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Title:
FLEXIBLE MAT FORMING SYSTEM
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2017/143029
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A flexible mat forming system may include an elongate, rotatable drum having a plurality of transverse rows of mold cavities about an outer periphery thereof, an elongate hopper positioned adjacent the drum, the hopper shaped to receive a hardenable paste and deposit the hardenable paste along a facing row of the plurality of transverse rows of mold cavities, a spool assembly for feeding a sheet of mesh material between the hopper and the facing row, and a retaining plate extending partially about the outer periphery of the drum and positioned on a downstream side of the elongate hopper, the retaining plate spaced sufficiently close to the outer periphery to retain the mesh material against the outer periphery of the drum and the hardenable paste within the mold cavities adjacent the retaining plate.

Inventors:
MOTZ, James, G. (3153 Madison Road, Cincinnati, OH, 45209, US)
MOTZ, Matthew, J. (3153 Madison Road, Cincinnati, OH, 45209, US)
Application Number:
US2017/018122
Publication Date:
August 24, 2017
Filing Date:
February 16, 2017
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
MOTZ, James, G. (3153 Madison Road, Cincinnati, OH, 45209, US)
MOTZ, Matthew, J. (3153 Madison Road, Cincinnati, OH, 45209, US)
International Classes:
B28B5/10; B28B23/00; B29C43/08
Foreign References:
US20020180076A12002-12-05
US3720493A1973-03-13
US5554393A1996-09-10
US5064584A1991-11-12
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
LIENESCH, Theodore D. et al. (Thompson Hine LLP, 10050 Innovation DriveSuite 40, Dayton OH, 45342-4934, US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A flexible mat forming system, comprising:

an elongate, rotatable drum having a plurality of transverse rows of mold cavities about an outer periphery thereof;

an elongate hopper positioned adjacent the drum, the hopper shaped to receive a hardenable paste and deposit the hardenable paste along a facing row of the plurality of transverse rows of mold cavities;

a spool assembly for feeding a sheet of mesh material between the hopper and the facing row; and

a retaining plate extending partially about the outer periphery of the drum and positioned on a downstream side of the elongate hopper, the retaining plate spaced sufficiently close to the outer periphery to retain the mesh material against the outer periphery of the drum and the hardenable paste within the mold cavities adjacent the retaining plate.

2. The system of claim 1, wherein the retaining plate is shaped to conform to a curvature of the outer periphery of the drum.

3. The system of claim 1, wherein the retaining plate is imperforate.

4. The system of claim 1, further comprising a frame supporting the drum and the hopper; wherein the hopper is positioned above an uppermost one of the plurality of transverse rows of mold cavities, and wherein the retaining plate is attached to the frame.

5. The system of claim 4, wherein the retaining plate includes an upper retaining member attached to the frame for holding an upper portion of the retaining plate against the outer periphery of the drum.

6. The system of claim 5, wherein the upper retaining member includes, and is attached to the frame by, an adjustable connection, the adjustable connection varying a spacing between the retaining plate and the hopper.

7. The system of claim 6, wherein the upper retaining member includes an upper retaining bar extending transversely of the retaining plate.

8. The system of claim 7, wherein the upper retaining bar is suspended from the frame by an adjustable connection that varies a height of the retaining plate above ground.

9. The system of claim 6, further comprising a lower retaining member that urges a lower edge of the retaining plate against the drum outer periphery.

10. The system of claim 9, wherein the lower retaining member includes a lower retaining bar that extends transversely of the retaining plate.

11. The system of claim 9, wherein the lower retaining member includes an adjustment arm attached to the frame that varies a force exerted by the lower retaining member against the shield, and a force exerted by the shield against the drum.

12. The system of claim 11, wherein the adjustment arm includes a pair of adjustable straps attached to the frame.

13. A flexible mat forming system, comprising:

a frame;

an elongate, motorized drum rotatably mounted on the frame, the drum having a plurality of transverse rows of mold cavities about an outer periphery thereof;

an elongate hopper positioned adjacent the drum, the hopper shaped to receive fresh cement paste and deposit the fresh cement paste along a facing row of the plurality of transverse rows of mold cavities;

a spool assembly for feeding a sheet of a geogrid material between the hopper and the facing row; and

a retaining plate extending about the outer periphery of the drum and positioned on a downstream side of the elongate hopper, the retaining plate spaced sufficiently close to the outer periphery to retain the geogrid material against the outer periphery of the drum and hold the fresh cement paste within the mold cavities adjacent the retaining plate; wherein the retaining plate includes an upper retaining bar extending transversely of the retaining plate at an upper end thereof and suspended from the frame, and a lower retaining bar extending transversely of the retaining plate at a lower end thereof and suspended from the frame, and wherein the upper retaining bar and the lower retaining bar each include an adjustable connection that varies a force exerted by the retaining plate against the drum.

