Construction diggers are commonly used in a variety of projects and industries, wherever substantial digging is required. Modern excavators are greatly indebted to their predecessor, the steam shovel, which was invented by William S. Otis, also known for his more famous invention, the lift. Featuring a system of pulleys, which were used to move a set of arms connected to a bucket, his ancient steam shovel responded to the same logic as the mechanism at work in modern construction diggers.
Once a revolutionising advance for the construction industry, this type of sophisticated digging equipment can turn seemingly titanic endeavours into easily achievable tasks. Consisting of a bucket, a stick, a boom, and a cab for the operator, modern excavators often feature a hydraulic system. These devices are often diesel-powered, can swing 360 degrees, and they can also move around, either on a track or on their own wheeled base.
One of the main categorisations among construction diggers has to do with bucket motion. Back hoe diggers pull the bucket inwards towards the machine, while front shovel diggers crowd the bucket's load away from it.
When starting a project involving the use of a construction digger, it is important to consider the types of equipment available on the market, the advantages and disadvantages of buying used or new machines, and what the best practices are to get the job done safely, while also trying to keep the digger in good condition. Additionally, it is important to evaluate the equipment's cost efficiency, its size, and whether the driver is sufficiently trained to operate this complex type of machinery. While buying a cheaper machine may seem more convenient initially, purchasing a large-scale digger can be an excellent investment in the long run.
Size Considerations of Construction Diggers
Construction diggers come in a variety of sizes. Small diggers, also known as mini excavators, may weigh around 1.5 tonnes, featuring a track width minimum of 70 cms. Many mini excavators feature a small backfill, which is used to push waste away. While large scale diggers have a minimal tail swing, smaller models have more, making them more suitable for operation in small spaces.
The overall size of a construction digger is measured according to its weight and bucket size. Large-scale models weigh about 800,000 kg, featuring buckets that hold 40 cubic metres, whereas the average mini excavator can weigh 1,740 kg with a 0.02 cubic metre bucket volume. Medium-sized excavators weigh between 6,000 and 38,000 kg, with bucket sizes ranging between 0.10 and 1.5 cubic metres.
The Different Uses of Hydraulic Diggers
Mainly used in construction sites and civil engineering projects, diggers are also a common occurrence in mining work. The modern construction digger has a very versatile functionality, and its hydraulic system offers numerous possibilities. For example, it can be adapted to carry out demolition work, by simply exchanging the bucket for a power breaker.
If an auger is attached instead, the digger can be transformed into a drilling machine, which can be used for pole installation or shallow digging, for example, in the case of foundation work. A vibrating pile hammer attachment can be used to carry out sheetpile installations, while electromagnets can also substitute the bucket to help sort out metallic objects in scrap yards.
A hydraulic rock breaker attachment is used for breaking hard rocks at quarries, and a grabber attachment is used for grabbing and lifting a variety of objects and materials. There are many other attachment types to choose from, which can make construction diggers extremely useful beyond their main function.
Digger Driver's Training
There are many training courses available for digger operators. Usually lasting between one and two weeks, these courses cover all aspects of safe and efficient digger operation. As an alternative, it is possible to take a trainee job with an experienced construction digger operator.
There is a technology-based alternative to this kind of training, which involves using simulator software. While this type of software can be expensive, construction diggers are also pricey equipment, and faulty driving can cause damage that may result in much higher costs.
When choosing to attend a real-life training course, one is typically exposed to safety awareness and basic training during the first one or two sessions, while the rest of the course is made up of practical on-site training. Excavator driving training is available at several locations throughout the UK.
Making the Best of Your Investment
Purchasing a construction digger is a serious investment, therefore, it is important to consider whether buying used or hiring are not more convenient options in each case. The first thing to consider is that the average digger has a useful life of 8,000 to 10,000 hours. As diggers are not typically in operation 24/7, this means that they can stay in good condition for many years.
Used vs. New
It is possible to buy a new model with a few thousand hours behind it for 25 per cent less than a brand new machine. The number can go up to 50 per cent less in the case of older models. As a rule of thumb, a used machine should always be preferred if it is intended for occasional use, but it is more convenient to buy a new digger for daily and frequent use.
Buying vs. Hiring
People who only need to use a construction digger sporadically should consider hiring instead of buying one. Monthly hires tend to be extremely convenient, as they may cost only 10 times the price of a day's hire. When in doubt whether to commit to a purchase, hiring a certain model of construction digger can be a very good way to test it out before making a final purchasing decision.
Both in the case of hiring and of buying, service is a very important issue to consider. A malfunctioning machine can hold back an important project, and it is necessary to be sure that servicing can be readily available in case the equipment fails or the operator encounters a problem. Although securing good post-purchase service sometimes involves additional fees, this is usually a very good investment.
Finding The Right Construction Digger for the Job
Selecting the right equipment is one of the keys to any digging job's success. Choosing the wrong type of machine can be a waste of time and money. The most important aspects to consider are cost and working condition, that is, what the cost per unit of excavation is and under what conditions the machine is going to work.
The cost per unit of volume of the material to be removed has to be calculated taking into account hiring fees, if applicable, equipment transportation fees, and petrol, among other items. Moreover, sometimes larger machines handle certain materials better, and using them can actually be very cost-effective in many cases. For example, in the case of quarry works, large excavators are much more cost-efficient, as their effective manipulation of large rocks can greatly reduce drilling and blasting costs. In general, large excavators offer a lower unit cost per volume than small machines, even when the latter are cheaper to buy, hire, and transport.
Different jobs also require different types of buckets to be used. For example, hard material excavations require the stronger pressure of large machine buckets. A large bucket should also be preferred when the material is made of large pieces, as in the case of blasted rock.
Other factors to consider are maximum dumping height, digging depth required, and digging and dumping radius. In all cases, the digger's specifications should match the job's requirements. In the case of trenching works, the most important thing is to make sure that the device's ability to dig a linear length per time unit matches the system's pipe or cable laying speed; the volume of material removed per time unit is of no relevance in this scenario.
Construction diggers offer many different uses, and they are utilised in many different settings. In order to choose the right digger for a job, it is important to consider what type of material is going to be excavated, how large the pieces of the material are, and what the cost per unit of volume is when using a specific machine.
This type of equipment is not easy to operate, and construction digger drivers usually need some training before they can sit on the cab and successfully manage digging work. In order to learn how to safely drive a construction digger, it is possible to take a training course, take a job as a trainee or use a virtual simulator.
Boasting a long useful life, construction diggers can be bought used or new, depending on one's specific needs. Additionally, sporadic users may be better off hiring, while people planning to take on lengthy and frequent work should consider buying their own equipment. The main aspects to consider when choosing a construction digger are cost-effectiveness and suitability for the job at hand. While large-scale construction diggers are usually more expensive, using them can be extremely cost-effective in a variety of situations.