Heavy duty construction equipment, hasn’t traditionally been considered to be at the forefront of technological development. However, driven in part by health and safety, increased demand for multipurpose equipment and traceability, even the heaviest machinery now has functionality more commonly associated with Googles latest vehicle innovations than traditional construction equipment.
Combined advancements in drives, controls and telematics have led to unparalleled capabilities. One company that has fully embraced these new opportunities is ground engineering machinery manufacturer, Soilmec. The manufacturer’s latest SR-75 hydraulic piling machine demonstrates what can be achieved with variable, electronically driven components in tough construction environments.
Soilmec’s, UK Director, Mark Nelson outlines the driving forces behind the company’s latest machine: “Following a brief downturn during the recession the construction market is in growth, with large scale construction and civil engineering projects such as Tideway and HS2 getting underway. As a manufacturer of heavy foundation machinery we were one of the first to see this resurgence and are now comfortably above pre-recession turnover levels. This is due in part to a continued investment in research and development that has allowed us to create machines that will meet and exceed the demands of contractors and end users for the next 10 to 20 years.“
Multi- function as a matter of course
“One of the key drivers for technological development in our field has been the need for multi-purpose equipment. Fortunately, this has also been reflected by key manufacturing partners, such as Bosch Rexroth, which provides multi-functioning interconnected drives controls, pumps and hydraulics. In the SR-75 this means we‘re able to achieve five highly specialised drilling functions: Kelly drilling for large diameter boreholes; Continuous Flight Auger (CFA) for instantaneous concrete injection; Cased Augured / Secant Piles (CAP/CSP) where additional casing support is required; Displacement Piles (DP & TCT), where the operator is looking to avoid soil removal; and Turbojet (TJ), which constructs a column of consolidated soil. Whereas in the past each of these specialist piling techniques would require a dedicated machine, with at most two to three functions covered by one vehicle. Development at a component and systems level have meant that we are now able to achieve all five functions, without compromising any given discipline. In effect the interphase between Rexroth components and Soilmec hardware allows us to take advantage of proportional control to achieve high spec, multi-functioning performance.“
For Soilmec client Cementation Skanska, multi-disciplinary machinery is a must, as Steve Joynson, Plant and Fabrication Director, explains: “For the last five to ten years we’ve had a baseline rule that we won‘t purchase single function machines. This is part of our plant flexibility plan, which sets out over the next five years what machinery we’re going to sell and purchase.
The plan takes into account two major considerations, what the current and foreseeable market situation is in terms of types of work and most importantly how flexible is the machine to adapt to changing demand.
“Thanks to the combined engineering skill of Soilmec and Bosch Rexroth in developing this highly functioning multi-disciplinary machine, I wouldn‘t expect utilisation to be anything less than 65 – 75 percent in projects as diverse as commercial builds and major infrastructure development.“
For Kevin Follows, mobile electronics expert at Bosch Rexroth, the five way multi-functioning approach and high level precision is the result of increased electronification: “The latest developments in variable electronic drives and controls mean we can programme any number of functions at control level. Soilmec has taken this technology and scaled it up to create a machine that can comfortably cover a number of drilling disciplines, in a way that would be extremely difficult to achieve, if not impossible by taking a mechanical approach.“
Advanced engineering design
Key to the SR-75’s design is the multi-functioning parallelogram at the front of the machine. This consists of four hydraulic cylinders that control the raising and levelling of the mast of the hydraulic rotary rig, as well as positioning and control of the drilling head.
Designed by Soilmec engineers, the parallelogram allows the machine to automatically compensates itself by linkage instructed by Rexroth control valves. The Rexroth big block control cylinders, operate the drill head, positioning and winch on the parallelogram from the main control cabinet.
Talking about Soilmec’s unique engineering solution Kevin, says: “The SR-75’s parallelogram ensures optimum manoeuvrability and precision. The two lift rams allow the jib to go up and down for transport and access, with additional cylinders that move the drill head into position. Controlling the bottom pivot aligns the drill head to ensure, in free axis, the position of the drill head is square to the ground. Electronically controlled pumps, valves and motors take out the potential of the machine going out of calibration or phase. This ensures the SR-75 is functioning at optimum performance, essential for a sensitive machine operating in difficult environments.