14. A flexible mat forming system, comprising:

an elongate, rotating drum having a plurality of transverse rows of mold cavities about an outer periphery thereof;

an elongate hopper positioned adjacent the drum, the hopper shaped to receive a hardenable paste and including a bottom opening for depositing the hardenable paste into a facing row of the plurality of transverse rows of mold cavities; and

a rotating auger positioned within the hopper for distributing fresh cement paste along a length of the hopper.

15. The system of claim 14, wherein the auger is coextensive with a length of the facing row of the plurality of transverse rows of mold cavities.

16. The system of claim 14, wherein the auger includes a plurality of radially extending protrusions.

17. The system of claim 16, wherein the protrusions include rods.

18. The system of claim 16, wherein the protrusions include radially extending paddles.

19. The system of claim 18, wherein the paddles are angled to displace fresh cement paste deposited in an end of the hopper to an opposite end of the hopper when the auger is rotated.

The system of claim 19, wherein the paddles are spaced along a length of the

21. A flexible mat forming system, comprising: an elongate, rotating drum having a plurality of transverse rows of mold cavities about an outer periphery thereof;

an elongate hopper positioned adjacent the drum, the hopper shaped to receive a hardenable paste and deposit the hardenable paste along a facing row of the plurality of transverse rows of mold cavities;

wherein the hopper includes a bottom panel having a plurality of slots shaped and positioned to align with the transverse row of mold cavities of the facing row; and

a spool assembly for feeding a sheet of mesh material between the hopper and the facing row.

22. The flexible mat forming system of claim 21, wherein the mesh material is fed from the support to a location between the bottom panel and the mold cavities of the facing row.

23. The flexible mat forming system of claim 21, wherein the plurality of slots extends transversely of the hopper.

24. The flexible mat forming system of claim 21, wherein slots of the plurality of slots are arranged in a rectilinear row.

25. The flexible mat forming system of claim 21, wherein slots of the plurality of slots are of the same outer dimensions as corresponding mold cavities of the facing row of the plurality of transverse rows of mold cavities.

26. A flexible mat forming system, comprising:

a frame;

an elongate drum rotatably mounted on the frame, the drum having a plurality of transverse rows of mold cavities about an outer periphery thereof;

an elongate hopper positioned on the frame adjacent the drum, the hopper shaped to receive a hardenable paste and deposit the hardenable paste along a facing row of the plurality of transverse rows of mold cavities;

a spool assembly for feeding a sheet of mesh material between the hopper and the facing row; and wherein the hopper is suspended from the frame to form a gap between the facing row of the plurality of transverse rows of mold cavities sufficient to allow the sheet of mesh material to pass between the hopper and the facing row of the plurality of transverse rows of mold cavities.

27. The flexible mat forming system of claim 26, wherein the hopper includes a bottom panel facing the drum, the bottom panel having an arcuate shape corresponding to a curvature of the elongate drum.

28. The flexible mat forming system of claim 27, wherein the bottom panel includes an opening shaped such that hardenable paste deposited into the hopper flows through the opening to fill mold cavities of the facing row of the plurality of transverse rows of mold cavities.

29. The flexible mat forming system of claim 26, wherein the hardenable paste is fresh cement paste; and the mesh material is a geogrid.

30. The flexible mat forming system of claim 26, wherein the hopper is positioned above an uppermost one of the plurality of transverse rows of mold cavities.

31. A flexible mat forming system, comprising:

an elongate, rotating drum having a plurality of transverse rows of mold cavities about an outer periphery thereof;

an elongate hopper positioned adjacent the drum, the hopper shaped to receive a hardenable paste and deposit the hardenable paste along a facing row of the plurality of transverse rows of mold cavities;

a spool assembly for feeding a sheet of mesh material between the hopper and the facing row, whereby the mold cavities of successive rows of the transverse rows of mold cavities receive the hardenable paste from the hopper as the drum rotates such that the mesh material becomes embedded in the hardenable paste material and the hardenable paste and mesh material together form a flexible mat that separates from the transverse rows of mold cavities as successive ones of the transverse rows of mold cavities rotate to a lowermost position on the drum; and a cleaning member positioned adjacent the elongate drum, the cleaning member having an implement for removing from the successive ones of the transverse rows of mold cavities a portion of the hardenable paste that has not separated from the mold cavities.

32. The flexible mat forming system of claim 31, further comprising a frame, and wherein the elongate drum is rotatably mounted on the frame, the elongate hopper is mounted on the frame above an uppermost one of the plurality of transverse rows of mold cavities, and the cleaning member is mounted on the frame adjacent the drum and upstream of the hopper.

33. The flexible mat forming system of claim 31, wherein the implement includes a plurality of protrusions positioned to engage the mold cavities.

34. The flexible mat forming system of claim 33, wherein the protrusions are flexible and shaped to extend into and scrape the mold cavities.

