Kingston Hotpress

Tomas delivered the Kingston Hotpress to INTI on Thursday as scheduled, and after about 2 hours of fiddling around with the electrical installation, we had a go of it with the strips of plastic bag that Caroline had been cutting up all morning – a task that was as much a necessity as occupational therapy seeing that we were all sitting around on the edges of our seats. The hotpress had never been road tested – it only worked theoretically according to Darko’s calculations and ingenious SolidWorks design. This was a lean and mean machine and, in order to keep the costs down, had no gauges (gadgets) to let us know that it actually generated enough heat (160°C) and enough pressure to melt the plastic. From my non-scientific mind’s perspective (after all, this was only the second time I had ever been in a research laboratory) the first test was a disaster. We were all much too impatient and didn’t let the press heat up enough – we expected this would take about 20 minutes, but only gave it 10 – and didn’t leave the plastic in the press long enough – we thought this would take about 15 minutes, but only gave it 7. We cooled the mold down with water and opened it to a soppy, un-melted plastic mess. Our faces were all frowns. At this point, Patricia Eisenberg leaned over to us and said, ‘don’t worry, we’ll make it work,’ and her INTI crew stepped in, inserted a funny little L-shaped thermometer into a gap in the press, declared that it was indeed hot enough to melt plastic, poured a bucket of polyethylene pellets over the few strips of plastic bag that remained in the mold, spread the pellets out evenly (kind of) over the 60cmx60cm surface, and shoved the mold back into the press. Tomas pumped up the car jacked that created the pressure, and I was the timekeeper. 15 minutes later, Tomas released the jack’s pressure, and we took the mold out of the press, laid it on the sidewalk just outside the building’s side door, hosed it down, and opened the mold to reveal a slightly rough around the edges but beautifully hardened 2 kilo plastic plaque. The hotpress worked, just as Caroline had always believed, said, knew it would, and we’ve invited members from the 9 cooperatives we’ve workied with during the past 6 months to come by INTI on Wednesday to see it in action. Six months after arriving in BA, it’s time for champagne!

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