Breakers: quiet efficiency

07 November 2012

A Promove XP4500 and XP7000 at work on an Italian quarry site.

A Promove XP4500 and XP7000 at work on an Italian quarry site.

A slow but discernible recovery appears to be underway in the breakers sector following the sharp decline in sales which has affected almost every part of the construction equipment market since the 2007 to 2009 peak.

This recovery, however, this appears patchy in geographic terms. The recently-published D&RI-100 list of top companies, compiled by CE’s sister-magazine Demolition & Recycling International, suggested that the market conditions in North America were improving faster than Western Europe.

This was confirmed by Caterpillar, which reported that demand in this region had rebounded strongly from its low point in 2009. In fact, the company said, the industry-wide sales figures for 2012 by the end of the year were expected to be above the highs seen during the mid-2000s.

Outside the US, Caterpillar said that demand for its breakers was improving but at a lesser rate. Cat did not see a downturn in the Far East to match that experienced in the US and Europe, but as the Chinese rate of growth cools, demand has declined somewhat. Yet overall it remains the single largest market for Caterpillar breakers.

Promove’s commercial director Antonio Cannaó was more pessimistic where Europe was concerned. He said, “I believe the market for these tools is deteriorating as demand is decreasing, and the product offerings – especially from the Korean and Chinese manufacturers – are increasing.

“Looking at sales volumes over recent years, certainly Italy, Greece and Spain show the greatest decline, while some current areas of interest to us are the Mediterranean Africa countries, Russia and the former Russian republics.”

Rammer brand

Arguably, the biggest news in the breaker sector this year was the return of the Rammer brand name after five years. At the Intermat show in April, Sandvik announced that it would make its premier breaker line, then part of the Sandvik branded product range, also available under the Rammer brand.

According to the company, the move was part of a new multi-brand strategy that will see both Sandvik and Rammer branded breakers available through its existing sales and distribution channels.

Sandvik expects that the Rammer brand will be attractive mainly to its customers in the construction, demolition and quarrying sectors, with Sandvik branded units going into the mining and large quarrying sectors to customers who require breakers as part of a turnkey package.

Vice president of PA breaking Ola Ulmala said, “For more than 30 years, Rammer enjoyed a level of brand loyalty that is virtually unique in the field of construction equipment. And that popularity has never decreased. Our hydraulic hammer and attachment customers in the construction, demolition and quarrying sectors let us know that they would welcome the return of the Rammer brand, and, as a customer-focused company, it is our duty to give those customers what they want.”

The basic technology underlying today’s breakers is extremely well established and any new developments in recent years have been refinements rather than complete product overhauls. Regulations governing sound, vibration and dust – particularly on urban demolition sites in the world’s mature markets – are shaping the latest launches, with silenced breakers now the norm for Europe at least.

However, low cost of ownership is also a key focus point and has been at the forefront of the latest developments, with manufacturers focusing on hydraulic efficiency and power-to-weight ratios.

Torsten Ahr, Atlas Copco marketing manager for hydraulic attachments, said the mantra “less weight, more power” was at the centre of the company’s thinking when it developed its new generation of medium- and heavy-duty hydraulic breakers.

Atlas Copco has added to its heavy breaker line with the HB 4100, designed for use on carriers weighing from 40 to 70 tonnes, this year. As its designation suggests, the new breaker weighs in at 4.1 tonnes and is available with all the usual Atlas Copco features, such as VibroSilenced, PowerAdapt, AutoControl and Contilube.

“The new 4 tonne breaker weighs 130kg less than its predecessor, but produces between 10% and 15% more performance,” said Mr Ahr.

“The lower weight and higher efficiency means that less hydraulic input is required from the carrier, reducing fuel consumption and allowing smaller carriers to be used. We have had a very positive response from customers – the overall cost of ownership has dropped significantly for them,” he added.

More adaptive performance

JCB has updated the design of its larger HM870Q, HM1270Q and HM1570Q breaker models, which are designed to work with carriers from 10 to 28 tonnes. A new Power Control Valve has been added, which provides more adaptive performance from the breaker, varying blow frequency while maintaining impact energy to match the conditions.

These models are now said to offer an improved performance of up to 31% and up to 15% increased hydraulic efficiency – the HM870Q, for instance, offers an increase in performance from 17.4kW to 19kW, a reduction of 50kg weight to 800kg and a hydraulic efficiency gain of 56%.

In addition, new housing has contributed to a reduction in noise levels for the modified large breakers of up to 5dB(A).

