Groundbreaking Tools

Oct. 20, 2014

Naturally, a ground-engaging tool that breaks the ground in an efficient manner is the most desirable.

As owner of S. Rackham Construction in Foresthill, CA, a company that primarily does utility trenching, mostly for electrical companies, Scott Rackham’s experiences have presented him many challenges.

In 2007, his company was involved in a project requiring A/B (asphalt base and sub-base) in 10,000 feet of trench.

“It had to be compacted because it was in an area where we had lime treated and I didn’t want to have to buy one of those vibratory compactors,” he says.

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Experimenting with a hammer, Rackham invented what he calls a compactor shoe. It took him about two years to find a design that worked well. Since then, he’s used it on all of his company’s jobs.

Rackham’s patented device has been licensed by Leading Edge Attachments, which has launched the shoe under the name Pachyderm.

“On the West Coast, we use a lot of compactor wheels,” he says. “The problem with the compactor wheels is if you are in tight areas or doing certain things like compacting aggregate or sand, the compactor wheels don’t work.”

Rackham uses hammers because the areas in which he works are rocky.

“They make vibratory compactor plates that will take care of doing aggregates, sand, A, B, and subgrade and for tight areas where you can’t get the compact wheels in,” notes Rackham. “Those cost as much as a hammer.”

Rackham says when he’s compacting A/B, he’s usually working in a road or parking lot; sometimes A/B also is used under concrete areas such as sidewalks and building slabs.

Rackham says a primary benefit of the Pachyderm is that it serves as a temporary tool.

“It’s easy to get on and easy to take off, but it gives the hammer multiple uses,” he says. “I now use my hammers more for compacting than I do hammering.”

Rackham uses the Pachyderm primarily for trenching and some road patching jobs.

“I use it for compacting areas that are really tight where I can’t get the compactor wheels in or for doing the sand bedding and the trenches,” he adds.

He also uses it for doing subgrade and in areas where he needs to dig up a lot of compaction, such as industrial building sites where there are many risers coming up out of the ground that have to be secured off and which compactor wheels can’t be used.

Rackham says one of the benefits of the Pachyderm is that when he’s done with it, he can pull it right off and then hammer rock or bust up concrete in a matter of seconds.

“They make a stamp that goes on a bit for a hammer, but you’ve got to pull that out and put a point back in to use it for doing other jobs,” Rackham says. “What’s nice about this is I can just drop the point into it and lock it in place and then bam-I can go compact with it, and when I’m done, it just pops right off.”

The coupling is universal.

“The shoe will go on any point,” says Rackham. “Except for the really small shoes I have now for doing really small trenches, the bigger ones I use on the backhoe and the excavator because the way the shoe is designed, it has shims inside of it that you can open and close by tightening up bolts. That bites in around the bit and snugs it. Safety chains also help hold it on there as well.”

Another advantage of the Pachyderm is realized on deep trenching jobs that involve shoring, Rackham says.

“What’s nice about that tool is I can dump sand in a trench and use it to spread it out and then compact it in deep trenches instead of having my guys down with trench rammers on the bottom in trenches that are very deep.

“I also can push the material around and hammer it down, so when you’re dealing with a situation that’s more than five foot deep where you have to have shoring and have to worry about cave-ins, you don’t have to worry about having men down in the trench with this.”

Compaction testing is “really big” in the West, Rackham says.

“They’ll test every 50 or 100 feet on your compaction here,” he says. “On top, they want 95% minimum. Speed and time-wise, that’s really important. The shoe gets a compaction of 95 with no problem.”

Travis Augustyn, a partner with Progressive Structures, an Iowa-based drainage contractor, says one of the most important tools he uses is the Indexator Rototilt System.

The Indexator Rototilt System features a single-piece cast-rotor housing and a worm gear in an oil-filled rotor housing in a shielded hydraulic motor. It also features a coupler to rotor joint, designed for strength and stability and hardened tilt cylinder rods, with an eye to increased wear and damage resistance.

