Used in industrial demolition when explosives aren’t an option or when workers are deconstructing a building piece-by-piece, long-reach excavators provide the precision and control that wrecking balls don’t offer. Their versatility as a demolition tool is incomparable – while it’s common to see an excavator with a bucket at the end of its 20- to 150-foot arm, a contractor may also replace the bucket with a shearing, crushing or cutting implement to enhance the efficiency of industrial and scrap metal demolition projects.
Long-Reach vs. High-Reach Excavators
There are two types of excavators that can reach great lengths: the long-reach excavator and the high-reach excavator. Long-reach excavators extend horizontally but not vertically, while high-reach excavators do the opposite. The long-reach excavator is ideal for scrap metal demolition because it can reach into a site and scoop up rubble, while the high-reach excavator allows workers to be farther away from falling debris.
Benefits of Long-Reach Excavators
Operators have more control over the movements of a high-reach excavator. With a wrecking ball, the technique is “aim and swing.” Excavators, on the other hand, allow contractors to demolish a building wall-by-wall or a floor at a time.
Because these excavators offer more precision than a wrecking ball, contractors have more control over how and where the debris falls. This creates a safer environment for workers, surrounding buildings and the public.
The attachments you can add to a long-reach excavator make it a versatile machine that can hammer, pinch, pick, crush, scoop, cut and more – thus eliminating the need to purchase and transport several pieces of heavy machinery. Also available is the option to change the length of the arm so a contractor can efficiently switch to an alternative demolition method.
In addition to releasing less particulate matter in the exhaust, long-reach excavators have no exhaust gas recirculation (ERG) on the engine; reduced of fuel consumption of up to 24 percent; and an engine that automatically revs less when the controls are inactive.
Long-Reach Excavator Attachments: Grapples and Electromagnets
When attached to the end of an excavator, a grapple allows scrap metal demolition workers to lift different types of materials based on size, shape and composition. Manufacturers often provide a lift chart that describes the lifting and hydraulic capabilities of the machinery and the types of attachments offered. Common types of grapples include the orange peel and clamshell.
Orange peel grapples look like the metal claws in the “claw crane” arcade game, where you test your luck trying to grab a stuffed animal. However, instead of having three fingers, or tines, an orange peel grapple has four or more. The gripping power of this type of grapple is powerful because of the clamping force of the heavy-duty cylinders. An orange peel grapple has a 360-degree, bi-directional rotation system that makes it ideal for picking up structural beams, car bodies, shredded scrap and other types of debris with precision and ease. Orange peel grapples are a good go-to option for general purposes.
Clamshell grapples resemble an eagle’s foot and talons, with three tines on one side and two on the other. Contractors can custom design the grapple’s head for their particular purposes. It’s common for clamshell grapples to come with plumbing packages and other features designed for rugged demolition.
A grapple that comes with an integrated electromagnet prevents the need to frequently change an excavator’s attachments. After the operator finishes with the production part of an industrial demolition project, he or she can use the magnet for smaller items and cleanup. In scrap metal demolition, a contractor may use a lifting magnet or scrap magnet.
Lifting magnets can be as small as credit cards or larger than beds. They’re generally attached to a chain on the end of an excavator or crane to pick up smaller pieces of scrap metal safely and quickly. Lifting magnets are ideal for getting into hard-to-reach, unstable or dangerous areas.
Contractors use scrap magnets to lift heavy metal objects like cars or beams. These work well in constricted areas and have an extra-deep magnetic field. A contractor may have a scrap magnet made specifically for wet conditions, for detecting radiation or for hot applications.
The long-reach excavator is the answer to safer, more precise industrial and scrap metal demolition. With advanced features like camera monitoring and controlled hydraulic systems, boom extensions and more, this modern machine accommodates the most challenging demolition projects.
About this author:
J.D. Elder is the president of Elder Demolition
Elder Demolition is located in Portland, Oregon and is a fully licensed and insured demolition company that has broad experience with industrial and scrap metal demolition, scrap metal recycling, and LEED-certified green demolitions.