Utilities: Pipe dreams

By Joe Malone16 November 2016

The new Hitachi zero-tail swing mini excavator laying new pipes and cables in Hverfisgata, Reykjavík

The new Hitachi zero-tail swing mini excavator laying new pipes and cables in Hverfisgata, Reykjavík

The need for work on utilities is continuous, although the nature of the work may have changed in recent years as the likes of fibre optics become more widespread.

The requirements for the machines for this sort of project are broadly the same as for any work – reliable, efficient, easy-to-operate models are what the contractors are looking for. On top of this, attributes like zero tailswing are going to be needed for where the site is cramped.

Hitachi has recently had machines working on utilities projects in Iceland.

A local contractor took delivery of two compact machines from the Hitachi construction machinery range to work on its expanding portfolio of utility projects. The ZX55U-5 mini excavator and ZW75-6 wheeled loader were delivered in May this year by Icelandic dealer Vélafl to Alma Verk, which specialises in fibre-optic cable, high- and low-voltage electricity, water works and small road construction projects.

They have since been dispatched to a number of sites in the capital, Reykjavík, including a contract awarded by the city’s power company to replace insulated water pipes over a stretch of 600m.

This involves the excavation of a trench to expose the old water pipes and insulation on the adjacent streets of Vikurbakku and Núpabakki.

Any rock is broken up and the existing underground concrete wall that was used to house the old pipes is demolished with a breaker attachment on the ZX55U-5 mini excavator. After the pipes have been lifted out and loaded on to a truck, the bottom of the new-look trench is levelled.

The base layer consists of 15cm of sand, which not only allows for drainage, but is also designed for the easy maintenance of the new pipes. The cold water pipes are laid at a minimum depth of 150cm below ground level – to keep the water from freezing in sub-zero temperatures – and two hot water pipes are laid in parallel at a depth of 120cm.

The pipes are covered in a further 15cm of sand and then the trench is backfilled with soil by the ZW75-6 compact wheeled loader.

Geothermal energy

With Iceland’s ability to use geothermal energy, the larger 350mm incoming pipe allows for the flow of water from a nearby power plant, at a temperature of 70°C. The 300mm outgoing pipe’s water runs through at 25°C on its way to be recycled for other uses, such as heating footpaths and drives.

The name of Hafnarfjordur-based Alma Verk is derived from the first two letters of the owners’ names, Alfred Gunnarsson Baarregaard and Magnus Valthorsson.

Baarregaard said, “The decision to buy the compact equipment stems from the good feedback that we have had from other contractors with Hitachi construction machinery.

“The number one priority for us is that the machines are extremely reliable and only need minimal routine maintenance.”

He said the ZX55U-5 was smooth and fast to operate, as well as offering “more than enough power” and all-round visibility.

“The wheeled loader is also well suited to this environment. It is easy to operate, powerful and responds well during loading, unloading, and load-and-carry operations.”

Zero tailswing

At the same time, a Hitachi ZX33U-5 is playing a central role in a major utilities project in Reykjavík. Grafa og Grjót has been using the new zero tailswing mini excavator for the complex process of laying new pipes and cables over a 1km stretch of the Hverfisgata.

With the bitterly cold weather and arctic conditions experienced in winter, the contractor can only work on jobs such as this during the summer months. The hot and cold water, and sewage pipes, as well as telephone cables and an under-road heating system have to be renewed between June and September.

The main operator of the ZX33U-5, Sigurdur Thor Skulason, has worked with several larger Hitachi excavators over the past 17 years, including a ZX470 and ZX520. However, he prefers the multi-faceted approach of operating a mini.

He said, “I really enjoy jobs like this, where there is more variety to my work.

“The Hitachi is a really good machine with an excellent hydraulic system, which enables everything to work well together. It’s very precise for digging around the cables and pipes, loading materials, and backfilling and finishing off the street. There is more than enough space, the all-round visibility is good and quality is evident throughout.”