35. The flexible mat forming system of claim 34, wherein the cleaning member extends transversely of the drum and is positioned downstream of the lowermost position

36. The flexible mat forming system of claim 35, wherein the cleaning member includes a beam; and the protrusions include a plurality of wire cable segments shaped and positioned to scrape surfaces of the mold cavities of an adjacent one of the plurality of transverse rows of mold cavities.

37. A method for making a flexible mat, the method comprising:

providing a plurality of transverse rows of mold cavities;

providing a panel having a plurality of rows of slots;

positioning the panel above the mold cavities and aligning the slots of the panel with the mold cavities;

placing a sheet of mesh material between the panel and the mold cavities;

depositing a hardenable paste through the rows of slots and into mold cavities such that the sheet of mesh material becomes embedded in the hardenable paste over the mold cavities; allowing the hardenable paste to harden into blocks held together by the mesh, thereby forming a flexible mat; and

removing the flexible mat from between the panel and the mold cavities.

38. The method of claim 37, wherein placing a sheet of mesh material includes placing a sheet of geogrid mesh between the panel and the mold cavities.

39. The method of claim 37, wherein providing a plurality of transverse rows of mold cavities includes providing mold cavities shaped to form pyramidal blocks.

40. The method of claim 37, further comprising preventing the hardenable paste from being deposited onto the sheet of mesh material between the mold cavities by separating the plurality of rows of slots by dividers.

41. The method of claim 37, wherein placing a sheet of mesh material includes placing a sheet of mesh material between the panel and the mold cavities and spacing the panel from the mold cavities to hold the sheet of mesh material against the mold cavities.

42. The method of claim 37, wherein depositing a hardenable paste includes depositing hydraulic Portland cement.

43. The method of claim 37, wherein forming a flexible mat includes forming a tied concrete block mat.

44. The method of claim 37, wherein positioning the panel above the mold cavities includes varying a height of the panel above the mold cavities to a selected spacing.

45. A system for making a flexible mat, the system comprising:

a plurality of transverse rows of mold cavities;

a panel having at least one row of slots;

a support frame for adjustably supporting the panel above the transverse rows of mold cavities and aligning the slots of the panel with the mold cavities; and the panel spaced above the mold cavities a distance sufficient to receive a sheet of mesh material between the panel and the mold cavities.

Description:
FLEXIBLE MAT FORMING SYSTEM

TECHNICAL FIELD

[0001] The present disclosure relates to methods and systems for forming flexible erosion prevention mats, and more particularly, to methods and systems for forming continuous erosion prevention mats.

BACKGROUND

[0002] Erosion is a natural process in which meteorological elements such as rain, wind, and snow remove soil, rock, and dissolved material from one location on the Earth's crust and transport it to another location. While such erosion is a natural process, certain localized human activity increases the rate of erosion to many times that at which erosion occurs naturally. Land surfaces adjacent man-made structures such as canals, roads, reservoirs and ponds, and artificially created drainage channels and other waterways are particularly susceptible to erosion because naturally occuring indigenous vegetation is removed in order to form the structures.

[0003] Erosion can be mitigated in these areas by remediation of the land surface adjacent the canal, road, or channel by planting vegetation to replace the vegetation that was stripped away during construction. However, there is a time interval between the planting of the replacement vegetation and the point at which the replacement vegetation is sufficiently developed to prevent further erosion of surface soil during which further erosion may occur.

[0004] Efforts have been made to retain the surface soil in place in these areas until such time as vegetation can mature to the point where the root structure of the vegetation retains the soil in place. An example of such material is the flexible mat structure disclosed in United States Patent No. 6,793,858 titled "Method and Apparatus for Forming a Flexible Mat Defined by Interconnected Concrete Panels," the entire contents of which are incorporated herein by reference. That patent discloses a flexible mat structure in the form of spaced, interconnected concrete panels or blocks held together by an open mesh of a polymeric material. [0005] The flexible mat structure may be made by depositing concrete in the block- shaped mold cavities formed in the surface of a rotating drum and embedding in the concrete material the open mesh structure. While the method is effective, there is a need to introduce additional efficiencies in the manufacture of such flexible mat structure.

SUMMARY

[0006] The present disclosure is a flexible, erosion-preventing mat forming system in which improvements have been made to increase the quality of the flexible mat product produced and the efficiency in the process of manufacturing the flexible mat. In one embodiment, a flexible mat forming system includes an elongate, rotatable drum having a plurality of transverse rows of mold cavities about an outer periphery thereof, an elongate hopper positioned adjacent the drum, the hopper shaped to receive a hardenable paste and deposit the hardenable paste along a facing row of the plurality of transverse rows of mold cavities, a spool assembly for feeding a sheet of mesh material between the hopper and the facing row, and a retaining plate extending partially about the outer periphery of the drum and positioned on a downstream side of the elongate hopper, the retaining plate spaced sufficiently close to the outer periphery to retain the mesh material against the outer periphery of the drum and the hardenable paste within the mold cavities adjacent the retaining plate.

