Back in the late 1970s, when the compact hydraulic excavator was largely a European and Japanese phenomenon, the Connecticut-based U.S. distributor for Smalley Excavators held a small demonstration of a new mini excavator in its yard. As part of the show, the distributor staff hooked up a Stanley handheld hydraulic breaker directly to the excavator, and broke up some concrete for the intrigued onlookers. This was something special. Unfortunately, following the demonstration, the hammer was inadvertently left out in the yard overnight, and the next morning it was missing.
The owner of Smalley was furious at having lost a $1,000 tool, but after his anger subsided, he had to laugh. He realized that when the thief tried to sell his loot to any local contractor, he would likely end up with little more than blank stares as they tried to imagine how to hook this odd-looking breaker up to their compressor. Hydraulic handheld construction tools had not yet come of age.
In the intervening 20 years, a lot has changed. Many companies have introduced a broad range of handheld hydraulic demolition hammers, along with saws, tampers and other tools, and these have become viable — and often better — alternatives to traditional pneumatic, gas or electric tools. The word is spreading, with new applications and new markets growing fast for this relatively late arrival to the demolition tool.
There are a variety of factors that have contributed to the increasing popularity of handheld hydraulic tools.
- Power to weight ratio
Handheld hydraulics offer hands down the best power to weight ratio of the four traditional power sources. For example, a top-of-the line 60-pound class hydraulic handheld breaker can outperform a 90-pound class pneumatic breaker. And if you factor in the power sources, the advantage to hydraulics is even more dramatic. A 185 cfm air compressor may weigh as much as 2,700 pounds, while a typical hydraulic power pack comes in at just 150 pounds.
- Transport and storage
In the old days, a yard full of big equipment might make an equipment owner feel proud, but today it is seen as more of a liability in terms of storage and handling. Handheld hydraulic equipment is small and light by comparison, making little demand on large storage facilities or heavy transport and handling equipment to get it out to job sites. No heavy truck is needed.
With asset management taking on ever-increasing importance in the rental business and elsewhere, a hydraulic package (power pack and breaker) has a decided cost advantage over a compressor and a pneumatic breaker. It is important to note that an air compressor has many other uses besides powering a breaker and that a standard 185 cfm model can supply air for two or even three breakers at a time. Still, a hydraulic power pack can run other hydraulic tools and offers an excellent low-cost opportunity to be competitive for the small contractor or for rental operations at less than half the cost of an air compressor and breaker combination.
Moreover, with the proper fittings, a hydraulic breaker can be hooked up directly to a hydraulic carrier, such as a mini-excavator, skidsteer loader or backhoe. Provided the hydraulic flows match — a flow-regulating device can be installed — the breaker will work quite well, thus saving the additional cost of a separate power pack.
- Ease of use
On site, handheld hydraulic breakers and pneumatic breakers are used in much the same way. Modern hydraulic hoses are light and quite flexible, approaching the characteristics of standard rubber air hoses. Extending hoses is simple with the state-of-the-art couplings used on hydraulic equipment today. One manufacturer claims that you can connect up to 70 feet of hose with no significant drop in performance.
In the old days, dropping the end of a hydraulic hose on the ground could spell disaster, as the dirt could easily contaminate the hydraulic oil circuit. Today's no-spill flat face hydraulic couplings are designed to keep the dirt out, and filter systems prevent most of the danger of contamination. There's a hydraulic power pack that uses a biodegradable hydraulic oil, so that inadvertent spills need not cause undue worry.
Handheld hydraulic breakers are easy to handle around the jobsite. Most have a slim design, and several models are available with ergonomic anti-vibration handles. Service requirements for hydraulic systems are generally modest. With modern, reliable four-stroke gasoline engines providing the power, operating the hydraulic power pack is simple, and fuel is readily available. Most hydraulic power packs come with wheels and handles so they can be readily maneuvered around the job site.
- Hydraulic vs. electric equipment
Electric demolition hammers and breakers are arguably even easier to use and less costly than handheld hydraulics, but the comparison falls short when power to weight ratios are considered. A 65-pound hydraulic breaker can compete comfortably with a 90-pound air hammer in hitting power. Handheld hydraulics are also more robust and less subject to expensive repairs.
Handheld hydraulic demolition tools are a growing part of the world market. They are used in a variety of applications, beginning with light demolition and repair work on structures, infrastructure service and repair such as roadwork, trenching and other similar uses. More specialized applications such as tie tamping on railroads or cleaning out kilns at cement works are also common.
A hydraulic handheld breaker can be put to use virtually anywhere you might use a pneumatic, electric or gasoline-powered breaker. Of course, there is never a single best choice for all cases. Nevertheless, handheld hydraulic breakers have developed over the past 20 years from a rather crude technology into sophisticated tools for a broad variety of construction and maintenance applications, earning their rightful place in the rental fleet.
Peter Bigwood is president of Atlas Copco, West Springfield, Mass., and Jan Ohlson is product line manager.
Tex H handheld hydraulic breakers from Atlas Copco offer many advantages for those who want to combine compact size and a low total investment with a lot of power. The breakers are available with or without vibration-dampened handles and in three sizes — 40, 50 and 60 pounds. The breakers are as powerful as much heavier pneumatic breakers but are far easier to handle and transport, according to the manufacturer. A hydraulic 60-pounder is designed to be equal in performance to a pneumatic 90-pound class breaker.
