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Sun 28 Dec 2008 04:00 AM

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Stuck on you

A bucket is a bucket, right? Actually, there is much more your excavator can do with just a few more tools.

A bucket is a bucket, right? Actually, there is much more your excavator can do with just a few more tools.

We all know that excavators have buckets on the front. After all, that's the point of them, right?

Well, yes, but there are several new technologies to increase the speed and reduce costs of excavating. Some, you have probably heard of, if not actually used. Others might be less familiar.

A good place to start investigating different attachments for machines was German Gulf Engineering based in Sharjah. This firm has been going since 1974 and incredibly, at least one Atlas excavator from this date remains in service, though the majority of the fleet are now Hyundai machines of various weights.

"This is to be mounted on a thirty tonner," said the firm's plant hire manager, Mr R Menon said, indicating a large bucket with a quick hitch coupler, and a set of tungsten-tipped teeth, "This is for the normal excavation. Generally about 80 per cent of the work in the UAE is normal excavation, because the soil is sandy."

Buckets

Of course, correct bucket selection also makes a big difference to the speed of a job, as well at the amount of diesel used.

Any bucket needs to be the correct one for the job. In any application, the bucket must be able to stand up to the huge break-out forces involved.

Buckets come in a wide variety of sized and shapes, but generally they can be put in to two categories: the smaller type for earthmoving, as seen on construction sites and larger buckets found in the quarrying industry.

With the trend towards offshore building and extreme earthmoving projects, such as the anticipated Arabian Canal, these large rock buckets have fount their way onto construction sites.

"For the canal, they need huge buckets" Mr Menon said, gesturing towards a scoop roughly the volume of a Sharjah studio flat. "We have an even bigger one, too," he added, as a giant 50-tonne Hyundai RC-500LC trundles in the yard with an even larger bucket.

However, bigger isn't always better. When digging specific areas such as tight city workspaces, or narrow gulleys, it is obviously better to have the correct bucket for the job, apart from anything else, the amount of fuel saved by not having to double-handle work would be substantial.

Drum cutter

The first device to catch our eye is a spiky-looking wheel attached to a machine that had just come back from hire.

This is an Erkat drum cutter, and has been developed to eliminate the need for traditional rock breakers when trenching in hard stone. Users recon that the cutters nearly double the output compared to traditional methods.

Menon explained; "There are areas where the soil is too hard and the bucket just scratches, for this you need the drum cutter. It is very fast and safe."

While drum cutting is only used on a handful of UAE sites at the moment, in other parts of the region it is very popular. "In Oman and Doha is very popular" he said.

"We were the first company to use it here, and on several sites including The Waterfront where there is something totally rock, not totally limestone,"

Apparently, the drum cutter ‘simply crunches through' this type of high-carbide stone.

Pile Cutter

The old method of demolishing unwanted foundation piles involved jackhammers, saws, and a whole lot of labour. Clearly, this would very quickly become a drain on resources should more than one pile need removing. "One of my specialities is pile cutting. We have cut over a million piles now" Memon said.

"We have a longditude cutter working in Dubai. This one cuts from the inside, outwards. Any pile over 1.4 metres we can't crush with our machine.

For that we use this and auger it from the inside, out. At the moment it is working at the Schumacher Tower in Business Bay." Larger piles are necessary as buildings get heavier and taller. "At the moment, the standard here are piles 1.8 metres tall, but 2 metres will be common soon" he explained.

Riddle buckets

Not common in the UAE yet, these buckets with a meshed rear are invaluable for any application where soil or sand needs to be sorted from stone or rubble.

They allow brick, concrete, stone, vegetation or any other debris to be separated from soil, and the heavier duty, ribbed back models are suitable for sorting rock or concrete, prior to crushing or screening.

While these buckets are not often seen here, a company new to the region, Fleco Attachments have brought these and others to the region. Andrew Morrison, a regional manager at the company said; "Riddle buckets are ideal for any applications where you want to move the debris, rather than the soil itself.

