Hydraulic breaker technology
By Helen Wright25 February 2014
In September last year, Atlas Copco celebrated the 50th anniversary of the introduction of the hydraulic breaker – an innovation that transformed the industry.
German manufacturer Krupp Berco Bautechnik, which was acquired by Atlas Copco in 2002, developed the rig-mounted hydraulic breaker and took out a patent in 1963. The first machine, the HM 400, is said to have attracted huge interest at the Hannover fair in 1967, with more than 2,000 units sold.
The aim was to save time and labour in demolition and mining operations where, at that time, pneumatic tools were widely used. The new concept meant that one person operating a rig-mounted hydraulic breaker could do the same amount of work as several operators with pneumatic tools.
Today, hydraulic breakers are in general use, produced by dozens of manufacturers around the globe. The technology has come a long way since its introduction, with manufacturers now integrating advanced features such as high flow hydraulics, variable speed and anti-blank firing systems.
Atlas Copco’s HB 4100 hydraulic breaker, for instance, is a 4.1 tonne tool designed for carriers from 40 to 70 tonnes that is bursting with technology. It boasts a VibroSilenced system designed to protect operators against noise and vibrations, while PowerAdapt switches off the breaker in the event of a hydraulic overload, and AutoControl adjusts blow frequency and energy to match the hardness of the stone.
Also inside the HB 4100 is the company’s ContiLube TM II automatic lubrication technology; StartSelect, which allows the operator to influence the start-up and shutdown behaviour of the hydraulic breaker; and the optional DustProtector system, which prevents dust and rock from getting into inside the breaker.
Heavy duty breakers
Other new heavy duty hydraulic breakers on the market include JCB’s HM1770, HM2470 and HM3070 Hammermaster models, for carriers weighing between 19 and 50 tonnes.
It said its new breakers – the largest that it produces – offer up to +28% more efficiency and up to +92% more performance than previous models. The latest three breakers extend the heavyline range to six updated models –the HM870, HM1270, HM1570, HM1770, HM2470 and HM3070, for carriers weighing between 12 and 50 tonnes. JCB said productivity and efficiency had been maximised with an internal control valve which increases blow frequency in hard applications.
JCB’s Autogrease system also features as standard, ensuring that the breaker is correctly greased to give a smoother action and extended bush life. This is further complimented by a dust wiper system which prevents dirt ingress. The new range of JCB Heavyline breakers are silenced as standard and are said to be up to 5 dB quieter in operation.
Meanwhile, more heavy duty breaker introductions have come from Montabert, which has produced the V3500. Designed for use on excavators from 35 to 60 tonnes, the breaker delivers up to 710 blows per minute.
The V3500 features variable-speed technology that automatically detects changes in material hardness. As a result, the V3500 adjusts its impact energy and striking rate to deliver high energy per blow on hard ground and high frequency on soft ground.
Other standard features include a progressive start system that is said to prevent the breaker from slipping, a blank-fire protection system that reduces harmful metal-to-metal contact, and automatic lubrication.
The breaker’s energy chamber also acts as a hydraulic shock absorber, reducing pressure variations in the hydraulic circuits to provide consistent energy to the breaker. In addition, the V3500’s fully enclosed heavy-duty cradle is said to minimise noise levels while protecting working parts from dust and debris. An optional air pressurisation kit is also available for underwater applications.
This is clearly a premium product, but whatever the target market for the latest breaker designs, manufacturers are targeting performance improvements across the board. Minimising the number of moving parts in the latest models is another major trend for example – fewer moving parts means potentially lower downtime and maintenance requirements.
On the compact side of the industry, Caterpillar claims its new E Series line of breakers feature -47% fewer parts than the equivalent D-Series model they replace. The company said the idea was to provide quicker and easier servicing.
It has added four new breakers to its E Series line, intended for customers using mini excavators, skid steers and backhoes in North and South America.
The new breakers are the H35E, H45E, H55E and H65E, designed for carriers weighing between 1.1 and 9 tonnes. All four models are available in either standard or silent configurations, with the latter breakers carrying an additional ‘s’ designation after the model number, e,g. H35Es.
The silenced versions use a fully enclosed housing to suppress noise, while the suspension system includes buffers at the top and bottom to adsorb reflective forces and isolate the breaker from the carrier. A suspension jack also helps to dampen vibration and sound.
In addition, the H45E and H55E are also available as pin-on and flat-top units. The flat top models can be used on Caterpillar machines and those from other manufacturers, while the pin-on models are use on dedicated hammer-equipped Cat carriers.
And Volvo’s latest series of breakers also targets the compact market. The seven-model HB range, launched last year and now being introduced to global markets, is designed for carriers weighing between 1 and 10 tonnes.
The breakers are equipped with a cushion damper to reduce noise and vibration through the machine, while the HB08 can be adapted to suit the application using dual-speed control, and the HB07 and HB08 have anti-blank firing to prevent them from continuing to strike once the material has been completely penetrated.
It is clear that there are a lot of options when it comes to technology for the latest breaker introductions, and further new launches are to be expected at this year’s ConExpo-Con/Agg exhibition – the biggest show on the international construction equipment calendar for 2014.
Sandvik, for instance, said it would be launching its new 777 breaker and new RH series hammers at the event, with full details to be unveiled at the show.
And as global construction markets continue their expected recovery over the coming 12 months, manufacturers seem quietly confident that their products will sell.
Increase in sales
Doosan Infracore Construction Equipment business unit director for compact attachments Frédéric Lecat, for instance, said the company’s sister brand Bobcat expected an increase in breaker sales in the Europe, Middle East, Africa, Russia and CIS regions of around +10% for 2014.
Designed for use on the company’s compact loaders and mini- and midi-excavators, the Bobcat HB Series of hydraulic breakers offers nine models running from the HB0280 breaker, which has an operating weight of 58 kg, to the HB2380, with an operating weight of 410 kg.
“The biggest markets for Bobcat breakers are in Benelux and the
Nordics; Russia and CIS; France and the UK and Ireland,” Mr Lecat said, adding, “Bobcat breaker customers look for quality, performance and easy servicing, but there is a part of the market which is just based on prices. Here, the breaker is treated as a commodity item, which can be thrown away when it is broken without servicing it.”
This is a key point, and one which will continue to be pertinent in the coming year.
It will be interesting to see how manufacturers migrate the wealth of technology on their premium line products over to their more basic breaker ranges as the demands of emerging markets change over time.