The system is also designed with strong pins and bushings and fewer lubrication points.

Its control system, PropPlus, provides the control and flexibility needed for optimal performance and operational safety, enabling it to operate under difficult conditions such as severe cold.

A higher system pressure is designed for better performance in such functions as tilt and digging torques. Its multi-attachment enables it to be used by several types of excavators. Indexator offers a range of sorting grapples, multiuse grapples, and grapple modules to work with the Rototilt.

Rototilt also works with universal ditching and specialty buckets, forks, and asphalt cutters.

Projects tackled by Progressive Structures include installations of storm sewers, culverts, and storm drains.

“We’ve done deep excavation, dewatering-we’ve done a little bit of everything as far as drainage work goes,” says Augustyn.

The majority of the company’s workload is for the Iowa Department of Transportation. Progressive Structures has two of the Indexator Rototilt systems.

Augustyn, who had first seen the Indexator at a ConExpo, says he likes its versatility and its ability to help him increase production.

“Not everything we do is the same every day, and it’s very helpful on production,” he says. “Last year, we had a job on Interstate 35. With a two- to three-month time frame that it would normally take me to do the work, I had to do it in about a month, so I really had to ramp up production.

“Rototilt gave me the ability to do that, because in that particular situation, I was able to quick catch on a grapple, lay my pipe with a grapple, and dig all of the pipe up and do the installation very efficiently,” Augustyn says.

The tool replaces a worker who would ordinarily be hooking and unhooking cables or pipes and guiding them, he says.

“The guy in the cab is running that whole thing and you have a guy down in the hole who can tell you if you’re on your mark on your pipe laser and that’s about it,” Augustyn says.

Augustyn likes that with the Rototilt, he has full control of the pipe.

“You can turn it yourself, you can tilt it,” he says. “It’s been very helpful on some of the bigger pipes I’ve put in because when you install anything 54 inches in diameter or bigger, it tends to drop or settle when you’re putting it in there using a sling.

“But when you use the Rototilt, you can actually pick up on the pipe and keep it from doing that-you get a lot better quality installation and a lot less headache.”

Augustyn also favors the quick service he gets from Indexator when he has a problem.

“Any problem we’ve had, they send me a part right away,” he says. “If they can put a machine on the end of my machine that can accomplish work twice as fast, that’s great. But to have machines in that much higher demand, then you expect that production, so it’s that much bigger of a deal to be able to keep it running.”

The coupling is universal.

“If I bought a Cat 328 right now, I could pop the pins out and put a Rototilt on it,” says Augustyn. “I wouldn’t have to do much work to it. The first time I bought a Rototilt, they didn’t have that availability. I had to torch my old pins off and put new ones on there. That was a pain, but now they’re able to accommodate what manufacturers are doing now. That’s a pretty big deal.”

Augustyn says a contractor may view the Rototilt as a “fancy tool that you don’t need”, but he differs.

“It’s super handy work around utilities sometimes,” he says. “If you’ve got to expose a fiber line, you can turn the bucket at any angle you want and work with that. If you’re placed in rock, you can be more ginger to the touch as far as putting that in there. You can really make a nice-looking trench, tilting your bucket every time you do that.”

The tool also helps on safety issues, says Augustyn, adding that he uses it on new trenches.

Saving time is another benefit, he adds. Augustyn may have one machine devoted to opening and backfilling trench with another, equipped with the Rototilt, coming behind and installing pipe.

“That first machine can dig and dig all day long,” he says. “The other one can lay pipe and you don’t have to stop production on digging to put stuff in the ground. You could really move along fast.”

At Specialty Rentals and Attachments in Hammonton, New Jersey, company president Bob Harrell, Jr. rents a number of Ho-Pac vibratory compactor/drivers from Allied Construction Products. Contractors have from among four different sizes to choose.

The rental operation offers excavators, rented with tools, hammers, grapples, shears, augers, pile driving equipment, and concrete crushing equipment.

