A Fully Automatic Electric Can Crusher

Those of us who recycle our empty drink cans know the annoying storage problem these containers present. For an object with very little metal, a can takes up a huge amount of space, and should you possess a greater than average thirst you can soon end up with a lot of space taken up with stacks of cans. The solution of course is to crush them, and while there are many simple solutions involving hinged blocks of wood or lever systems, this is 2019! We have Machines to that kind of thing for us! [All Things Electro-Mechanical] thinks so anyway, for he has created an automatic can crusher that is a joy to behold.

At its heart is a 120V AC powered linear actuator, which crushes a can held in a welded steel guide. As the can is crushed it drops into a waiting bin, and when the actuator retracts a fresh can drops down from a hopper. Control is handled by a Raspberry Pi, and there are end sensors for the actuator and an optical sensor for the can hopper. As it stands, once the last can is in place the machine stops due to the optical sensor registering no can in the hopper, but no doubt a software change could cause it to execute a single crush cycle after the last can it detects.

This machine would be an ideal candidate for a simple industrial automation system, but however it is controlled it would save its owner from an embarrassing test of strength. Take a look, we’ve posted the two videos showing it in action below the break.

Thanks [Baldpower] for the tip.

63 thoughts on “A Fully Automatic Electric Can Crusher

  1. Cool, but I can’t help but notice those cans appear to have been pre-squeezed so they’ll nicely collapse. An improved version would squeeze the sides of the one above the linear actuator (a solenoid on each side smashing into it would probably be enough).

    1. I was thinking more like a chamber that the can would be pushed into and the plunger would be powered by a 500 psi pneumatic cylinder and an auto eject and reload powered by waste gas. Think: over sized “Chicago typewriter” mechanism. High speed crushing with uniform, minimal volume output.Now that would be entertaining!

      1. That’s the safest way. I saw what happens when a bit of molten steel burns through you front overalls pocket and a lighter when you using an Oxy-Acetaline. He didn’t have the balls to do that again.

          1. I was really hoping he put a full can in, but alas, I wasted my time by watching the whole thing when a short animated GIF in loop mode would have done just the same.

          2. I think the machine shown in the article is more likely to successfully destroy a full can than the one in this video, based on a much higher mechanical advantage.

    1. Instead of constructing this machine, which is essentially muscle powered anyway, I would just step on the empty can. About 110daN of force should be sufficient :-) If not then jump. :-)

  2. I’m blessed by living 1/2 mile from a recycling center. Current price for AL cans is 35c/lb. Get about 1$/30gallon bag uncrushed. The economics of this device would be for someone who’s gotta transport massive amounts , from perhaps a bar in the middle of nowhere . Well, it would be no doubt a A+ on your resume !.

  3. “but no doubt a software change could cause it to execute a single crush cycle after the last can it detects” Or, you know, move the sensor down one step?

    Also, why crush them at all?

  4. One more consideration is safety. It looks very easy for a kid (or adult) to stick a finger into where it would also get crushed. Another improvement would be to design the hopper so that you can dump cans in at any orientation and they will get sorted out into the proper orientation for crushing. As for Denting the cans to allow less force the crush you could probably rig some sort of lever that the crushing actuator briefly pushed on as it goes by to dent the can, it does not take much.

    1. You would have to be disabled in some way to not be able to react fast enough to move out of the way of that thing. It’s really really slow. Agree about the hopper though, seems you’ll be spending a lot of time waiting since you can only load a new can every every 15 seconds or so.

      1. I have seen injuries from some pretty slow moving equipment, including a lathe carriage on a large lathe (48″ swing) that was traveling at about 2″/min (50mm/min) (crush and trap injury, non-fatal). Inattention or unawareness can kill, even at those speeds.

  5. TL;DW. I mean, DAMN, that’s the slowest can crusher I’ve ever seen. If you send the kid out with a bag of cans, he’s going to take one look at that machine, remember the last time, and just stomp on them instead.

  6. How about a video of it crushing a full can of, oh, say carb cleaner ? (something that would go “BOOM !!!!” – as our 2 knuckleheads from the 80’s would say “heh heh heh heh heh… fire ! fire ! fire ! kill it with fire !!”