JCB has also updated two breakers in its medium line, which are designed to work with midi excavators, backhoe loaders and skid steer loaders.

The HM166Q and HM266Q models have been enhanced – for instance, the HM166Q now boasts an increase in performance from 3.8kW to 7.4kW and a 27.8% efficiency increase, while noise levels have dropped from 124dB(A) to 115dB(A). All JCB breakers are also supplied ready to go, with hangar brackets, hoses and charging kits.

The company has also announced that the seven models in its Hammermaster range sold in the UK are to be supplied with the CESAR marking as standard.

Paul Hartshorn, director and general manager of attachments, said, “This move is in direct response to our customers, who have asked us to come up with an effective anti-theft deterrent for their breakers.

“Theft of attachments is an ever-growing and often uninsurable problem for our customers that is having a big impact. By registering the breakers with CESAR, we are aligning our hammers with the JCB carrier machines which are already protected by CESAR and Datatag technology.”

Providing a robust and durable housing is another area of research for breaker manufacturers, and there have been some interesting developments on most new launches.

Caterpillar’s latest breakers feature an innovative new housing which has been designed with a prolonged working life in mind. The breakers’ new housing design features a symmetrical shape, which allows it to be turned by 180° to compensate for wear. A curved front/back profile is also said to eliminate stress points and transfer forces to the hammer’s bottom.

The new E Series range of hammers – the H110Es, H115Es, H120Es and H130Es – were designed for use on the company’s 321 to 329 (21 to 29 tonne) excavators and the 450E backhoe loader, initially for the North American market.

The new models also incorporate several features from the D Series, such as an anti-blank firing system and an external control to adjust operating pressure for easy service. Noise suppression is a standard feature.

Caterpillar has also introduced the H25D hydraulic breaker into the Europe, Africa and Middle East (EAME) market segment. Designed for use on carriers weighing from 0.8 to 1.1 tonnes, this breaker has been optimised for demolition and recycling applications.

Weighing in at just 70kg, the H25D has a blow rate of up to 1,900bpm and operates at a pressure of 100 to 120bar.

According to Caterpillar, the new breaker was designed for reliability and ease of serviceability. It features a simplified design with a streamlined shape that allows it to be used in confined spaces. It also features just two moving parts to minimise maintenance, with no tie rods, an integrated accumulator and integrated lower tool bushing.

Reduced moving parts

Other manufacturers are also focusing their attention on re-engineering their breakers to reduce the number of moving parts. CE Attachments’ latest range, which has been developed for skid steer loaders and compact excavators, is no exception.

The manufacturer’s new Edge breaker attachments range has been re-engineered to have no through-bolts and feature only two moving parts, which it claims simplifies hammer operation and reduces downtime. These new breakers feature a nitrogen-charged backhead that is said to increase impact energy, as well as an advanced hydraulic circuit which increases flow to the valve and piston for faster cycle times.

Doosan Infracore has also aimed at keeping the design of its latest breakers simple and robust to provide both economical and reliable performance and low maintenance costs.

It recently completed its five model DXB range with the introduction of the 1.09 tonne DXB130H for carriers weighing 15 to 22 tonnes and the 1.82 tonne DXB190H for 22 to 30 tonne carriers.

With operating weights from 940kg to 2,45 tonnes and carriers from 10 to 34 tonnes, the new breakers offer an energy recovery system and a patented valve system which is said to increase overall performance, while an advanced dampening system protects the breakers against blank firing.

Bobcat, Doosan’s compact equipment subsidiary, has introduced nine new models for its HB Series. Designed for use on the company’s compact loaders and mini- and midi-excavators on trenching, concrete demolition and general excavation jobs, they are said to offer “greatly reduced maintenance”.

The HB frame is cylindrical to improve access to confined areas such as inside structures or holes, and features include an automatic pressure-regulator that ensures the breaker works at its optimum operating pressure on all approved carriers. Both the Bobcat and Doosan breakers are sourced from Montabert, Doosan’s breaker specialist subsidiary.

Meanwhile, Montabert itself is continuing the growing trend of offering customers a choice between both a premium and a value range. The company has three new breakers this year – a new two-speed unit for heavy carriers, and two new Blue Line models.

The new V3500 heavy breaker fills out the existing product line and is for carriers from 35 to 60 tonnes. The company says that it is ideal for high productivity work on homogeneous rock surfaces, while the Blue Line units are said to be more suited to demolition, road building, utilities and trenching.

