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Drop hammer

Internal drophammer

The simplest form of hammer is the drophammer, which in many countries was the most frequently used method for the installation of concrete piles. They are mounted on a leader on mechanical or hydraulic piling rigs. Drop hammers usually consist of a solid mass of forged steel from 1000 to 5000 kg, fitted with a lifting eye and lugs for sliding in the leaders. The drops range usually from 0,2 - 2 m. Since the peak stress at the pile head can be greatly increased if the hammer strikes the pile eccentrically, a long narrow hammer is preferable, as then the blow will be more axial and has better impact characteristics.

Some increase in hammer drop is usually required for raking piles, as the driving energy is reduced by approximately 10% for a 3:1 vertical rake. Distress at the pile head is more likely when a too light hammer is used, which may require an excessive drop, than using a too heavy hammer.

Modern drop hammers can be operated with accuracy. However, simple (early types of) drop hammers have the disadvantage that it is not easy to control the height of drop with accuracy, causing the operator to use too great a drop when driving becomes difficult. This in turn may greatly increase the risk of damage to the pile. Drop hammers have useful applications where noise abatement procedures are necessary, as they can be adapted to operate within a sound-proofed box.

During driving, the ground conditions will dictate the way in which the compressive stresses produced at the pile head by the hammer blow are reflected from the pile tip. Under easy driving conditions, the compressive stress is reflected from the toe as a tensile wave. When the pile length is somewhat greater than half the length of the stress wave, there is a likelihood of tensile stresses appearing towards the top of a pile. These can be damaging to precast concrete piles, and when driving such piles in soft ground the hammer drop should be reduced, especially if using a light hammer to drive a long pile.

When heavy driving conditions are encountered, the initial compressive wave will be reflected from the pile toe as a compressive wave, but depending on the dynamics of pile/hammer contact, this compression wave can be further reflected as a tension wave at the pile head if the hammer is not in contact with the pile head at the time the returning wave arrives. Tensile forces can therefore occur under heavy driving conditions, which can be particularly damaging to concrete piles. Large compressive stresses occur at the pile toe and head when obstructions or dense strata are encountered, which may be sufficient to cause steel piles to deform or, if driving is protracted, fatigue can occur with similar results.

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