The sand, gravel and waste materials are stored outside in piles. The
cement is stored outside in large vertical silos to protect it from moisture.

2 As a production run starts, the required amounts of sand, gravel, cement


and waste materials are transferred and are weigh to measure the proper
amounts of each material.

3 The dry materials then flow into a stationary mixer where they are blended
together for several minutes.

4 After the dry materials are blended, a small amount of water is added to
the mixer. Admixture chemicals and coloring pigments may also be added at
this time. The concrete is then mixed for six to eight minutes.

Molding

5 Once the load of concrete is thoroughly mixed, it is dumped into an inclined


bucket conveyor and transported to an elevated hopper. The mixing cycle
begins again for the next load.

6 From the hopper the concrete is conveyed to another hopper on top of the
block machine at a measured flow rate. In the block machine, the concrete is

forced downward into molds. The molds consist of an outer mold box
containing several mold liners.

7 When the molds are full, the concrete is compacted by the weight of the
upper mold head coming down on the mold cavities. Most block machines
also use a short burst of mechanical vibration to further aid compaction.

8 The compacted blocks are pushed down and out of the molds onto a flat
steel pallet. The pallet and blocks are pushed out of the machine and onto a
chain conveyor. In some operations the blocks then pass under a rotating
brush which removes loose material from the top of the blocks.

Curing

9 The pallets of blocks are conveyed to an automated stacker or loader which


places them in a curing rack. Each rack holds several hundred blocks.

10 The kiln is an enclosed room with the capacity to hold several racks of
blocks at a time. Steam is then gradually introduced to raise the temperature
at a controlled rate of not more than 60F per hour (16C per hour). Standard
weight blocks are usually cured at a temperature of 150-165F (66-74C),
while lightweight blocks are cured at 170-185F (77-85C). When the curing
temperature has been reached, the steam is shut off, and the blocks are
allowed to soak in the hot, moist air for 12-18 hours. After soaking, the blocks
are dried by exhausting the moist air and further raising the temperature in
the kiln. The whole curing cycle takes about 24 hours.

Cubing

11 The racks of cured blocks are rolled out of the kiln, and the pallets of
blocks are unstacked and placed on a chain conveyor. The blocks are pushed
off the steel pallets, and the empty pallets are fed back into the block
machine to receive a new set of molded blocks.

12 If the blocks are to be made into split-face blocks, they are first molded as
two blocks joined together. Once these double blocks are cured, they pass
through a splitter, which strikes them with a heavy blade along the section
between the two halves. This causes the double block to fracture and form a
rough, stone-like texture on one face of each piece.

13 The blocks pass through a cuber which aligns each block and then stacks
them into a cube three blocks across by six blocks deep by three or four
blocks high. These cubes are carried outside with a forklift and placed in
storage.

ALT PROCESS NO. 3

Find a Suitable Place: Find a wide open space, even better if it is shaded,
that will work if rain is not that much in your place. The space should be wide
enough to mix concrete and to pour it in mold.
Make the mold: Use plywood planks and nails to make a one side open box
with an inner cavity of 300mm (length) x 200mm (width) x 150mm (thick). This is
the standard size of a concrete brick.
Prepare the concrete mix: Get a large container, as large as you can get in
your work area. You will require cement, sand, gravel, and water for making the
concrete mix. Put the cement, sand, and gravel in the container at a ratio
of 1:2:3. Start mixing water in the container and stir the mixture continuously
with a rod. Pour water until the concrete mixture become pliable enough to pour
in the mold.
Making the raw concrete block: Pour the concrete mixture in to the mold,
and stir or vibrate the mold so that the concrete gets settled in the mold and
reaches the extreme corners. Scoop the excess concrete mixture using a plywood
plank at the open face of the mold. Level the open surface smooth by running the
plywood plank across it.
Curing: The concrete block need to be kept in the mold for 24 hours for
drying. Then remove the concrete block from the mold and put it in a water tank
for curing. The curing process will provide the required compressive strength and
will take around two weeks.

TIPS:

Finishes
Quality of finish is maximised by compacting the mix well in the mould, and by
using accurately made moulds.
Sparkling finishes are obtained by adding crushed glass.
Mould accuracy helps keep the mortar lines straight and consistent. If the blocks are
just a mm or 2 off, this can't be done.
Moulds
Moulds may be made from 2x4 and lined with polythene. Other wood sizes and
mould release agents can also be used if preferred. Dividers between mould cavities
may be made with thinner wood if needed.
To get a good flat smooth face on one side, use a mould base of sheet wood with
polythene on it, and sit the polythene lined frame onto this. Take care the polythene
is fully flat, and does not ruck or fold. Thick polythene is ideal.
Cut and assemble wood moulds accurately to obtain blocks of accurate shape,
which will always look better than inaccurately shaped blocks.
One moulding tip is to make the mould such that a small percentage of half blocks
get produced. This saves work during construction.
If you plan to run wiring in a block wall, you can save work by fitting small strips of
wood to some of the moulds so as to make ready cast wiring channels.
Block Types
High vs low strength blocks
Final block compressive strength is determined by

the mixture (1:3:5 is strongest)

the amount of water used in the mix (the less the stronger)

how well the mortar is compacted in the mould (stiff mixes are difficult to
compact)
keeping the concrete damp for its 1 month curing time

The highest possible strength blocks are made with a semi-dry mix and compacted
by a hydraulic press.

Garbage fill
Hollow blocks can be filled with a mix of non-expanding garbage and cement
mortar, or solid blocks can have garbage dumped in the centre during pour. This
gives a greater total load carrying ability than a hollow block while reducing cost.
This is a way to reduce costs by using unwanted hard materials such as broken
concrete, brick, removed plaster and so on.
Low strength blocks for dry use may have a high percentage of garbage throughout
the mix, but all garbage must be thermally and chemically compatible. Suitable
materials include

shredded paper

sawdust

broken brick

crushed concrete

hardcore

stone waste
Maximising Strength

Optimum 1:3:5 mix

low water content, a semi-dry mix

good compression of mix in mould

fibres to reduce cracking


Troubleshooting

Edge breakup

leave in mould longer before removing

protect curing blocks from frost

Ensure mould sections separate easily to avoid scraping the newly moulded
block during mould removal.
use a good mould release agent, such as polythene

Insufficient strength

see [#Maximising Strength]

allow a full month for blocks to cure.

keep blocks damp while curing

protect from frost during cure. A tarp is adequate for very mild frost.

Do not use concrete that was wetted more than 30-40 minutes before pour.
Out of time concrete can be poured to make low strength blocks.

Cement smeared over face decorative features

brush or wipe the surface before the block is cured

Gentle use of a copper scourer on the surface will remove cement from
features (steel can cause rust staining). Take care not to damage the infill.

After cure, remove a very thin surface layer by brushing on a little brick acid.
Don't overdo it.

Air pockets

tamp, vibrate or compress more thoroughly in mould to prevent this


Though visible holes could be filled en masse, interior voids still remain, and
such blocks should not be exposed to freezing water.