    1. Yes ours need to be able to have the barcode readable. It’s not to bad for cans but for “tetra” packs it’s have right pain in the arse.

      It’s the dumbest recycling effort I’ve seen – I’m sure it’s just a way to track who’s consuming what product to catch those that refuse to use store cards

      1. Having to bring empty single use containers back to the store (deposit system) is “the dumbest recycling effort ever seen” altogether. I bring my empty cans to the next recycling container (150m) but I do not bring liquid-dripping empty cans back to a store.

  7. As one commenter has to do, some reclaiming places won’t take uncrushed cans. I don’t know as of now but in Michigan there is a 10 cent deposit on each can, money! However the stores won’t take them crushed. I found this when leaving Michigan after crushing everyone’s cans on a trip to save space in a small car. Thus my name for this type of machine, muck fish-again machine. That’s not more carp and suckers on your line, but garbage sacks stacked with whole cans forming hexagonal prisms of thirty gallon size weighing very little. That is how they handle them to reclaim. I am for a deposit on all trash from fast food and convenience stores, but there are those sanitation and butts problems, lemon slices too.

    Then there Fosters, tall ones, and Resin deviants to consider in any can handling system, yet alone those aluminum bottles. The UPC tag should simplify the worth in recycling, uncrushed of course. It’ a mess.

    1. Must be a tradeoff – crushed cans don’t hold liquid, but do hold scrap metal. You’d need a big magnet to sort most of it, but lead or glass pieces would not be detectable without x-ray.

    2. Yeah, people in states that have deposits always look at crushers and yell “WTF!!??”. Here in states where they are only worth scrap metal, crushing makes it easier to store (wait for higher prices) and easier to transport.

  8. When I was a teenager, we built an automatic can crusher. It had a flywheel with an arm coming off it like a crankshaft, connected to a “piston” that would crush the cans. There was a large hopper above it that funneled the cans into the crusher, aligning them as they got to the bottom of the hopper. The hopper was the hardest part to get right. The flywheel was connected, on the other side of the bearings, to a half horsepower 120v AC motor via reduction gears, pulleys and a belt. The hopper held about 20 gallons. Just turn it on and dump your cans in. It would crush about 20 cans a minute, maybe more.The can crusher was necessitated by all the lake parties at the cabin. We would save all the cans and bring them in in the spring when aluminum prices were high. We usually got about $350 a year from them.

  9. I like the engineering spirit in this innovative IT-fueled can crusher. However, the very best way to solve any space issues with empty soda (and also beer) cans is to leave them in the store. Aluminum is an extremely energy consumptive resource and – except for life style and perception – nothing really speaks to aluminum cans for packaging sugar water.
    Cheers and thanks for all the fish.

    1. I don not want to drink them in the store, so I take them to the lake, or to any place I want to drink the contents. The can is a lightweight, practical container, not as heavy and breakable as glass. Luckily it is also often cheaper. I bring my empty cans to a recycling bin. Luckily we don’t have a deposit system here.

      1. Your statement are all true and valid. They actually helped a lot on the commercial success story of aluminum cans. No doubts. On the other hand consuming aluminum cans is not really environmentally friendly, given the amount of energy used for producing the aluminum from natural resources. Also the fact that they are seen to be recyclable doesn’t rehabilitate them when considering that the recycling process again is energy consuming, not a last because of the trucks carrying around the trash, and then later on the sugar water filled new cans again.

  10. I used to love to crush alumin[i]um cans end to end.
    Then I dropped some off at a recycling center and saw a lot of cans that had been crushed that way laying on the ground,
    They easily fell through the mesh of their bulk containers. Cans crushed “sideways” remained in the bins.

  11. Hi all. I built an electric can crusher that works off 120 VAC. Uses Arduino board software written in C++ and and crushes a can in7 sec. been in use for about a year. Still looking for financing to go into production. About $50 of materials for an Estimated end price <$100. Comments welcome.

  12. i have a 2 sleeve hydraulic can crusher. uses a 110v motor and a power steering pump. had it for over 20 years, works great. unsmashed cans take up way too much space.

    Smashes cans great. not sure how to post video on here but i will try.

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