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The CCL-4000 and CCL-7000 pneumatic turbine vibrators from Vibco work on Vibco's patented turbine principle specifically designed to generate high force and high frequency with minimal noise. Both models meet OSHA noise standards with a decibel rating of 78-85 dB, have high speed bearings with oil-seals that are prelubricated for life and start in any position. The use of prelubricated, oversized bearings assures a long and maintenance-free service life. These models fit all of today's lug and cradle brackets with the CCL-4000 fitting all standard small brackets and the CCL-7000 fitting all large brackets.
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The new rotary hammers from Metabo feature Metabo's long lasting motor and rapid tool change system. Used only on Metabo grinders in the past, the tools' long lasting motor includes special winding protection, making it resistant to dust and debris from drilling. The epoxy resin powder coating on the field coil, which is free of air inclusions, helps prevent overheating of the motor under heavy loads. Double insulation on the tool protects against electric shock by creating a non-conducting barrier between the operator and the electric components inside.
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The Hydraulic Conversion Kit from Blue Giant upgrades mechanical dock levelers to high performance hydraulic dock levelers for increased longevity, productivity and employee safety. Proven hydraulic operation plus reduced moving parts reduce downtime and maintenance costs associated with conventional mechanical dock levelers. Best suited for any growing high volume company that requires the advantages of hydraulic operation without incurring the cost and time of replacing a complete mechanical dock leveler, the kit includes a maintenance free power pack, cylinders, push-button control and accessories, and is available in any standard voltages to suit all site conditions.
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The Ditch Witch piercing tools are a reliable, productive, low-maintenance family of reversible pneumatic tools designed for short-to-medium range compaction boring projects, pipe ramming and pipe pushing. Available in three sizes ranging from 2 to 4 inches, these tools are ideal for installing utility service lines under sidewalks, driveways, streets or other areas where larger traditional trenching methods are not feasible. A patented quick reverse mechanism allows the operator to instantly change direction with the flip of a lever.
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Enerpac introduces its Value Line Press Series designed to offer high quality and durability at an affordable price. Appropriate for broad industrial maintenance applications, the 10,000 psi presses feature a capacity of 10 to 100 tons and a maximum daylight by width of 41.3 by 41.5 inches. The series also features a heavy-duty welded frame for increased strength and durability. The products are designed with standard Enerpac power sources and cylinders, which provide high performance and trouble-free operation in 10-, 25-, 50- and 100-ton models.
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Kaeser Compressors now offers a complete line of air tools that includes paving breakers, rock drills, rivet busters, trench diggers, chipping hammers and back-fill tampers. Mobilair Tools are made from top quality raw materials. The valves, pistons and other moving parts are made from shock resistant tool steels and are heat treated to a specified Rockwell hardness for exceptional toughness and durability. Sophisticated CNC equipment is used to ensure precision and consistency on all machined parts.
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Hitachi introduces the N5008AC standard crown stapler, which has a driving speed of 12.7 staples per second. This rapid driving, as well as the N5008AC's quick response, is made possible by Hitachi's cylinder valve firing mechanism. Furthermore, even in the rare occurrence of a jam, Hitachi's quick-clear, single touch jam release allows users to return to work in seconds. The depth of drive adjustment allows for easy adjustment of nail driving depth for counter-sinking or flush-driving of nails.
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With the new Hilti full service repair program, participants will not only save time and money but will also experience fixed costs for Hilti rental fleet tools for two years. This full service repair program includes transportation of the tool to and from a Hilti repair center, maintenance service, repair and replacement of all worn out or defective parts, functional testing and adjustment and safety check after any repair. So when customers purchase a Hilti rotary hammer, combihammer, chipping hammer, diamond coring system or laser positioning and measuring system product, there will be no additional charge for the 2-year warranty.
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The MDF Series long reach air tools are practical solutions for a wide variety of surface preparation job applications. The tools remove vinyl and ceramic tiles, carpet adhesives and material build-ups from floors and walls. The lightweight, smaller MDF15 is designed for above-waist and overhead projects including asbestos and acoustic tile removal. The larger more powerful MDF35 incorporates an internal valving mechanism that allows the piston to deliver greater kinetic energy per blow.
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PrimeSource Building Products
PrimeSource Building Products launches a new, proprietary line of pneumatic tools under the brand name PrimeAir. PrimeAir nailers, staplers and compressors will be distributed through the nationwide network of the Specialty Tools & Fasteners Distributors Association as well as through independent lumberyards and building-supply distributors. The line comprises three framing nailers, three coil nailers (two roofing nailers and one pallet nailer), four finish nailers, four staplers, a power-palm that employs a variety of nails and six compressors (four electric-powered and two gas-powered).
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RGC Hydrasaws use hydraulic direct drive power to maintain constant cutting speeds and torque without excessive noise, vibration or exhaust fumes. These rugged, versatile, lightweight tools are virtually maintenance-free and can operate from an RGC HydraPak or another compatible hydraulic power supply such as excavation equipment. With the addition of a small flow divider, the saws can run from backhoes, skid steers, bulldozers, tractors. Hydraulic hose lengths of up to 100 feet allow the operator to work in areas normally inaccessible to heavy equipment.
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Edco introduces the Big Stick, a more powerful version of the ALR chisel scaler. A hard-hitting tool requiring 12 to 15 cfm of compressed air and 90 psi, the Big Stick is designed to remove tough materials such as quarry tile, multi-layered vinyl tile or industrial floor buildups from concrete surfaces. Choose among a variety of accessories for optimum results. Ergonomically shaped for working upright, the product gets contractors off hands and knees to a more comfortable working position.
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American Pneumatic Tools
The Mantis skid steer and hydraulic hammer combination from American Pneumatic Tools is perfect for confined space demolition. Production of the 90-pound breaker increases by using the boom's additional downward pressure. It eliminates white-knuckle syndrome, and there is no direct hand contact with the breaker.
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