Plastic Drums and Eco Boats

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by Wardong, Aug 23, 2015.

  1. Wardong
    Joined: Aug 2015
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    Wardong Junior Member

    I have constructed a pontoon boat using plastic drums, during this process it has made me aware of the possibilities that this concept offers.

    There are hundreds of millions of these drums in use worldwide, most of them end up being recycled to enable the plastic to be reused. This process involves a cost.
    If manufacturers of these drums had the foresight to see that these drums had another purpose other than as a container it would allow boat builders worldwide to very easily convert them into a practical boat. Not only for people like me but to millions of people in developing countries worldwide.

    Imagine if these drums where designed initially as a container but also as a module for a pontoon? It would take very little redesigning of the drum to make them suitable.
    The following images show my simple pontoon boat made from plastic drums:
     

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  2. gonzo
    Joined: Aug 2002
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    gonzo Senior Member

    We use them as rain barrels.
     
  3. Rurudyne
    Joined: Mar 2014
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    Rurudyne Senior Member

    Given their presumably lighter weight, they might be good for a party dock / barge on wheels that you could put in/pull out of the water via a power winch (sure would have to be careful about cable maintenance).

    I bring that up because around here you are just plain screwed if you want your own dock BUT I hear the Corp of Engineers has a more accommodating attitude if it has wheels.
     
  4. Wardong
    Joined: Aug 2015
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    Wardong Junior Member

    The great thing about making a pontoon boat from plastic drums is the flexibility they offer in design.
    My boat is 5m x 2.4m, with very little extra cost I can construct a further 5m section that can be transported on top of the main deck and then attach it to the front of the boat when launched. I now have a 10m x 2.4m boat which will allow greater hull efficiency.

    Pontoon boats built in this way can also be secured together along their length making a 10m x 4.8m pontoon with dual motors.

    The drums I have used have a capacity of 205 litres, this gives around 200kg of flotation per drum. If you allow a maximum loaded design flotation of 100 kg per drum this will allow a comfortable freeboard allowance of 50%.

    I have found the drums to be extremely tough, yet flexible. My boat has ten drums which allows a number of them to be holed before adversely affecting the stability of the boat. Replacement of a damaged drum should it occur is very quick, easy and low cost.

    To date I have experienced no damage or leaks.

    For me the use of plastic drums has allowed me to own a pontoon boat that I could otherwise not afford. My boat could be seen as a "poor mans boat", I am happy with this and would encourage others to explore this option.

    I just need to explain to drum manufacturers that if they slightly change the design of the drums they could be the perfect dual purpose container and be much more environmentally friendly.
     

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  5. Rurudyne
    Joined: Mar 2014
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    Rurudyne Senior Member

    Of course there is the liability issue. If you or I use their drums in ways they don't intend, at least officially, then if there's a really bad day they aren't (usually) gonna be on the hook.

    I say "usually" because you can sometimes convince juries in civil cases of some pretty amazingly absurd notions, like when a woman sued a Mom'n'Pop druggist for not giving her adequate instructions for using the product they sold her: though she put the spermicidal jelly on her toast she still got pregnant. /blech!

    But OTOH if they design their barrels for dual use they might as well paint some cross hairs on their chest ... unless they are Disney and "our lawyers can beat up you lawyers" is the rule.

    What you might want to investigate instead is molded attachment points that you epoxy on, that way no unnecessary drilling through the barrel, and maybe a way to put radial reinforcing hoops within the barrels.
     
  6. Wardong
    Joined: Aug 2015
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    Wardong Junior Member

    I guess a disclaimer molded into the drum could cover the manufacturer.
    Drilling holes into the drum is not a major problem provided you supply structural support to the bolt in the form of large stainless washers and a rubber seal to ensure the fixture is watertight.
    The main problem is the finished shape of the pontoon, not very streamlined. However if the drums were designed with a recess as thick as the drum wall and extending 75mm from the top and bottom of the drum a band of plastic (cut and recycled from another drum) could be secured around adjoining drums. This would give a streamlined shape and also allow bracing of the length of the pontoon by using the band as a fixing point for the bracing, (this eliminates fixing directly to the sides of the drums).

    This slight modification to the shape of the drum would make joining drums in a streamlined manner very beneficial.
     