[0007] In another embodiment, a flexible mat forming system includes a frame, an elongate, motorized rotating drum mounted on the frame, the drum having a plurality of transverse rows of mold cavities about an outer periphery thereof, an elongate hopper positioned adjacent the drum, the hopper shaped to receive fresh cement paste and deposit the fresh cement paste along a facing row of the plurality of transverse rows of mold cavities, a spool assembly for feeding a sheet of geogrid material between the hopper and the facing row, and a retaining plate extending about the outer periphery of the drum and positioned on a downstream side of the elongate hopper, the retaining plate spaced sufficiently close to the outer periphery to retain the geo-grid material against the outer periphery of the drum and hold the fresh cement paste within the mold cavities adjacent the retaining plate, wherein the retaining plate includes an upper retaining bar extending transversely of the retaining plate at an upper end thereof and suspended from the frame, and a lower retaining bar extending transversely of the retaining plate at a lower end thereof and suspended from the frame, and wherein the upper retaining bar and the lower retaining bar each include an adjustable connection that varies a force exerted by the retaining plate against the drum.

[0008] In yet another embodiment, a flexible mat forming system includes an elongate, rotating drum having a plurality of transverse rows of mold cavities about an outer periphery thereof, an elongate hopper positioned adjacent the drum, the hopper shaped to receive a hardenable paste and including a bottom opening for depositing the hardenable paste into a facing row of the plurality of transverse rows of mold cavities, and a rotating auger positioned within the hopper for distributing fresh cement paste along a length of the hopper.

[0009] In still another embodiment, a flexible mat forming system includes an elongate, rotating drum having a plurality of transverse rows of mold cavities about an outer periphery thereof, an elongate hopper positioned adjacent the drum, the hopper shaped to receive a hardenable paste and deposit the hardenable paste along a facing row of the plurality of transverse rows of mold cavities, wherein the hopper includes a bottom panel having a plurality of slots shaped and positioned to align with the transverse row of mold cavities of the facing row, and a spool assembly for feeding a sheet of mesh material between the hopper and the facing row.

[0010] In a further embodiment, a flexible mat forming system includes a frame, an elongate drum rotatably mounted on the frame, the drum having a plurality of transverse rows of mold cavities about an outer periphery thereof, an elongate hopper positioned on the frame adjacent the drum, the hopper shaped to receive a hardenable paste and deposit the hardenable paste along a facing row of the plurality of transverse rows of mold cavities, a spool assembly for feeding a sheet of mesh material between the hopper and the facing row, and wherein the hopper is suspended from the frame to form a gap between the facing row of the plurality of transverse rows of mold cavities sufficient to allow the sheeted material to pass between the hopper and the facing row of the plurality of transverse rows of mold cavities.

[0011] In still a further embodiment, a flexible mat forming system includes an elongate rotating drum having a plurality of transverse rows of mold cavities about an outer periphery thereof, an elongate hopper positioned adjacent the drum, the hopper shaped to receive a hardenable paste and deposit the hardenable paste along a facing row of the plurality of transverse rows of mold cavities, a spool assembly for feeding a sheet of mesh material between the hopper and the facing row, whereby the mold cavities of successive rows of the transverse rows of mold cavities receive the hardenable paste from the hopper as the drum rotates such that the mesh material becomes embedded in the hardenable paste material and the hardenable paste and mesh material together form a flexible mat that separates from the transverse rows of mold cavities as successive ones of the transverse rows of mold cavities rotate to a lowermost position on the drum, and a cleaning member positioned adjacent the elongate drum, the cleaning member having an implement for removing from the successive ones of the transverse rows of mold cavities a portion of the hardenable paste that has not separated from the mold cavities.

[0012] Other objects and advantages of the disclosed flexible mat forming system will be apparent from the following description, the accompanying drawings, and the appended claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0013] Fig. 1 is a schematic, side elevational view of an embodiment of the disclosed flexible mat forming system;

[0014] Fig. 2 is a schematic, front elevational view of the flexible mat forming system of Fig. 1;

[0015] Fig. 3 is a detail perspective view of the flexible mat forming system of Fig. 1, showing the retaining plate;

[0016] Fig. 4 is a perspective view of the flexible mat forming system of Fig. 1, taken from the rear of the hopper and drum;

[0017] Fig. 5 is a detail showing an embodiment of a rotating auger located within the hopper of the flexible mat forming system of Fig. 1;

[0018] Fig. 6 is a detail perspective view of a section of the hopper of Fig. 5; [0019] Fig. 7 is a detail perspective view showing a portion of the bottom plate of the hopper of the flexible mat forming system of Fig. 1 ; and

