The basics behind most hydraulic breakers haven't changed all that dramatically in recent years. "All in all, a hammer is designed to break," says Shane Meisel, product manager for mounted impacts, Stanley Hydraulics. "The goal is to maximize the efficiency of the hammer, in terms of getting as much impact energy as you can into the tool to get the most energy into what you're trying to break. It's about the laws of physics and transferring energy. Most breakers have gotten to the point where they're about as efficient as they're going to be."
Consequently, advances in design are more about fine-tuning breakers and incorporating features to minimize the effects of operation on the operator, carrier and attachment. Automatic power adjustment, automatic lubrication and noise suppression are some more notable features found on today's models.
Additional changes relate to the growing use of hammers on smaller carriers such as compact excavators and skid-steer loaders.
"The compact carrier segment has significantly changed the hammer attachment market," says Greg Smith, Allied Construction Products, LLC. "Everything from demolition to highway bridge widening is increasing, and this work requires more compact carriers with hydraulic breaker attachments. The introduction of additional models, different sizes and more powerful compact carriers has meant that the hammer manufacturers must develop more hammer models. It is not a 'one size fits all' type of business."
Keeping it quiet
Noise levels are a growing concern for the construction industry. Some communities have actually implemented policies restricting the amount of noise permitted during certain hours of operation.
One such community is Aspen, CO. Its city council declared noise to be a significant source of environmental pollution that represents "a present and increasing threat to the public peace and to the health, safety and welfare of its residents and visitors." Consequently, it developed a policy of permissible noise levels for various areas and times. For example, the maximum permissible noise level in a commercial district is 60 dBA from 9:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.
San Diego, CA, has taken a broader approach. Between the hours of 7 p.m. and 7 a.m., it's unlawful to alter or repair any building or structure that creates "disturbing, excessive or offensive noise" unless a permit has been granted. Repeat noise offenders can be fined up to $2,500.
Due to such limitations, many of today's breakers ? including Allied's S-, E- and G-Series models ? incorporate sound suppression material, which reduces the noise produced by the piston as it strikes the tool inside the hammer box, Smith points out. "This allows contractors to work in areas where noise is a problem, such as near urban areas, schools, hospitals, places of worship and homes for the aging," he says.
Vibro Silenced Plus breakers are completely enclosed and sealed inside a steel box with polyurethane pads and dampeners, says Rich Elliott, hydraulic applications manager, Atlas Copco Construction Tools, LLC. "This reduces the amount of noise created by the breaker because it acts like a muffler," he explains. "That enables the breaker to be used in areas that are sensitive to noise pollution."
Reducing noise has the added benefit of reducing the vibrations that are passed on to the carrier and operator. This adds up to increased operator comfort and machine life.
Extending component life
A hydraulic hammer creates dust as it breaks up concrete and rocks. This byproduct can wreak havoc on the attachment if it works its way into the bushings and tool areas. Fortunately, technology is now available to minimize the risk of dust ingress into these areas.
"Dust is certainly something you can control so it doesn't damage the machine," says Meisel. "You want to keep the breaker up and working so that you're able to complete the job quicker. The easier and faster you can get the initial breaking job done, the more you're helping your customer."