Volvo Construction Equipment added three compact excavators to its range of 3 and 4 tonne models this year.

The new ECR35D, EC35D and ECR40D compact excavators are said to feature comfortable cabs and advanced, easy-to-use controls for precise operation.

Volvo said they were based on a proven design. The ECR35D and ECR40D short swing radius compact excavators are designed to work with power and precision in tight spaces, it said.

Describing the EC35D as more conventional, it said that it featured similar architecture and delivered high levels of comfort, performances and versatility.

It added that easy serviceability, versatility and greater efficiency were among the machines’ attributes.

The new three and four tonne class Volvo excavator cabs are FOPS, TOPS and ROPS enabled. There are large doors and three-point-access, which Volvo said was particularly useful on smaller machines where operators often need to get in and out of the cab regularly.

Both the conventional model and its short swing radius counterparts are said to provide superior all-around visibility.

The EC35D combines a new D1.8A Stage 3A Volvo engine with a hydraulic system that is said to deliver high performance with smooth operation.

The short swing tail radius and positioning of the boom cylinder on the left below the cab on the new ECR35D and ECR40D excavators is said to allow them to operate in tight working conditions.

Each machine is available with an electronic system that enables operators to fine tune functions and settings through a keypad and monitor. Up to three profiles can be saved in the system, adjusting machine behaviour to suit the application and operator preferences.

The system also includes four attachment-specific buttons that allow for precise adjustment of hydraulic flows from inside the cab as well as an Eco mode that claims to reduce fuel consumption by up to 10%.

There are two user adjustable pre-selected engine speeds, for applications such as grading or lifting, while there is an auto idle system.

The ECR35D, EC35D and ECR40D are also available in more traditional guise without this electronics package.

Volvo also has the EW60E wheeled excavator which claims to offer outstanding traction, swing force and lifting capacity.

Equipped with a powerful Stage IIIB-compliant Volvo engine and adjustable hydraulic flow, the EW60E has an offset boom for a range of operations from confined jobsites to major construction areas.

The EW60E can be equipped with a wide range of attachments that are suitable for applications including utilities. Volvo said these attachments could be easily changed to save time and reduce costs.

The addition of either a mechanical or a hydraulic quick coupler allows attachments to be changed quickly and efficiently. A complete range of buckets from general purpose reinforced buckets to ditching buckets is available, allowing the machine to work on a wide range of applications.

Telecommunications network

For the installation and maintenance of telecommunications networks, Zener Group, based in Valladolid in Spain, has purchased a new Bobcat E32 compact excavator. The purchase was made from Amaq, the authorised dealer for the Bobcat range in Valladolid, Zamora and Salamanca.

A leading contractor in the installation and maintenance of telecommunication networks, Zener Group has laid more than 6,000km of optical fibre and is the main supplier of fixed and wireless networks in the country. It is also a leading player in the energy, civil engineering and safety markets.

Juan Carlos Palacios, area manager for Zener Group, said, “The earthworks for the trenches we construct on our contracts requires an excavator that can provide accurate digging to depth.

“The new Bobcat E32 meets this requirement and its weight and dimensions are very suitable for work in the confined spaces of urban environments and this also ensures the machine is easy to transport.”

The 3.2 tonne E32 conventional tail swing mini-excavator is said to have been designed to achieve the highest performance with exceptionally smooth movements, allowing users to carry out jobs with precision and fingertip control.

Palacios said, “This model offers many advantages, as well as technologies that are not yet on other machines of this kind. We estimate that we have 1,400 hours of work annually for a machine of this type and to get the best performance out of it, we have also bought three sizes of Bobcat buckets – 23, 30 and 80cm – for increased accuracy and versatility in digging works.”

The E32 is powered by the 24.8kW liquid-cooled Kubota D1803 diesel engine running at 2,400rpm. The maximum digging depth of the E32 with the longer dipperstick is 3,417mm, the reach at ground level is 5,270mm, and the dump height is 3,618mm.