The hydraulically operated, carrier-mounted Ho-Pac vibratory compactor/driver uses an eccentric, rotating weight that creates vibrations and impulse energy for soil compaction. The Ho-Pac is designed with an errorless four-function valve, a variety of mounting configurations and maintenance-free (no greasing) lubrication.

It is both a compactor and a driver, offering its end users dual capabilities.

Features include a four-function valve that controls flow, pressure, regenerations, and oil flow direction. Sealed bearings or oil splash bearings provide maintenance-free lubrication. Coat hoses are designed to be durable, prevent cuts, and extend wear-life. A variable mounting system is available to easily mount the Ho-Pac attachments by custom fitting them to match the stick/link width, pin diameters, and pin centers”¦and to fit many pin-grabbing quick couplers.

Ho-Pacs are favored for trench, slope and excavation compaction. Its vibration compacts granular materials ““ vibration generates stress waves, bringing the soil’s air to the surface. Soil particles are rearranged and moved closer to each other, reducing soils in the void.

Ho-Pacs can compact in densities in excess of 95% Proctor and also are used for compacting waste materials and for breaking up frozen coal.

An optional swivel-top mounting bracket permits precise positioning of the Ho-Pac without repositioning the carrier.

As a driver, Ho-Pacs are designed to offer a faster, less-expensive technique for driving wood, steel and aluminum sheeting, H and I beams, piling, posts, and seawalls.

The system sends vibration along the length of the item being driven, breaking the skin friction that slows driving. The vibration, coupled with the impulse force of the Ho-Pac and the carrier’s down pressure, is favored as a driver of beams, sea walls and piling.

In his region, Ho-Pacs are used by marine contractors for bulkheads, boardwalks, marinas, and house foundation pilings, says Harrell.

Ho-Pacs have been used to accomplish a great deal of work restoring areas damaged by Hurricane Sandy.

“They’re using Ho-Pacs to drive pilings in the ground for the boardwalk, for the marinas in the bay and for homes,” he says. “They usually have two pieces of equipment. One excavator with an auger, which they use to predrill holes for the pilings and set the pilings in the hole. The Allied compactor sits on top of the pilings and it’s controlled inside the machine. They turn it on and drive the piling into the ground to the desired depth.”

Harrell says contractors like to rent the Ho-Pac because it’s quicker and more accurate.

“You get a lot more done in a day,” he says. “It can be used to pull old pilings out of the ground. It can be used to impact a trench when you’re putting pipe in the ground. It takes the place of a couple of guys trying to struggle with a pole because you can use this machine to lift the pole and set it in the hole before you actually drive it into the ground.”

Additionally, most of the machines are set up with quick couplers, so end users can quickly disconnect the hydraulic lines and the tool and replace it with a bucket, a hammer or a grapple, Harrell adds.

Creighton Rock Drill in Mississauga, ON, is a supplier of construction, drilling, and ground-engaging tools and parts and serves as a supply house for BTI, an Astec Industries company.

Jim Kane, attachment specialist, says his operation supplies contractors with BTI (breaker technology) systems.

Kane says breakers are used on excavators or skid-steers primarily for residential work, curb work, foundation work, commercial, and industrial jobs.

“Anywhere there is indigenous rock or oversize rock, they’re used after the crusher to break into smaller pieces or to break for the construction market. It may be for underground subway, any kind of demolition work, and some quarry work.”

Kane says he sells more BTI breakers than any other kind because of the service offered.

“In the breaker industry as a whole, it’s all about service,” he says, emphasizing that downtime is lost revenue. “People are more educated now about breakers, so it comes down to how quickly you can service them. We’re two hours south of the factory where the parts come from, and they look after us. We don’t have to deal with someone overseas.”

The breakers are geared to the size of the carrier, the excavator upon which it is being mounted, says Kane.

Some go on with OEM or JRB couplers; most are direct pin-on.

“It depends what they’re using it for,” he adds. “If someone in straight construction is going to go from digging to breaking, they’ll likely have the coupler on for the ease of going on and off. If it’s a dedicated one just for demolition only, then it’s usually just a straight pin-on.”