[0020] Fig. 8 is a perspective view of an embodiment of the cleaning member of the flexible mat forming system of Fig. 1.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0021] The disclosed flexible mat forming system, generally designated 10, is shown in Figs. 1, 2, and 4. The system 10 may include a frame 12 on which is mounted an elongate, rotatable drum 14. The drum 14 may be rotated by a motor 16, which in embodiments may be an electric motor or a hydraulic motor. The motor 16 may rotate the drum in a counterclockwise direction, as indicated by arrow A in Figs. 1 and 4. In other embodiments, system 10 does not have a motor 16, but instead the drum 14 rests on the ground 66 and rotates in the direction of arrow A as a result of friction with the ground from the frame 12 being pulled over the ground, which in Fig. 1 would be to the left. In an embodiment, the frame 12 may include a pair of horizontal beams 18, 20 on which the drum 14 is rotatably mounted, for example by a journal bearing 17.

[0022] As shown in Fig. 4, the drum 14 may include a plurality of transverse rows 22 of mold cavities 24 that are formed about the outer periphery of the drum. In embodiments, the mold cavities 24 may be shaped to form hardenable paste received from the hopper 26 into pyramidal blocks 76, which may be square at their base. For example, the mold cavities 24 may be shaped to form pyramidal blocks 76 of hardenable paste received from the hopper 26 having square bases 6½" x 6½" and 2¼" high, although the mold cavities may have other shapes and dimensions.

[0023] As shown in Figs. 1, 2, and 4, the system 10 also may include an elongate hopper, generally designated 26, adjacent and superposed to the drum 14. In an embodiment, the hopper 26 may be shaped to receive a hardenable paste and deposit the hardenable paste along a facing row 28 of the plurality of transverse rows 22 of mold cavities 24. The hopper 26 may include an open upper portion 30 having an open top 32 and downwardly extending and converging front and rear walls 34, 36, respectively. The hopper 26 may include a central section 38 having front and rear walls 40, 42, respectively, shaped to form a trough with an arcuate bottom, and a lower section 44 having downwardly and outwardly diverging front and rear walls 46, 48, respectively.

[0024] Front and rear walls 34, 36 define frontward and rearward facing surfaces, respectively. Side walls 40, 42 define forward and rearward facing walls, respectively, and walls 48, 46 define forward and rearward facing walls, respectively. The side walls 34, 36, 40, 42, 46, 48 are closed by lateral walls 50, 52 to define an interior chamber 54, as shown in Figs. 5 and 6. The hopper 26 may include a bottom panel 122 that is shaped to conform to the curvature of the outer periphery of the drum 14. As will be described, in embodiments the arcuate shape of the bottom panel 122 may support the remainder of the hopper 26 on top of the drum 14, and in other embodiments, permit a close spacing between the hopper and the top of the drum.

[0025] The system 10 also may include a spool assembly, generally designated 56, which may take the form of a spindle or rotating axle, for supporting a sheet 58 of a mesh material, from a roll 60 on the spool assembly 56, between the hopper 26 and the facing row 28 (see Fig. 7) of the plurality of transverse rows 22 of mold cavities 24. The spool assembly 56 may include a support 62 to which is attached a spindle or axle 63 that may be mounted on a rear platform 64 of the frame 12. The rear platform 64 may be supported above the ground 66 by a pair of rear wheels 68 and a pair of front wheels 70. In embodiments, the spindle 63 may be mounted on the support 62 for free rotation relative to the support, or the spindle may be motorized to assist in paying out the sheet 58.

[0026] The sheet 58 of mesh material may, in an embodiment, be a sheet of open mesh material, and in other embodiments be a sheet of a polymer mesh, which may be a geogrid material such as polyester or polypropylene. An example of such a polypropylene mesh is Fornit 30/30 geogrid manufactured by Huesker Inc. of Charlotte, North Carolina. In an embodiment, the sheet 58 of mesh material may be fed forwardly, that is, to the left in Fig. 1, under guide tube 72, which is mounted on the frame 12 and extends transversely adjacent the drum 14, and either over or under a second transverse guide tube 73, where it continues, passing beneath the hopper 26 and above the drum 14.

[0027] A hardenable paste deposited into the open top 32 of the hopper 26 falls downwardly through the hopper and into the facing row 28 of the plurality of transverse rows 22 where it is retained within the mold cavities 24. In embodiments, the hardenable paste may be a fresh cement paste such as Portland cement, and in a particular embodiment, may be 5000 psi., wet-cast Portland cement. In other embodiments, the hardenable paste may be concrete, a mixture of Portland cement, sand, and/or gravel, or a polymer. The sheet 58 of mesh material becomes embedded in the hardenable paste and the combination of mesh and paste continues as the drum 14 rotates in the direction of arrow A in a downstream direction away from the hopper 26 where the combination of paste hardens and the combination of mesh and paste leaves the lower portion of the drum 14 as a flexible mat, generally designated 74, of blocks 76 of hardened paste material held together by the sheet 58 of geogrid mesh, also known as a tied concrete (i.e., hydraulic Portland cement) block mat when concrete is used as the hardenable paste material.

