The Pipe Hook is a long tine that inserts inside concrete pipe; elastomer pads prevent the pipe from slipping off as it is moved and placed. This attachment is useful for handling pipe as small as 10-in. inside diameter or up to 60,000 lbs. in 8-ft. joints or smaller. A self-leveling model with a balancing mechanism inside the hook body is available.
The Pipe Lift uses gravity and a scissor action to clamp its tongs onto PVC, iron or concrete pipe. The heavier the pipe, the tighter and stronger the grip. "It's quick and automatic," says Tracy Black, operations manager, Kenco Corp. "And you don't have to be directly in the center of the pipe to lift it. You can set the Pipe Lifter down onto the pipe, lift up and it automatically grabs it."
The SuperLift is a variation of the Pipe Lift, but with bolt-on tines of different sizes for other lifting operations. In addition to pipe, it can move concrete walls, blocks, logs, drums, debris, etc.
Using such lifting attachments is safer and more efficient than more traditional pipe-handling tactics such as nylon straps or chains, Black states. "If you're using a 2-in. nylon strap, you have to somehow get that strap underneath the pipe to wrap it around," he explains. This can be a time-consuming and sometimes dangerous process.
Precision can also be an issue. "With something as narrow as 2 in., you have to be exactly in the center of the pipe to pick it up level. If you're off even a few inches, it will tip down on one end. Then you will have to set the pipe back down and someone will have to physically move the strap," says Black. "When you get the pipe in the trench, you have to pull the strap out from under the pipe. That can cause the pipe to twist, which can disengage the pipe connection.... Now you have to reconnect it. With straps or cable, you have three to four extra steps."
According to Black, an attachment such as the Pipe Lift can reduce both the time and personnel required for this task. "You can just set the lift down near the middle of the pipe and start to lift," he says. "If you're too far off center, you can lower the pipe to the ground, release the pressure a bit, slide the attachment over and pick it up again, all from the operator's seat in the cab. When you get the pipe in the trench, you can also use the attachment to push it together. And since the lifter grabs the sides of the pipe... you don't have problems with removing a strap that is buried in bedding. The lifter simply collapses, locks open and lifts off the pipe."
The result is less time and less cost for pipe placement. "These attachments are safe and can expedite installation of pipe by shaving as much as 30% to 50% off the time it takes to complete a job, depending on the job," Black asserts. "And time is money. If you can get a job done before you had hoped, then you win."
Finishing the task
Once the pipe is set, attachments such as compaction wheels and vibratory plate compactors enable you to use the excavator to compact the soil. Compaction wheels generally cost less, but a vibratory plate compactor provides a better compaction rate, so weigh the advantages/disadvantages of each before making a final decision.
If you choose to use a vibratory compactor, it's important to size it properly based on the weight of the attachment and the hydraulic flow of the excavator. "If the compactor is too large for the machine, it will be too heavy when you reach out and you can tip the excavator," Peters explains. "If the compactor is too small for the excavator, you can have excessive hydraulic flow and it can overspin the hydraulic attachment, which can cause internal damage to the motor."
Pay attention to couplers
With the variety of attachments available, quick couplers can be a boon to efficiency. "The big advantage is you can switch between different attachments quickly," says Peters.
However, pay attention to which coupler you're using, since it can change the geometry of the machine. Tip radius is important because its measurement affects the curling force. For example, a bucket with a short tip radius provides more bucket curling force than one with a longer tip radius, which makes it easier to load.