Brick Maker to Brick Mixer

Rows of freshly made bricks out to dry.

Before going into Tanzania, our group spent countless hours doing research so that we were better prepared. We each had ideas, concepts, and assumptions, of which were nearly all correct but like learning from a textbook vs. actually experiencing it first hand, the latter takes first place. Once we stepped into Tanzania, we made it our goal to dig a little deeper into what the people of Tanzania really wanted and needed.

In terms of my project that delves into the optimization of the brick making progress, we visited multiple brick making businesses, brick making sites, businesses that utilize similar processes to brick making, manufacturing companies that make and sell brick making machines, and we had the fortunate chance to speak to representatives of them all. Not only that, but I also was given the chance to make bricks of my own with the brick makers which allowed me to truly understand the pain points of the process.


What I learned about brick making from my experience is that every corner of the process needs to be improved. Some of the many problems that were discovered were:
  1. No material optimization: Although something that was discovered before our trip, it is now a known fact. Brick makers feel for the right consistency which oftentimes causes them to use to much water.
  2. Poor base material: The locals utilize the dirt beneath their feet at there main material. This dirt is only 'clay like' and is a combination of clay, silt, sand, and gravel. High quality bricks are made from pure clay.
  3. Lack of water and cost of buying water: companies need to buy water to make their bricks which cost 100 000 Tsh ($68.47 CAD) for 2000 L. This amount of water only makes 1000 bricks. This is more effected during the dry season.
  4. The process of mixing the materials is highly laborious and time consuming: brick makers soften the soil on the ground and slowly add water with it. The use a hoe to slowly mix the water with the soil and let the mixture sit for a day.
  5. The process of packing the 'clay' mixture into the moulds is also labour intensive and time consuming: The brick maker manually grabs the mixture from the ground and punches/packs/slaps it into the moulds located on a stand. He then carries the mould over to drying area and slowly sets the mould down so that the bricks can slowly slide off the mould.
  6. The act of brick making destroys habitable land: As brick making utilizes the dirt beneath their feet, as the number of bricks made, the larger the hole is dug into the ground. After the bricks have been made, these large ditches become permanent parts of the land to be filled with garbage. 
    Brick making site turned garbage dump.
  7. The process of firing the bricks is highly inefficient: For every 100,000 bricks made, 10 000 are broken which is a 10% failure rate. 
    Mound of broken bricks.
  8. The bricks have no protection from the elements: If it rains, the bricks are scrapped
  9. Their profits are very minimal for their efforts: Workers are paid 100 Tsh ($0.07 CAD)/brick, with an estimated 20 000 Tsh ($13.69 CAD) /day. The businesses themselves only make an approximate 36 000 Tsh ($24.65 CAD)/day profit, accounting for 10% loss.


With these observations combined with other experiences, insights were brought into attention.

  • This project does not need to focus to much on costs as the people of Longido value quality and will save up to buy quality goods.
  • It is of high value if the project can be made modular as they tend to save up to buy pieces of what they need. They will for example save up to build the structure of the home, then save up to add in windows, then save up again to waterproof their roof.
  • The brick moulds are fine but they want a better solution to mix the materials. 
  • Once gaining success into one part of their business, owners plan to expand their business into other fields.
  • Transportation is a huge chuck of their costs, therefore this project may require to be easily transported, flatpack, collapsible etc.
  • Lack of knowledge in properly and effectively make bricks is a large problem and this project may need a form of educated guide to help the users.

Updated Concept: The Brick Mixing Kit

Combining my insights with my observations, my initial concept of a brick making machine that was a combination of both a mixer and extruder has now narrowed down to simply a mixer. This change came about after getting opinions of  brick makers and their blunt desire for a mixer as well as a prevalent of mixers around the area. This change also allows for simpler mechanics and design which then allows for more allocation of energy into improving product quality. The mixer also does not restrict the user from only mixing clay but also mixing other materials as well such as cement. 

An important aspect of the mixer is the kit aspect. Like IKEA, the mixer will be sold ready-to-assemble. Unlike IKEA, some required parts to assemble the kit will not be included within the kit but will ask the user to source themselves locally. Assembly of the mixer will be made possible through a highly visual instructions manual included in the kit (and potentially online). This kit allows for cheaper transportation costs and retail costs, allows for local purchases which then lessens costs and aids the community, allows for modular purchases, and helps immensely with education as the information manual will not only detail the instructions but also educational aid so that the user can make bricks optimally and effectively. The mixer itself will save time and effort as the concept will hopefully be easy to use, dismiss wait days, optimize material ratio which then will lead to more higher quality bricks.

Next Steps

A working prototype of the brick mixer.

Currently in prototyping phase, what I hope to achieve are:

  •  Create life size prototype to get the feel of actual size
  •  Explore various working prototypes to figure out which materials are necessary to create a mixer
  • Create a working prototype to test if product can be made of simple/basic materials
  •  Create prototyped pieces and small scale instructions pamphlet to test to users so they may attempt to piece the prototyped pieces together using the small scale instructions to learn if the pamphlet is easy to understand 100% visually.
  • Test prototype for ergonomic studies

sStay tuned!

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