DIY actuated ball valve

[Derek] sent in this electric ball valve he built for his bio-diesel reactor. If you haven’t checked, the commercial versions are pretty expensive. His solution was to mate a salvaged saturn wiper motor (sans control board) with a polypropylene bolted ball valve.

Oh, and happy birthday to me.


  1. jimmythecow says:

    Happy Birthday!!!

  2. Dean says:

    Happy birthday indeed! Rock out my friend.

  3. afbcom says:

    I just had a birthday and I always say happy new year to myself, for this is a new year for me(you too now), and I feel renewed with purpose. In that I wish you a good year, here’s to you Mr. Hackaday.

  4. foerdi says:

    happy birthday! keep up that great work!

  5. Mastro Gippo says:

    Happy Birthday! I love your website!

  6. max says:

    happy birthday!

  7. Kashan Ahmad says:

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY !!!!!!!!

  8. strider_mt2k says:

    They’ve shut down the main reactor, we’ll be destroyed for sure!
    That is some nice work. looks like it’s well put together so it should hold up as long as that saturn wiper motor does!

    Oh, and happy birthday to him.

  9. luke the marsbar says:

    have a happy birthday. :D
    and keep the hack’s comeing
    love the site
    (great hack to!!!)

  10. Skyler Orlando says:

    Happy birthday!

    What kind of cake did you have?

  11. PocketBrain says:

    Nice pictures, where’s the process? A few details, maybe a manifesto on biodiesel production and use? I have always said that the city should use biodiesel it its buses, then I could invest in fast food restaurants and clean up!
    Oh, and HB2U.

  12. groobo says:

    Happy birthday mate!

  13. Ridley says:

    Happy Birthday! I love your site, gives me something to do at work… >.>

  14. kirk says:

    happy birthday will!

  15. gesmes says:

    Happy b-day

  16. atrain says:

    Happy birthday!
    Wheres the writeup? All I see are pictures!

    And: what a coincidence. My rear windshield wiper motor just died on me yesterday. How often are windshield wiper motors on the front page of hackaday?

  17. Captain Zilog says:

    Happy Birthday and keep up the great work!!!

  18. jimmythecow says:

    What kind of cake did you have?
    Skyler Orlando

    There is no cake.

    The cake is a lie!

  19. ClutchDude says:

    Happy B-day. This site’s been a source of inspiration.

  20. eduke says:

    happy b-day :)

    keep on hacking !!!

  21. Koray says:

    happy birthday!.. keep going, i love to stop by everyday.

  22. Doug says:

    Happy birthday to the birthday person. In the event this valve is used in a safety critical application, I see a flaw. No easy quick manual operation is evident.

  23. MacGyver says:

    this joker is lucky the production of bio-diesel is essentially done at atmospheric pressure. There’s a reason ball-actuated valves cost so much: cause they have a low failure rate, and if they dofail, they fail in a way that is safe.

    Imagine for a moment one of these hacked valves in a high pressure system. Pressure builds up behind the valve and the valve suddenly fails to operate to relieve the pressure. Reactor vessel breaches, spews bio-diesel as both liquid and gas. Then they meet a method of combustion, and voila, you don’t have a house anymore.

    But, low pressure system, it’s not likely to happen, so whatever floats your boat.


  24. Derek White says:

    Once I get the bio processor all put together Ill write up a page all about it and Ill take pictures of it in the process of being put together, I will also take pictures of the next valve I make, I still need 4 more. Submitting to hackaday was an afterthought so I didnt take pictures of the valve when I was making it

  25. Frogz says:

    argh someone beat me to the cake is a lie, to twenty one, it is no more dangerous than the parts that went into it, a high quality ball value wont suddenly fail under rated pressure. the motor should be strong enough to move it comment made through opera mini on a phone yay. i wonder how many entrys site stats have for om…

  26. andres says:

    happy b-day

  27. Derek White says:

    A plastic valve should never be used for high pressure systems, thats kinda a obvious thing I would think, but as for a fail safe this valve does have one, I need to get a write up i guess so things are more clear, the 2 micro switches on the valve not only limit the travel of the motor but also tell the computer running the hole processor that the valve did or didnt make a full cycle, and the computer would shut the system down and tell which valve failed to move seems like a pretty effective fail safe to me nothing blowing up or burning. For my processor a poly valve is perfect, in other cases a brass or stainless valve may be a better choice just like anything else choose what fits the job best. On a high pressure system I would hope people would be smart enough to build in some kind of pressure relief valve so things dont blow up

  28. MacGyver says:

    I stand corrected, you are not a joker, you know what you are doing. Sounds like you thought this through a lot more than what the pictures depict.

    Yes, I’d hope that another person who built a contraption like this would know better than to use it without any safety precautions. However, America is the culture that invented the slip and slide, the dvd-rewinder, and the non-locking pocket knife, so forgive my initial scepticism?


  29. Derek White says:

    I understand what you mean completely people arnt to smart some times, Im a mechanic by profession and seeing some of the things people do when they try to fix there own cars just makes you want to pull your hair out.
    no hard feelings just wanted to clarify things

  30. Gigawatts says:

    Hey! February 3rd is a good birthday! ;) I too aged a year on the 3rd. Hope you had fun!

  31. MacGyver says:

    Frogz –

    The issue isn’t with the ball valve, the issue is with the ‘hacked’ together actuated piece. If the motor fails, or the controller fails, or if a short gets into the system (and it can), the ball valve might not open when it’s supposed to. If this were high pressure, that would be scary. Luckily, the hacker knows what he’s doing and won’t be doing anything crazy with it.

    I’m sure the ball valve is a wonderful piece of engineering, -the problem is that it is being controlled by a salvaged piece of equipment-.

    “Should” is not a word that is used in process control. “Should” costs millions of dollars in damages and could kill people. “Should” causes disasters like the Texas City Refinary incident, the Tacoma Narrows brigde collapse, and the Columbia Space Shuttle disaster.

    I really need to stop coming back to this thread.


  32. Matt says:

    Happy Birthday!!!

    How old are you?

  33. Purdue_Engr says:


    Very interesting project. Could you post some more pictures of your valve? Also, where did you get it/Who made the valve? I’d love to get the specs.


  34. Derek White says:

    I would be glad to take more pics, what do you want to see better on the valve ? I also posted a video of it in operation. I got the valve at a Big R, its a farm supply store, I dont see a name on the valve but it should be similar to

  35. Very cool, I build biodiesel processors which turn waste vegetable oil into biodiesel. It is really amazing how simple the process is, as well as saving the customer $2-3 per gallon at the pumps. Algae biodiesel looks even more promising. As the other poster said, we just need to keep moving in the right direction.

  36. Ramdayal says:

    I also have same products blog, so if some one intrested in more info of valves, then please visit given blog, for lot of diffrent types of valves.

  37. china valve says: deeply felt.
    thanks for you thanks.
    They- the one:ball valve ,
    globe valve,need make efforts to research it.

  38. Ball Valves says:

    Actuators are used for the automation of industrial valves and can be found in all kinds of technical process plants: they are used in waste water treatment plants, power plants and even refineries.

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