Beginnings of Diesel Hammers, and the Vulcan IC-65

Until World War II driven piles in the U.S. were installed by one of two means: drop hammers or steam hammers. By that time some of Vulcan’s competitors (Union, Industrial Brownhoist) were falling by the wayside, and the steam hammer market was becoming a two-sided match between Vulcan and MKT, with the Raymond hammers still produced by and for one organisation.

Development of Diesel Hammers

The classic Delmag diesel hammer, a D-30, early 1990’s.

In Germany, however, the diesel hammer had been developed by Delmag in the 1920’s. The operating cycle of the diesel hammer is described in the article on Russian diesel hammers. Also explained in this article are the two types of diesel hammers: rod and tubular type. Delmag developed both types, but the tubular style became and still is the overwhelmingly predominant style of diesel hammer. All of Delmag’s hammers were single-acting, i.e., all of the kinetic energy of the hammer being produced by the ram falling through gravity without assist. The fuel system was a departure from engines in that it used the “splash” system, which placed the fuel in the combustion chamber without atomisation.

Although the diesel hammers have many conceptual and theoretical complexities (a fact that Vulcan found out the hard way,) the result is a relatively light and simple hammer, burning diesel fuel directly in the machine without the need for an external boiler or air compressor (or the personnel to operate them.) This result, although distasteful to steam hammer manufacturers and trade unions alike, was popular with contractors. The Delmag hammers made significant inroads into the pile driver market in Europe and eventually spawned imitators on the Continent such as Nilens, Hera and the like.

The technology made its way to the U.S. by way of World War II, when a captured Delmag hammer was brought from Germany. The Syntron concern was the first to actually manufacture a commercially viable diesel hammer. They made two major changes to the Delmag concept: a) they added engine-style atomised fuel injection and b) they included a dashpot type bounce chamber in the top to increase the blow rate. The result was a hammer which was a diesel hammer but had the blow rate comparable to air/steam hammers, which resulted in faster pile installation.

The Syntron hammer was acquired by Link-Belt, which manufactured it until the late 1970’s, after which the product line was acquired and subsequently expanded by International Construction Equipment.

The success of this hammer led to MKT developing a diesel hammer, and Delmag exporting its hammers to North America. The growth in popularity of these hammers forced Vulcan to make some kind of response, and that response came in the late 1950’s in the form of the IC-65.

A model of the Vulcan IC-65 Hammer.

The IC-65 had the same ram weight and similar energy to the Vulcan 06 and 65C hammers (and the Raymond 1-S hammer.) The basic concept was to embody an internal combustion hammer into a Vulcan-style frame. The hammer had many innovations, including true double action (combustion chambers firing both up and down,) independent starting mechanism (the Delmags used the European leader rails for the crab/starting device,) supercharged and forced-scavenged cylinders, and many other features.

The idea of the hammer was not only to make a diesel hammer “look like a Vulcan,” but also to address difficulties of diesel hammers then and now, especially the difficulty in starting with low pile resistance.

The hammer was largely the concept of Campbell V. “Doc” Adams, Vulcan’s chief engineer and a designer for Vulcan for most of the twentieth century. Details on the hammer can be found in the U.S. patent that was awarded to him for the hammer.

Unfortunately (and Vulcan repeated this pattern with the 30D series of hammers) there were a few too many innovations in the design without the ability to test the concept before a prototype was built. Testing, modification, more testing and more modification lumbered on in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, spanning Vulcan’s move to Chattanooga. But in the end the IC-65’s development was suspended, and Vulcan turned to Europe for its diesel hammer needs.


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