[0028] As shown in Figs. 1, 2, 3, and 4, in an embodiment, a retaining plate, generally designated 78, extends partially about the outer periphery of the drum 14 and is positioned on the downstream side 80 of the drum and hopper 26. The retaining plate 78 may be spaced sufficiently close to the outer periphery of the drum to retain the sheet 58 of mesh material against the outer periphery of the drum and the hardenable paste (not shown) within the mold cavities 24 passing between the retaining plate and the outer periphery of the drum 14.

[0029] In an embodiment, the retaining plate 78 may be shaped to conform to the curvature of the outer periphery of the drum 14. Also in an embodiment, the retaining plate may be imperforate, comprising a single sheet of curved sheet metal. In the embodiment shown in Figs. 1-4, the frame 12 supports the drum 14 and hopper 26, and the hopper is positioned above an uppermost one of the plurality of transverse rows 22 of mold cavities 24. Further, the retaining plate 78 may be attached to the frame 12.

[0030] The retaining plate 78 may include an upper retaining member, generally designated 82, that may be attached to the frame 12 for holding an upper portion of the retaining plate 78 against the outer periphery of the drum 14. The upper retaining member 82 may include an adjustable connection, which may take the form of adjustable cables or chains 86, 88 having ratchets incorporated therein for manually lengthening and shortening their lengths. The adjustable cables or chains 86, 88 may extend from their upper ends, which may be attached to upright supports 90, 92 of the frame 12 and are attached at their lower ends to the upper retaining member 82.

[0031] By adjusting the lengths of the cables or chains 86, 88, the spacing between the retaining plate 78 and the hopper 26 may be adjusted. Further, the spacing between the outer periphery of the drum 14 and the retaining plate 78 may be varied by adjusting the lengths of the cables or chains 86, 88. In an embodiment, the upper retaining member 82 may take the form of an upper retaining bar extending transversely of the retaining plate 78. Another function of the adjustable cables or chains 86, 88 is that they may be lengthened or shortened to adjust the height of the retaining plate 78 above the ground 66. This enables the point at which the flexible mat 74 is no longer held against the outer periphery of the drum 14 and may begin to separate from the drum.

[0032] As shown in Figs. 1-4, the system 10 may include a lower retaining member 94 that holds a lower portion of the retaining plate 78 against the outer periphery of the drum 14. The lower retaining member 94 may urge a lower edge of the retaining plate 78 against the drum 14 outer periphery. In an embodiment, the lower retaining member 94 may take the form of a lower retaining bar or a round pipe that extends transversely of the retaining plate 78. The lower retaining member 94 may include left and right adjustment arms 96, 98. The adjustment arms 96, 98 may be attached to the frame 12 and be adjustable in length to vary a force exerted by the lower retaining member 94 against the shield 78, and thus the force exerted by the shield against a lower portion of the outer periphery of the drum 14. The adjustment arms 96, 98 may take the form a pair of adjustable straps, each attached to the frame 12.

[0033] In embodiments, the lower retaining member 94 may not be attached to the retaining plate 78, but only urged against it, thereby allowing relative slidable movement between the lower retaining member and the shield, for example, in response to height adjustment by cables or chains 86, 88. In such an embodiment, support chains 97, 99, each extending between and interconnecting the lower retaining member 94 and the upright supports 90, 92 of the frame 12, may support the lower retaining member 94 at a pre-set, desired height above the ground 66 and relative to the retaining plate 78. [0034] As shown in Figs. 1 and 2, the retaining plate 78 may operate to hold the sheet 58 of mesh material, which in an embodiment may be a geo-grid material, against the outer periphery of the drum 14 as the mesh material and rows 22 of mold cavities 24 pass beneath the hopper 26 in a downstream direction, indicated by arrow A, away from the hopper and extend downwardly toward the ground 66. As the rows of mold cavities 24 pass downstream of the hopper 26, they receive a hardenable paste, which in an embodiment may be cement, and the sheet 58 of geo-grid mesh material may become embedded in the cement paste, and the cement paste hardens as the drum 14 rotates the combination mesh and cement paste between the shield 78 and drum 14. At the lowermost portion of the drum 14, the paste has hardened, forming the mesh and block combination 75, also known as a tied concrete block mat, shown in Fig. 1.

[0035] As shown in Figs. 1, 5, and 6, the hopper 26 may include an auger, generally designated 100, which may be positioned in the central portion 38 of the hopper. The auger 100 may be rotated by a motor 102 and functions to distribute a hardenable paste, such as fresh cement paste, along a length of the hopper 26. In an embodiment, the auger 100 may be co-extensive with the length of the facing row 28 of the plurality of transverse rows 22 of mold cavities 24. The auger 100 may include a plurality of radially extending protrusions, generally designated 104. In an embodiment, the protrusions may include radially extending rods 106 and radially extending paddles 108 arranged alternately along a central shaft 110. The rods 106 and paddles 108 may extend radially from the central shaft 110 and each may be spaced about the periphery of the central shaft. The central shaft 110 may be rotatably mounted in the end walls 50, 52 of the hopper 26 (see Fig. 2).