  7. Kailani
    Joined: Apr 2013
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    Kailani Senior Member

    Why can't the drums be reused as drums again?
     
  8. whitepointer23

    whitepointer23 Previous Member

    They can. My supply of blue plastic drums dried up when the chemical company started taking back the emptys. They use to leave them for us.
     
  9. Rurudyne
    Joined: Mar 2014
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    Rurudyne Senior Member

    About streamlining, take advantage of the fact that epoxy doesn't stick to Mylar and use it to make tensioned bands to span the gap. By this I mean wrap a sheet of Mylar around a drum, it only has to be somewhat wider than the gap you'll span, get two loops of galvanized wire or band and have some of those tensioning clasp things on each, place these where, in the complete band one would be securely on each barrel, and then fiberglass a thin band between them to hold them as a unit.

    Actually putting them on may require removal of the barrels but once the clasps are shut you should have at least a smoother transition and also one that still allows for swapping out damaged barrels in the future.
     
  10. Petros
    Joined: Oct 2007
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    Petros Senior Member

    if it adds even a tiny cost to making the drums, they will not be competitive with similar containers and they will not sell as many. when industrial suppliers and users of the liquid materials these drums contain shop for best price delivered, anyone using these drums will loose out. It is also a very costly way to make them usable for a very very minor secondary market, as compared to the massive volume of raw material they ship within the barrels.

    so it might seem like a simple thing to do, but you would have to retool the drum mold, likely $10,000 or more each, using slightly more plastic since now the drum is not optimized for simple bulk liquid cargo transport, making the "new" design not as competitive as similar barrels designed purely for minim cost. It is just the practical reality of what you want is not very practical. Too costly as far as the container maker is concerned.

    You managed to use them as-designed, and considering how small the market is for small floating platforms as compared to the generic bulk barrel market, what you did is a much more reasonable approach: adapt them for the secondary use by other means, rather than redesign the bulk fluid container.

    Nice work BTW, excellent use for those surplus barrels. Those barrels also make good floating docks or floating work platforms for doing repairs or maintenance on larger ship hulls, bulkheads and docks.
     
  11. Wardong
    Joined: Aug 2015
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    Wardong Junior Member

    Your suggestion has merit and is an option.
    The purpose of this thread is to explore the option of using drums as a low cost alternative to constructing a practical pontoon boat. To achieve the best result all options should be discussed with people like members of this forum who have some expertise and interest in exploring alternatives.
    My boat was built without the input from others, if I build another I will improve on its design by seeking advise from others.
    Would love to see a regatta of pontoon boats built from plastic drums, maybe a plastic drum manufacturer could sponsor it.
    Thanks for your suggestions.
     
  12. Wardong
    Joined: Aug 2015
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    Wardong Junior Member

    If I was a manufacturer of plastic drums I would investigate and research all options in extending the market for my drums, this would be a continuing process. When my drum molds need replacing I would consider if any modifications where required that could potentially increase my market share.
    A pontoon boat made from currently designed new plastic drums is cost prohibitive and not an option.
    Recycled currently designed plastic drums are an option due to the low cost but have design disadvantages.
    A boat made from new redesigned plastic drums could be an option as it becomes cost effective in comparison to other traditional materials.
    Recycled redesigned plastic drums would be very attractive due to the low cost and design advantages.

    The market for low cost pontoon boats is large in developed countries, the market for low cost pontoon boats / workboats / barges and docks in third world countries is huge!
     
  13. waikikin
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    waikikin Senior Member

    The concept appears to have evolved with a few manufacturers such as http://www.bmackay.com.au/mds/moving.htm offering components- .... at greater cost of course, the connectives/deck structure attachment is more straightforward.There was a post a while back that had the same blue drums used in the skin of small craft too.

    Jeff
     
  14. ondarvr
    Joined: Dec 2005
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    ondarvr Senior Member


    I totally agree, between this and the liabilty I can't see why any sane drum manufactuer would make any effort to even make using the drum for some other purpose an option. In fact they would most likely take measures to ensure it couldn't be used as floatation if more people started doing it.
     

  15. Rurudyne
    Joined: Mar 2014
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    Rurudyne Senior Member

    You mean start using pink plastic instead of manly blue?

    Don't laugh, it probably would work.
     
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