The gap between the riddle bars, known as ‘tines' will depend on the nature of the stone and soil you wish to separate." He added these were popular in the demolition industry in the ‘States, as well as closely related attachments such as skeletal rock buckets. Grapples

For moving large boulders, or handling rubble on a demolition project, the tool of choice is a grapple, sometimes known as a grabber or a claw.

Mr. Menon said; "This is for stone placing. We have a project coming up, where this grapple will be put on the end of a fifteen metre boom."

Pulveriser

A pulveriser is an evil-looking set of jaws in an excavator attachment. These are rarely seen in this region, but are common in Europe, thanks in part to the amount of demolition that takes place. In the UK, Strickland are a major supplier of one type of pulveriser jaw.

These are manufactured with a heavy duty tubular design, for maximum stability during the pulverizing cycle. Hardened steel jaw inserts give good wear resistance and long life. In addition, fully greasable phosphor bronze bushings prevent seizing up and allow smooth ‘articulation', which means chewing through the pulverizing process.

These also allow the upper section to be completely rebuilt up to new specification. The units are fitted with an optional heavy duty 80mm thick rebar cutter blocks to give maximum stabilisation to the tool steel rebar cutter blades and they are supplied complete with brace arm and 3 position pad.

Quick hitches

For fast hitching and releasing, there are now a variety of devices available. Some of which don't even require the operator to leave the cab. One of these is the Miller Twinlock which recently won a good design award at the SED show earlier in 2008.

A spokesman from the company said: "In light of current concerns regarding semi automatic quick couplers, the TwinLock has been designed to enhance on-site productivity with optimum safety. It features a new shaped jaw and twin non-hydraulic safety devices in the form of a front latch and mechanical stops, designed to minimise the risk of operator misuse and maximise on-site safety during pick up, release and general operation."

He added "The Miller TwinLock also carries the same functionality of the existing universal Miller quick couplers enabling it to operate with a variety of attachments from alternative machine brands as well as working with buckets in both backhoe and face mode."

The main advantage to quick couplers is the amount of time saved when swapping tools, but the increased operators safety can also be taken in to account.

Excavators

You can't use an attachment without having an excavator to attach it to - and German Gulf have an eclectic selection. Older machines are the vanguard of Atlas, while slightly newer machines are from O&K and Liebherr, including several giant 952 machines.

An even bigger 82-tonne machine is being used in the port of Korfakkan for placing large stones in the development there.

Most recently, the firm have moved away from buying european machines, due in part to the exchange rate.

Instead they have opted for Hyundai machines, sourced from local dealer Al Wasit Machinery.

"They are very good machines" Mr Menon said.

Most buyers in the region opt for a 20 tonne Cat, of course. However, there are other options. For a long time, companies in Europe and America had it their own way with the design, sale and manufacture of construction equipment.

Now, though Korean and Japanese equipment is commonplace.

Hitachi controls a major portion with HCME supplying machines to the Middle East, Africa and Europe. In the UAE Hitachi are distributed by Kanoo Machinery, and the region has just seen the arrival of no less than four giant 518-tonne EX5500 machines for work on a large infrastructure project.

Speaking earlier in the year Allan Callaway, general manager, Kanoo spoke about opening a new workshop in Jebel Ali. "If you look after the sales support, the sales will look after themselves and it sure doesn't happen the other way around" he said.

So, now you've read the scoop, go and find a bucket.

Pile breakingThe most basic method of breaking down piles is to utilise either hand held breakers or plant mounted pneumatic breakers. Whilst this method is perhaps the easiest to specify and takes no initial planning, it can produce unacceptable health and safety issues and cause unnecessary damage, particularly to small diameter piles, if not carefully controlled.

Specially designed pile breakers are available in a range of sizes and capability. Hydraulic pile breakers are available for both cast in place and precast, including contiguous wall piles and small secant wall piles.

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