[0036] The paddles 108 may include opposing flat surfaces 112, 114 that are generally planar in shape and are oriented perpendicular, or generally perpendicular, to a central rotational axis of the shaft 110, which is the same as the central axis of the tubular, rectilinear shaft. The surfaces 112, 114 of the paddles 108, may be angled or skewed relative to the central axis of the shaft 110 to displace fresh cement paste deposited in an end of the hopper 26, along its length, to an opposite end of the hopper when the auger 104 is rotated, for example, clockwise as shown in Figs. 5 and 6. The rods 106 may include beveled ends 116 angled to provide close clearance with the curved inner surface of the hopper 26, in contrast to squared or rounded ends. [0037] With the auger 100, the hopper 26 may be loaded with cement paste at a loading end 118 (Fig. 2) that may be defined by an enlarged feed chute 119. There is no need to distribute hardenable paste, such as fresh cement paste, along the entire width of the open top 32 of the hopper 26. Instead, fresh cement paste may be deposited in only a portion, or in embodiments at a single location, of the hopper 26, for example, into the enlarged feed chute 119, and the auger 100 is rotated by the motor 102 so that the angled paddles 108 rotate in the paste to urge and distribute the paste along the length of the hopper 26, whereupon it falls downwardly onto the mold cavities 24 of the drum 14.

[0038] In an embodiment, the paddles 108 may be distributed along the length of the auger 100 and may be attached to the central shaft 110 at regularly spaced intervals. Also in an embodiment, the paddles 108 may be positioned along the length of the shaft 110 so that they are aligned with openings or slots 120 formed in the bottom panel 122 of the hopper 26 as shown in Fig. 6. As shown in Figs. 5 and 6, the paddles 108 and rods 106 may arranged in alternating relation along the length of the shaft 110. In other embodiments, the paddles 108 may be angled to urge the paste from the center of the hopper 26 outwardly to both sides or opposite ends of the hopper. With such an embodiment, paste may be deposited in a central region of the hopper 26— that is, midway or approximately midway between the ends 50, 52 of the hopper— and rotation of the central shaft 110 may cause the paddles 108 to urge the paste from the center of the hopper 26 to the ends of the hopper. In still other embodiments, the blades 108 may be angled to urge paste deposited into the top 32 at any location along the length of the hopper 26, and may be angled to urge the paste toward the ends 50, 52 of the hopper from the point at which the paste is deposited.

[0039] As shown in Figs. 5, 6, and 7, the bottom panel 122 of the hopper 26 may include spaced openings 120 that extend the width of the hopper 26. In an embodiment, the openings may be shaped and positioned to align with the cavities 127 of the transverse row of mold cavities 124 (a subset of mold cavities 24 shown in Figs. 4 and 8) of the facing row of mold cavities 22 of the drum 14. The slots 120 may be separated by dividers 126.

[0040] An advantage of placing the slots 120 to align with the mold cavities 124 is that the alignment minimizes waste of the fresh cement paste that is deposited in the hopper 26 by preventing fresh cement paste from being deposited between the mold cavities 124 on the outer periphery of the drum 14. As shown in Figs. 5, 6, and 7, in a preferred embodiment, the plurality of slots 120 may be arranged in a rectilinear row. Each of the slots 120 may be of the same outer dimensions as the corresponding mold cavity 124 of the facing row of the plurality of transverse rows 22 of mold cavities 24 formed on the outer periphery of the drum 14 that may pass beneath it as the drum 14 rotates.

[0041] As shown in Figs. 1, 2, and 4, the hopper 26 may be suspended from the supports 90, 92 of the frame 12. As shown in Fig. 2, the system 10 may include adjustable cables or chains 130, 132 that are attached to the support frames 90, 92 and extend downwardly to be attached to the arcuate bottom panel 122 of the hopper 126. As shown in Figs. 1 and 4, the bottom panel 122 may be arcuately shaped and conform in curvature to the curvature of the outer periphery of the drum 14. To maintain the hopper 26 in position directly above the 12 o'clock position of the drum 14, the system 10 may include adjustable cables or chains 134, 136, that are attached at their upper ends to the upper portion 30 of the hopper 26 and extend downwardly to be attached at their lower ends to a transverse support beam 138 of the frame 12.

