"Reevaluating technology, and taking a look at what actually happens inside the breaker to see how components can be consolidated to serve more than one function, can lower the overall number of components that you need," Loomis adds.
Reducing internal components provides the added benefit of minimizing maintenance, since there are fewer parts that require attention. "Every time you have a threaded fastener, you run the risk of it coming loose or breaking," Loomis notes. "And anywhere a component bolts on, the seal between the two pieces can potentially leak. A more uniform product removes some of the maintenance intensive parts that require servicing and regular inspection or repair at time of rebuild."
Reduced maintenance, especially on smaller units for skid-steer loaders and mini-excavators, is a common theme among many manufacturers. "Through engineering problem-solving capabilities, preventive maintenance has been minimized — and in some cases almost eliminated — which has resulted in lower labor costs," says Springer.
Automatic lubrication systems are becoming more popular as a way to reduce, and often eliminate, daily maintenance associated with keeping the tool steel and bushings well greased. Some models are also sealed to keep lubrication in and contaminants out.
"When there is steel against steel, there is a lot of heat generated. So you need a good lubricant, and a lot of it," says Springer. "Unless you have an automatic lubrication system, operators are required to grease the tool steel every two to three hours. But an automatic lubrication system can take the worry out of lubrication."
In addition to making hammers simpler and easier to maintain, manufacturers have also focused on enhancing productivity and longevity, as well as making hammers "smarter".
Productivity is a function of two factors: impact energy and recycle time. In an effort to optimize both, manufacturers offer features such as AutoControl and energy recovery systems.
Atlas Copco's AutoControl — also known as variable frequency — senses the hardness of the material and adapts breaker output accordingly. This intelligence makes the hammer "smarter" and more productive because it provides only as much power as required for the task. "If you have a very light application and a larger breaker, you probably don't need 100% of the power that the breaker can produce," says Loomis.
Another advantage is less stress on the hammer. "By adjusting the output, you put less wear and tear on the internal components by not exceeding the amount of power needed to physically do the job," Loomis explains. "The breaker will last longer since it isn't getting the physical abuse of running at 100% of its duty cycle all day long."
Energy recovery systems recycle the recoil energy and add it to the next blow. For EEI-Socomec hammers, as much as 15% to 20% of the oil used in a stroke is recovered.
To further enhance longevity, many manufacturers offer blank fire protection to eliminate metal-to-metal contact that can damage a breaker. Additions such as dust shields protect bushings by preventing debris from building up on the tool shaft. And trapezoidal tools are virtually unbreakable and will not get jammed into the material being demolished, according to Allied.
The evolution of hammers has also included a progression away from 100% oil-fired designs. In the case of Atlas Copco, a combination of nitrogen gas and oil are used to fire the piston. "This removes a lot of the burden from the carrier and its hydraulic system," says Loomis. "It increases efficiency because it's not relying completely on the output of the carrier. We can also produce a more powerful unit in a smaller profile, which adds to the overall production."
Ingersoll Rand also utilizes nitrogen in its hammers, but it's contained within an "energy chamber" — a completely sealed chamber with a diaphragm. In its place at the top of the hammer is hydraulic oil that controls the hammer. "Our hammers work completely hydraulically," says Pinchuk. "And with the sealed energy chamber, the hammer won't lose its nitrogen charge, so you'll always have consistent, constant performance and maximum energy.