|| 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
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
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 materialssuch as plastics, paper, cardboard boxes, and synthetic
fibersinto dense packages for shipping and handling," says Anthony.
Three commercial firms have licensed this invention for manufacturing and
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.