The 900kg XL1000 is for carriers between 11 and 17 tonnes, while the 1,250kg XL1300 is for carriers between 15 and 22 tonnes.

These Blue Line units are designed as an entry level range of quality breakers with a simple, cost effective design for customers for whom price is the major concern.

Atlas Copco is another that has responded to this demand through the introduction of its five-model MB Essential breaker range of medium breakers.

According to the company, the range is concentrated on high performance, low weight and essential features for efficient performance.

Weighing from 750kg to 1.7 tonnes, the range covers carriers from 10 to 32 tonnes. The range comes without Atlas Copco’s ContiLube and the noise protection kit that are standard on its other medium breakers.

Atlas Copco said that the power to weight ratio and the efficiency of its latest generation medium breakers had been considerably improved over that of their predecessors. Because of their lower weight and higher efficiency, less hydraulic input power is required from the carrier while they maintain maximum impact performance.

Weight options

Another major trend has seen manufacturers try to fill all the gaps in terms of weight options. Ramtec, for instance, has launched three new ranges of Robi branded breakers.

The three-model (MH7, MH11 and MH15) Mini MH series is for carriers from 0.8 to 4 tonnes, the four model (EH100, EH140, EH170 and EH240) Excavator EH series is for carriers from 12 to 40 tonnes, and the three model (BH30, BH50 and BH80) Backhoe BH series is for backhoes from 3 to 15 tonnes.

Korean manufacturer Daemo also producers breakers for a very wide range of carriers – the updated Alicon series now covers 17 models for carriers from 1.2 to 100 tonnes. All the models feature an anti-blank firing system, auto lubrication, energy regeneration valve and a selector for two different blow frequencies.

With such a wide range, Daemo is optimistic for sales prospects this year – it said it expected to see its new breaker sales rise by more than 20% in 2012, after selling 1,670 Alicon breakers around the world in 2011.

Promove, too, is introducing new weight options like its new, 2 tonne XP2000 hydraulic breaker, specifically designed to fit excavators in the 22 to 32 tonne class, filling the gap between its XP1700 and XP2400 models.

The new model is also designed to be a lighter alternative for 28 to 30 tonne excavators and is said to be particularly useful in tunnelling applications. And despite sporting a range of advanced technology including an anti-blank firing system and auto greasing, the breaker is also said to have low maintenance requirements.

The company has plans to introduce a 100kg breaker at next year’s Bauma trade fair, as well as renewing its bestselling XP150 and XP250 to provide greater power than that on offer from today’s versions.

Maintenance and spare parts are also a key thinking point for Italian manufacturer Idromeccanica, which has brought a new M Series of breakers to the market. Covering a comprehensive weight range from 85kg to 3 tonnes, the M Series units are suitable to be carried by excavators from 1 to 50 tonnes.

The latest additions to the series include the IMI 9M, which at 85kg is the smallest model and is suitable for machines weighing from 0.7 to 2 tonnes.

Idromeccanica has also reported a recent increase in demand for spare parts as customers increasingly invest in repairing old breakers rather than splashing out on a brand new model. It stocks over 1,500 spare parts, including parts for rival manufacturers, and can also supply its M Series breakers in underwater or silenced versions as well as equipped with automatic lubricating devices.

Dual speed control

Meanwhile, Volvo will also be adding to its HB-branded hydraulic breaker line in 2012 with 13 new introductions ranging from the 140kg HB02 to the 7 tonne HB70.

Available globally by the end of 2012, the breakers will include functions such as dual speed control, noise reduction as well as anti-blank fire and auto stop technology.

Atlas Copco’s Torsten Ahr summed up the way he saw customer attitudes in the breaker market. “The breaker today is a commodity product for some,” he said. “There is a big difference between a high performance, 24/7 breaker for a professional user and a lower-tech model for the customer that uses a breaker once a week or less. It is right that there are some customers that are just looking at price.”

Regulations will continue to play a big role – most manufacturers now only offer silenced breakers to the European market, fitted with insulated breaker box systems, while non-silence version are sold in Asia and Middle Eastern markets where the regulations are not so rigorous.

However, Mr Ahr highlighted one issue that is likely increasingly to haunt the breaker market in Europe and the USA in the coming years – the problem of non-compliant breakers being sold in mature markets, in breach of sound and vibration legislation and undermining the local market that has to comply with the country’s regulations.

He called for increased scrutiny from regulators. “Market surveillance is a growing problem. For instance, some Asian manufacturers come to Europe and sell products that don’t adhere to the legislation – where is the surveillance?” he asked.

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