[0042] As shown in Figs. 1 and 4, the hopper 26 also may be held in position above the uppermost portion of the drum 14 by adjustable cables or chains 140, 142 which are attached to posts 144, 146 of the frame 12. Adjustable cables or chains 140, 142 also may be lengthened and shortened to maintain the hopper 26 at the appropriate orientation above the drum 14. The clearance between the bottom surface 124 of the drum 26 and the upper portion of the drum 14 may be adjusted by appropriately lengthening or shortening the adjustable chains 130, 132. With this structure, the hopper 26 may be suspended from the frame 12 to "float" above the upper portion of the drum 14, which in embodiments may be at approximately the 12 o'clock position, or in other embodiments, rest on the top of the drum 14 with a pre-set amount of weight force of the hopper.

[0043] As shown in Figs. 1 and 8, the system 10 may include a cleaning member 150 that may be incorporated into the guide member 73. The cleaning member 150 may be positioned adjacent the elongate drum 14 and upstream of the hopper 26. The cleaning member 150 may include an implement for removing from the successive ones of the transverse rows 22 of mold cavities 24 a portion of the hardenable paste (e.g., hydraulic Portland cement) that has not separated from the mold cavities to form the flexible mat 74. The implement may take the form of a plurality of protrusions 152 positioned to engage the mold cavities 24 formed in the outer periphery of the drum 14. The protrusions 152 may be flexible and shaped to extend into and scrape the surfaces of the mold cavities 24.

[0044] The cleaning member 150 may extend transversely of the drum 14 and may be positioned downstream of the lowermost position of the rows 22 of mold cavities 24, which also may be viewed as being positioned upstream of the mold cavities prior to their passing beneath the hopper 26. In the embodiment shown in Fig. 8, the protrusions 152 may take the form of a plurality of wire cable segments shaped and positioned to scrape surfaces of the mold cavities 24 of an adjacent one of the plurality of transverse rows 22 of mold cavities 24. The wire cable segments 152 may be formed to have frayed outer ends that brush the surfaces of the mold cavities 24 in the manner of a wire brush to remove hardened paste that has not adhered to the finished geo-grid 58 to form the flexible mat 74. In the embodiment 10 shown in Figs. 1 and 8, the sheet 58 of mesh material may be payed out from the roll 60 and extend over the guide member 73.

[0045] The foregoing components of the system 10 for forming a flexible mat provide an efficient operation and minimize the waste produced. The frame 12 may be moved by a separate device, such as a tractor or truck, so that, as the drum 14 rotates to deposit the finished flexible mat 74, the mat material is laid out on the ground 66 as a continuous sheet. In an embodiment, as shown in Fig. 1, a tractor 200, which may take the form of a telehandler, may be connected to the transverse support beam 138 by a cable 202 connected to a ring 204. In that embodiment, the tractor 200 may pull the frame 12 of the system 10 to the left in Fig. 1 over the ground 66, which motion makes the drum 14 rotate in the direction of arrow A, pulling the mesh material 58 from the spool assembly 26, under guide tube 72, over second guide tube 73, and between the outer periphery of the drum 14 and the underside of the bottom panel 122.

[0046] As the mesh material 58, shown partially removed in Fig. 6 for clarity, passes beneath the hopper 26, a hardenable paste (not shown), which has been deposited into the hopper 26 and distributed by the auger 100 along the length of the hopper, falls through the slots 120 into the cavities 124 (a subset of the cavities 24 shown in Figs. 4 and 8) to fill the cavities. The mesh 58, which is held against the outer periphery of the drum 14 by the bottom panel 122 and the tension of the mesh being payed out from the spool assembly 56 and the pinch between the bottom of the drum and the ground 66, becomes embedded in the paste held in the cavities 124.

[0047] The combination of mesh 58 and paste is held against the outer periphery of the drum 14 and the paste within the cavities 124, 24 as the transverse row of mold cavities rotate forwardly of the bottom panel 122 by the retaining plate 78. By the time the transverse row of mold cavities 124 rotates beneath the retaining plate 78, the paste has hardened sufficiently to retain its shape as it falls by gravity downwardly from the mold cavities to the ground 66, forming the flexible mat 74 (Fig. 1). Further hardening of the paste into the blocks 76 may occur after the mat has separated from the drum 14 and been laid on the ground 66. The finished flexible mat 74 may thereafter be rolled up and transported to a desired location, where it may then be unrolled to form an erosion barrier.

[0048] After the flexible mat 74 has separated from the mold cavities 24, further rotation of the drum 24 brings the now-empty mold cavities upwardly into contact with the protrusions 152 of the cleaning member 150, which scrape any hardened paste from the cavities 24 as they pass by the cleaning member. The cleaned cavities 24 then again pass beneath the hopper 26 to be overlaid with mesh material 58 and receive hardenable paste from the hopper 26.

[0049] While the methods and forms of apparatus disclosed herein constitute preferred forms of the disclosed flexible mat forming system, it is to be understood that the system and invention are not limited to this precise apparatus and method, and that changes may be made therein without departing from the scope of the disclosure.