Bobcat said the engine, air intake, cooling and exhaust systems, along with the hydraulic pump and valve had been designed to offer a lower bystander noise at 94dBA, and operator ear noise at 78dBA. It said this resulted in a noise environment unequalled by other 3 tonne mini-excavators.

On the E32, a thumb-operated boom offset control located on the left joystick is said to enable improved control of the boom swing function while providing more floor space for the operator. Bobcat said this feature was in contrast to the pedal control used on many excavators of the 3 tonne class.

The E32 has an auto idle feature as standard. It can be enabled at the operator’s discretion, and automatically causes the engine to drop to idle if the excavator functions are not used for about four seconds. The engine automatically returns to the pre-set throttle position when the operator moves a joystick or a travel function.

Trenching buckets

A new line of Cat grading and trenching buckets is available for Cat track excavator models 311 to 323 and for wheeled excavator models M314F to M322F.

The new buckets are said to feature optimal dump and curl angles for added material control, as well as optimal vertical-wall positioning for trenching or working against walls.

The grading buckets are designed for precise grading applications and for digging in semi-compacted dirt, having a wide, straight base edge and incorporating a long, flat floor. The conical design of the back are said to allow the bucket to work well with the tilt-rotator when excavating near obstructions, such as walls or concrete pillars.

The trenching buckets have a narrow design for excavating trenches, pipe culverts, and drainage ditches in semi-compacted dirt.

The buckets feature an extended, straight base edge and a smooth floor wrapper that Cat said allowed digging under and around pipes and cables, while achieving a smooth, finished trench floor.

Manufacturer Mastenbroek is launching a range of new trenching and auxiliary machines using Volvo Penta engines which comply with EU Stage IV emissions regulations.

UK-based Mastenbroek has extended its range of deep trenchers in creating the 40/20 model – the smallest in the series, which is designed to be versatile. Using Volvo Penta’s TAD1371VE engine, the 40/20 has a power output of just under 400hp (298kW) and its trenching depth of just over 2m.

Deep trenchers are used for cutting into agricultural ground to lay pipes for drainage solutions in areas which have a high water table and may have abrasive ground conditions.

Christopher Pett, general manager at Mastenbroek, said, “Trenching is a challenging application and you only want to do it once, so you have to get it right the first time.

“Precision is key, so the trencher has to be able to work in all kinds of tough conditions, and the engine needs to have the right performance capabilities to do the job of powering the machine.”

Among the other upgraded machines from Mastenbroek is the 20/15 drainage trencher, which is now equipped with an 8-litre TAD873VE engine. Originally the machine operated at 194kW with a digging depth of 2m, but with the new Volvo Penta engine and an upgrade, it now operates at 239kW with up to a 2.5m trenching depth.

Road plates

A new product called Trenchlink is claiming to be changing the way companies in the civils and utilities sectors are working. A system of interlocking, ductile iron, skid-resistant road plates, Trenchlink is designed to cover utility trenches without temporary tarmac.

The company claimed that valuable time was saved as Trenchlink made the road immediately passable and was able to bear loads of up to 44 tonnes. It said it also allowed teams to resume work quickly without having to remove temporary tarmac from trenches.

Trenchlink is available in widths from 300mm to 500mm with four plates comprising one linear metre.

E-Z Drill is offering a vertical drill which is tailored to gas utility companies. It claimed the Model 20 UTL saved valuable time and money by allowing companies to pinpoint the site of a gas leak without tearing out a significant stretch of road.

By using the Model 20 UTL, utility companies can drill through the road surface at periodic intervals to check for gas. E-Z Drill said this enabled workers to narrow the potential leak area to a stretch between holes that would need to be removed for repair work, rather than destroying a much longer length of road.

It added that while it has been specially designed for the gas industry, the Model 20 UTL could handle nearly any type of vertical drilling application.

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