What Are Vibratory Hammers?

One of RPI Construction’s MKT V-5Esc Side Clamp Vibratory Hammers driving H beam piles on a new pile project.

Utilizing Vibratory Hammers for Small-to-Medium Pile Driving Projects

Depending on the scope of your pile driving project, you may need to employ vibratory hammers, even with a crew as small as two operators. 

Some of the major benefits of vibratory hammers include:

  • They can operate in tighter spaces.
  • They do not require a crane for operation.
  • They are a cost-effective solution for your pile driving job. 
  • They operate with less noise.
  • They are operable in both offshore and onshore soil conditions.
  • They operate more efficiently than traditional pile drivers, allowing you to deliver your project by the deadline and under the budget. 

While traditional pile drivers use a large weight dropped on the pile, vibratory hammers cut into the ground by vibrating at a frequency high enough to liquefy the soil. This causes the pile to slide into the ground. 

Operators often compare the use of a vibratory hammer to drive piles with that of cutting through butter with a hot knife.

An ICE 416 Vibratory Hammer with Model 325 Power Unit for sale from RPI used to drive pile.

Using a traditional pile driver, it could take over an hour to drive a 100-foot pile; whereas, with a vibratory hammer, it could be driven in as little as 10 minutes – given the soil conditions are favorable.

Additionally, a vibratory hammer is every bit as reliable as a traditional pile driver and typically does not require as much maintenance. Because traditional pile drivers operate with a large weight dropping frequently, they often require more upkeep than vibratory hammers, and traditional pile drivers can violate noise ordinances in specific locations.

Vibratory hammers can be used for a range of pile driving and excavation projects.

Operable with a crew as small as two construction contractors and a front-end loader, vibratory hammers are a dynamic solution that offer flexibility without sacrificing performance.

As with any pile driving project, the soil conditions will dictate the right choice of equipment for your specific project’s requirements.

Vibratory hammers effectively drive both load-bearing and support of excavation piles, including beam and lagging soldier walls. Load-bearing piles driven with a vibratory hammer must be load tested to ensure that proper bearing is achieved. Vibratory hammers can also be used to extract existing piles for land work, excavation, or other projects.

Electric Vibratory Hammers vs. Hydraulic Motor Vibratory Hammers

Electric vibratory hammers utilize a large electric motor on top of the hammer to rotate the counterweights. That said, most operators prefer to use hydraulic motor vibratory hammers because they are more powerful and weigh half of electric vibratory hammers. Less weight lowers transportation costs and increases operation efficiency.

In addition, hydraulic hammers spin much faster than electric hammers. Research has also shown that higher vibration rates impact surrounding buildings less than electric hammers or traditional pile driving equipment.

A MKT V-4E Vibratory Hammer being prepped for rental from RPI Construction Equipment for a new job site to help contractors increase efficiency and save on costs and resources.


The Technology Behind Hydraulic Vibratory Hammers

While the technology for driving piles has been around since the 1930s, it didn’t gain popularity in the United States until the 1980s.

However, as contractors learn about the powerful and efficient solutions that vibratory hammers offer, they are becoming one of the most utilized pieces of equipment for driving piles.

Another factor that has made this equipment so popular is its flexibility to fit into smaller spaces that are not accessible with the use of larger pile driving equipment.

Still, some critics argue that vibratory hammers have reduced axial capacities due to a loss of the load carried by the tip. Nevertheless, most industry professionals do not believe this to be significant enough to offset the gains in efficiency, speed, and lower costs compared to traditional pile driving rigs.

Vibratory hammers are also an excellent option for installing temporary piles or supporting excavation piles for an ongoing project.

Because they can drive and excavate piles, they are frequently used for projects, such as:

  • Transportation Construction
  • Dock Building
  • Bulkhead Installation

A MKT V-5E Vibratory Hammer rented from RPI being put to use on a dock job site driving timber pile.

One consideration when choosing the best piece of equipment for your specific project is taking the soil conditions into account. Therefore, it is imperative to consult with your engineer and soil analyst before moving forward with vibratory hammer rentals or purchases.

Every new job presents obstacles and challenges. However, by utilizing the cost-effective and robust solutions offered by a vibratory hammer, you can hit your deadline and save on costs, labor, and additional resources.

Before assuming that you need an extensive crane-driven system or a traditional pile driving rig, explore all of your equipment options, including the use of vibratory hammers.

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