This high level, multi-disciplinary functionality is coupled with an easy to use, highly responsive machine interface that allows precise control by operators, as Steve explains:
“From an end user perspective the machine operator can instruct the Rexroth controller to deliver the precise amount of pressure required via the remote relief and electro valves. Essentially the touch control interface interacts with Rexroth components to deliver precise functionality and this is something that we’ve expanded across the whole machine.“
High level functionality isn‘t restricted to the cab, however, advanced telematics means real time data and drawings are provided to the contractors, with details on the pile, depth, diameter, amount of concrete used and steel added, as well as location.
DMS and monitoring systems are automatically provided for purchasers of the SR-75. For Soilmec’s UK Director the benefits to the end user are clear: “All the information on each individual pile, can be accessed within a matter of minutes. Not only does this provide the added reassurance at the time of installation that everything is being delivered to specification, but should the building begin to sink 30 years later the data is available and the contractor is covered. Likewise, if there was any additional foundation work that needed to be completed later on in the building’s lifetime, the background information is ready and available.“
For Steve Joynson this level of accountability fulfils a key commercial demand, he says: “As of January 2016 all Government projects require contractors to be operating at Building Information Modelling (BIM) level two, which covers everything from site work planning to the level of information available after the project is commissioned. Soilmec has been extremely forthcoming in assisting us with BIM compatible pilings, to the extent that they were one of the first suppliers to provide us with 3D models to plot their machines onto a site to confirm fit and manoeuvrability.
“Thanks in part to increased intelligence at a component level we can take information recorded on the vehicle and feed it into the BIM model. The next stage will be that the machine will feed directly into BIM.
“In practice this means within five to ten minutes of a pile being placed we can know everything about it, we can also access the control screen, so that we can see exactly what the operator sees no matter where they are in the world.“
Remote monitoring and control
The telematics solution isn‘t restricted to monitoring and recording, interoperability throughout the machine means that remote monitoring and control is well within the SR-75’s capabilities, as Mark explains:
“Remotely we can issue instructions from the computer to the pile modules, which then send electronic signals to Rexroth proportional control electrovalves that direct oil to the control spool blocks, so the winches all start moving at a certain rate or speed.
“While that may sound complicated, in effect what it means is that we can pre-programme the exact requirements of every piling on a given site. From the diameter and depth to the amount of concrete needed and location. This drastically reduces the potential for on-site human error, which could cost the contractor £1,000s trying to correct, with further contractual costs of up to £100,000 or more if proved to of delayed the project.
“In addition, it means we can provide clients with real-time service and adjustment from our base in Peterborough. There’s also a self-diagnostic system that alerts the operator should they look to override the pre-programmed instruction.
“We already have the technology to operate the SR-75 remotely. For health and safety reasons the machines are delivered off the truck using remote control, in order to reduce time spent working at height. Going further, using on site GPS we can see the machine anywhere in the world in real time.
Kevin Follows adds: “Real time monitoring is made possible by connecting with the control system to the Control Area Network (CAN). This allows performance monitoring and avoids expensive downtime.“
“The added control functionality brings a high level of consistency, eradicating the potential for errors and providing the reassurance that each pile is exactly the same.“
For Steve Joynson the SR-75 marks a step change in remote monitoring and control. He comments: "Pre-programming and automation is becoming increasingly important. From the point of machine data we can ensure the equipment is operating as it should be, even down to individual component monitoring, such as whether individual pumps are operating efficiently. This allows us to work out proactive maintenance schedules, ensuring any preventable faults later on in the machines life are dealt with. In terms of operation this is the highest level of automation we have seen, enabling us to feed the work schedule into the machine and eradicating the potential for costly on-site errors. This is essential when working with the typically fine tolerances we operate under.“
To find out more call 0345 6044106, email email@example.com , or visit www.boschrexroth.co.uk/mobile-electronics