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Invention Reduces Cotton Bale Packaging Forces


  A tiny cotton boll harvested from a field ends up in a 500-pound bale that is shipped to textile mills or traded on the world market. At first glance, the soft fiber may appear delicate, but it actually endures a lot of pressure before making its way into a comfy pillow or familiar sweater.


At the gin, fiber is separated from the seed and cleaned. Then it's sent to a bale press, which compresses loose cotton into compact, dense bales. "Each bale is subjected to more than 800,000 pounds of force," says agricultural engineer W. Stanley Anthony. Research leader of ARS' U.S. Cotton Ginning Research Laboratory, in Stoneville, Mississippi, Anthony developed and patented a device that reduces bale packaging forces and should ultimately reduce cotton bale packaging costs.


After cotton is pressed, six or eight metal or plastic bands or wires, called bale ties, are wrapped around the bale to keep it intact for shipping and handling. If packaging is done incorrectly, some bale ties may break.


About 800,000 of the 15 to 20 million U.S. cotton bales produced annually require bale-tie repairs, costing producers up to $35 per bale. Repair costs increase the cost of the final consumer product. Anthony's device reduces the force needed to compress cotton bales to 500,000 pounds. "This allows bales to be compressed to proper densities, thereby reducing subsequent repairs, which saves producers time and money," says Anthony.


"This technology should also reduce energy costs associated with the bale press by 35 percent," he says, "since electricity powers the hydraulic motors and pumps that compress these bales."


Anthony's device can be incorporated into a gin's existing equipment without costing a substantial amount. Components of the new bale press, like cylinders, pumps, and motors, can be smaller than existing equipment, which should reduce the $300,000 initial cost typically required for the press.


"This invention can also be used in other industries that use compression of loose materials—such as plastics, paper, cardboard boxes, and synthetic fibers—into dense packages for shipping and handling," says Anthony. Three commercial firms have licensed this invention for manufacturing and distribution.—By Tara Weaver-Missick, Agricultural Research Service Information Staff.


W. Stanley Anthony is in the USDA-ARS Cotton Ginning Research Unit, 111 Experiment Station Rd., P.O. Box 256, Stoneville, MS 38776-0256; phone (662) 686-3094, fax (662) 686-5483.

"Invention Reduces Cotton Bale Packaging Forces" was published in the January 2001 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.



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