New hydraulic breakers increase efficiency, longevity

By |  April 20, 2016
Photo courtesy of Montabert

Photo courtesy of Montabert

To an outsider, splitting oversized boulders and busting rock walls may appear cut-and-dried. However, to those in the aggregates industry, it’s a much different reality. They’ve seen firsthand the difference a well-designed hydraulic breaker can make to the speed, efficiency and safety of their work.

It’s this drive to get the job done right and on time that has propelled equipment manufacturers to continue to apply innovative techniques and technologies to the design of the modern hydraulic breaker.

“Innovation in breaker technology and design has largely been driven by two things – operator desire for speed and changes to the carriers themselves,” says Paul Shevlin, territory manager for Montabert, a breaker manufacturer. “Excavators, skid-steers and track loaders keep getting stronger and more efficient, generating a demand for stronger, more efficient attachments. The same carrier that once could handle only a 750-ft.-lb. breaker could easily handle a 1,000-ft.-lb. model today.”

Three advances in particular illustrate the increasing sophistication of hydraulic breakers: variable-speed design, blank-firing protection technology and automatic lubrication systems.

Variable-speed design

Variable-speed technology senses fluctuations in the hardness of materials and then adjusts impact energy and striking rate. This makes for maximized productivity and reduces harmful energy that could be transferred back to the carrier.

Advanced sensors communicate with the breaker, demanding full power and slow speed during the firmest parts of the job, and less power and higher speed as the material begins to give way. The technology has improved energy output dramatically, as operators are not hitting every rock with full power every time. Not only has the innovation enhanced efficiency, it has extended the life of the breaker by reducing wear and tear.

When it comes to the variable-speed feature, Shevlin advises users to ask questions when they hear the term mentioned.

“Some breakers may be called ‘variable speed,’ but they only offer two or three speeds,” he says, adding that a true variable-speed breaker may have up to 15 speeds. “Another thing to ask is whether or not the tool will change speeds automatically as it’s breaking rock. Some breakers on the market today require manual changes.”

Blank-firing protection

Blank firing, or operator misfires, is one of the leading causes of tool damage. The increased vibration caused by blank firing shoots up through the excavator stick and boom, greatly reducing the life of those critical components.

Most experts say it’s impossible to avoid all misfires. Fortunately, engineering enhancements in hydraulic breakers have led to the development of blank-firing protection technology.

“When that piston fires, it’s looking for the tool,” Shevlin says. “If the tool’s not there because there’s no resistance, it’s going to slam right into metal. Because a certain amount of blank firing is inevitable regardless of the operator, innovation in protective technologies is something that has benefited nearly every aggregates producer in the world.”

How does it work? Movement of the piston is dampened by a hydraulic cushion located at the base of the cylinder bore. By reducing that metal-to-metal contact, the innovation prevents components like pins and bushings from failing as quickly. A longer component life means greater productivity and a better return on investment for the attachment.

Automatic lubrication systems

According to Shevlin, making sure a hammer is adequately greased to flush out dust and debris is the single most important thing a user can do to extend the life of the tool. A properly lubricated breaker not only operates at peak performance, but the grease flushes out dust and debris that can wreak havoc on internal breaker components.

“If you’re not properly greasing your hammer, the bushings absolutely will wear prematurely,” Shevlin says. “Operators should see 5 to 6 in. of grease running down the sides of the tool at all times. Even smaller hammers should be greased every two to three hours. Not every operator does it, but should.”

Because greasing the breaker must be done frequently, it can cause significant interruptions in a day’s work. To address the clashing needs of the breaker (grease) and its operator (productivity), the industry has developed a variety of auto-lube systems. Shevlin says operators have a wide range of options, but each generally falls into one of two categories: breaker-mounted or in-cab.

Breaker-mounted auto-lube systems are mounted directly to the breaker itself. This provides a space advantage, as the system is not in the cab with the operator. However, these systems are smaller, so grease needs to be replaced more frequently.

In-cab auto-lube systems, on the other hand, generally pull from a five-gallon bucket. The breaker is fed lubricant through a line running from the cab to the tool. Another advantage of a system like this is that it can be transferred from one machine to another without having to detach from the breaker, as is necessary with a mounted system.

The next level of innovation

As in most industries, innovation in breaker manufacturing is about taking something already great and making it better. The three innovations explored in this article are just a sampling of the advancements breaker manufacturers have developed over the years and will continue to pioneer well into the future – all with the goal of taking hydraulic breaker technology and aggregates production to the next level.


Information for this article courtesy of Montabert.

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