Electromagnetic Aluminum Can Crushing

This has been around for a while, but we never covered it – and it’s friggin’ awesome. [jesse] sent in this crusher, but I featured this one due to a sort of draconian copyright notice on the former. The latter also uses some easier to find, hackable parts. They’re both built on similar concepts – use a large bank of capacitors to store up the energy needed, and deliver it in one large pulse to a coil electromagnet. The resulting force lasts for a short time, but is enough to physically crush an aluminum can inward without touching it. Yet another one has some more dramatic examples of crushed cans.

15 thoughts on “Electromagnetic Aluminum Can Crushing

  1. Your comments: My personal favorite can crusher is Peters (a different peter) at
    Altair’s doesn’t really have enough energy to give the full effect if a crushing can, and the powerlabs one doesn’t do much better since he used electrolytic caps which just aren’t suited to the job. And sam is an ass who overstates his work to get donations.
    Also, mikeselectricstuff has some nice high speed pictures of his setup

  2. This seems really dangerous. But I still want to try it.

    If you put a can inside a caped pvc pipe, then a smaller capped pipe inside the big one, and sealed it, and shot it lots of pressure, could air crush a can? (eg: like a piston kind of thing)
    that would be a cheap + fun project, and with an air compressor, id use it after every can I drink :P

  3. What would be really cool would be to have magnets suspend the can in mid-air, and then crush it, and resume the suspension immediately afterwards. Then you’d just put the can in the air, watch it bob up and down a couple and times, then be smashed into an unrecognizable pulp. I’d start buying coke in cans if I had such a thing.

  4. All the states around me have 5 cent deposits on cans that are based on the UPC symbol. Crushing them, while totally sensible, throws money away.

    I donate all my cans to the fire department. The explorer post there (a spinoff of the boy scounts) has a bin, and they cash them in and by stuff. They chipped in on a big towing sled (snow mobile) for our snow rescue trailer, have helped with AED training, and other stuff like that.

    Now, using the same technology here as a potato launcher……

  5. I would be more interested in a design that could crush cans vertically, in that it would actually be useful in the same way crushing cans with a wall-mounted device is.

    I don’t believe this technology could be easily adapted to serve this purpose, without several synchronized coils which all fired at once, turning the can into a very small tube. I don’t know how those coils would interact with one another though.

    In the ‘coin shrinking’ field, the coil is often destroyed at high energies, I didn’t notice any of the sites mentioning this, is this due to the pliable nature of the can?

    #4) This isn’t really applicable to a potato launcher, the force is all directed ‘inwards’ from the coil. It might be doable, but there are many much more effective techniques.

  6. It might be possible to crush the can vertically using a larger coil. This type of setup can be used to launch things, it just takes a flat wound coil; though the projectile does have to be non-ferrous and conductive. The coils are typically destroyed by a combination of effects, but it could be possible to preserve them if enough mechanical restraint could be integrated into the design(such as encasing the coil in some kind of resin or polymer).

  7. Draconian My ASS!
    Just because you guys are a news aggregator and have no actual creative or innovative abilities, and that your basically getting fat (ad space) on the work of others doesn’t invalidate the fact that they do the work, and they have a right to protect it! Today I lost 200 points of respect for hackaday.

  8. The Powerlabs guy is a freak.

    “Copyright © 2000 – 2002 by Sam Barros. All rights reserved. Removing any material from this site for display without consent from its author consists in an infringement of international copyright laws and can result in fines up to $50000 per infringement, plus legal costs. So ASK ME before you remove anything from here.”

    First of all you don’t “remove” material from a website unless you hack it and take down the web page. If that’s all he’s worried about then 50 grand per infringement is a pretty reasonable price.

    Also what if I hot link an image from his website? That’s not removing anything and his pictures are never stored on my servers so that seems like it would not be infringing.

    After all that he isn’t even able to crush a can. All he can do is reduce the diameter by a few cm. I have no problem with experimenting and failing but this guy acts like he’s solved world hunger.

  9. @ #7) A flat wound coil is cool for launching coins upwards, but for a potato gun is probably not the best design, I can’t imagine the capacitor bank to drive anything of any significant mass with a flat coil.

    some friends and I once experimented with rail guns/coil launchers and had a pretty large array of capacitors charged to ~300v because we didn’t want to start messing around with neon sign transformers and achieved pretty small-scale results.

  10. While the term “can crushing” is used. isn’t this more about using magnetics fields to form metal, than it is about crushing a can to reduce the volume it take up in a recycling bin? Where it takes so much energy to pinch an AL can where it’s weakest, imagine the energy that would be required to collapse the can vertically where the can is strongest.

    Adrew P.; The nickel/dime(depending on what era you grew up in) deposit worked with soda bottle because it wasn’t about recycling the glass, but recycling the bottle. Unless you returned an empty bottle a new(take out) bottle of soda would cost an extra nickle/dime. Unless a deposit scheme cost people money not to return used containers its doomed to fail, so if you can use any any deposit scheme to your financial advantage do it now while you can.

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