The hardness, toughness and size of material to be broken will determine the power required. Another factor in the selection size of the breaker is the size of the crusher or grizzly.

The boom chosen to carry the breaker depends on its ability to provide full coverage of the area where material will require breaking, racking or clearing.

Power packs are matched to the hammer and boom to achieve optimal performance and reliability.

Controls are designed for flexibility:

  • Electric-hydraulic controls: 200 feet
  • Radio remote control: 325 feet
  • Camera assisted coaxial cable: 1,500 feet
  • Fiber optics: Seven miles
  • TI has four lines of breakers.

Mobile crushers are designed to be moved from site to site. Breakers sized appropriately for these units will mount on the crusher securely so it can be moved without having to first dismantle the breaker assembly, yet are large enough to handle the raking and breaking.

With stationary units, jaw crushers and impact jaw crushers are most often fed from a rock box using a vibratory feeder. A rock breaker needs to be positioned to assist with raking rocks into the crusher, reducing oversize, and be able to reach into the crusher to assist with processing and clearing jams.

In the harsh environment of grizzly applications, the boom is subject to high degrees of in-line and side raking along with various sizes and amounts of oversize. BTI’s grizzly booms are designed with wide boom cross-sections, extra-large pins and reinforced high-tensile steel plates, all designed to handle complex loading to the boom.

Gyratory booms allow full breaker coverage within the rock box and mouth of the crusher. BTI’s line of large hammers is designed specifically for gyratory booms to quickly eliminate any bridging or clogging, restoring consistent material flow to the crusher.

Standard equipment on a power pack includes swash plate piston pumps with load sense/constant horsepower control; extra-heavy-duty, all-welded construction suitable from high vibration applications; pressurized fill cap with air filtration; suction strainers on larger models; full flow pressure filter with visual indicator; full flow return filter with visual indicator; flooded pump inlet; clean out/inspection cover; fluid level indication; and fluid temperature indication.

Optional equipment includes immersion heater; drip tray; hand pump fill kit; electrical filter indication; extreme cold weather power pack; extreme-duty cycle and high temperature cooling; motor starter panel and power pack control center; high/low temperature interlock; high-altitude hydraulic charging kit; high-altitude electric motor compensation; premium efficiency electric motor; explosion proofing; fire suppression systems; fire-restraint fluid compatibility; high-horsepower/high-flow pump motor; and complete power pack enclosure.

General boom options include all hose boom (no hydraulic tubes); optional hose connections ORFS and SAE split flange; load drop counter balance valves on all boom functions; breaker anti- lunge interlock; automatic greasing systems; manual/central greasing system; Expander pins; pedestal to steel structure mounting kit; pedestal to concrete foundation mounting kit; cold weather conditioning package; cold weather grade steel plate construction, and bucket and grapple attachment.

Optional equipment includes stand-mounted electric over hydraulic joystick control; portable electric over hydraulic joystick control; remote manual hydraulic control; radio remote control; IQAN (CAN bus) control system; control cable length; long-distance fiber optic and coaxial upgrade; ergonomic chair with joystick control; secondary remote control; remote power pack starter/control panel; and operator control cabins with heating, air-conditioning, cab pressurization, and explosion proofing for windows.

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BTI’s rockbreaker booms come standard with fully proportional electro-hydraulic control from twin joysticks operating a fully proportional, load-sensing directional control valve providing precise and variable control of all boom functions.

The basic system can be modified to suit many needs, including additional control pendants for maintenance and long distance applications.

BTI’s full line of BX and BXR series breakers come standard with extra heavy-duty box housings, internal shock damping systems and rock claws configured for continuous-duty mining environments.

Optional equipment includes extension brackets; mechanical or hydraulic quick couplers; side plate housing construction; severe-duty, anti-abrasion wear kits; side-mounted breakers; automatic greasing systems; choice of blunt, chisel or moil tools; extended tool lengths; concave removal tools; energy regeneration systems (BXR series); anti-blank fire interlock; and two-speed control.