Vulcan 560 Hammer: Specifications and Information

The Vulcan 560 hammer became the “#1 of Vulcan offshore hammers,” and the most popular of its offshore hammers from the 1970’s onward.  Yet, although today the logic of a 5′ stroke hammer (especially when compared to the diesel hammers) is obvious, at the time it took a little persuading.

Vulcan had adhered to the “heavy stroke/low striking velocity” concept since the beginning, but by the early 1970’s the “race to the top” for hammer size–driven by the larger and deeper conventional platforms–was getting ahead of the barge capabilities of Vulcan’s largest customers.  In the Gulf of Mexico that principally meant McDermott and Brown and Root, but also Santa Fe, Teledyne Movible Offshore and (a little later) Raymond.  Basically when facing the need for a 300,000 ft-lb hammer, Vulcan’s “traditional” choice would be one like a 3100, which would weigh around 200,000 lbs. (100 US tons) plus cap and leaders.  For many of the barges in the Gulf, that would necessitate the use of the main block to pick up the hammer and follow it as it drove the pile.  The main block was okay for topsides and pile lifts, but in the constantly moving situation with a hammer, it was too slow.

A lighter hammer would allow the contractor to drop to the secondary block on the crane, the traditional block to use for hammers.  This block could raise and lower the hammer faster, and give the crane operator more control over the hammer during both lift and operation.  Vulcan “bit the bullet” and proposed the 560, which lowered the ram weight (and thus the frame weight) to around 30 US tons while preserving the striking energy with the 5′ stroke.

Vulcan presented the 560 to its customers, to mixed reviews.  McDermott stuck with the 3′ stroke concept with the 3100.  Its larger bench of barges–with the crane capacity to go with it–made the 3100 a more viable option for McDermott.  But others–specifically Brown and Root–found the idea attractive, and B&R ordered the first 560 in early 1973.  It was delivered later that year (a delivery which beat McDermott’s 3100 by almost two years!) and proved successful without too many “growing pains” such as were experienced with the 040 and 060.

Specifications are shown below.

Some general arrangements–including later CAD ones from the 1990’s, showing the durability of the model–are shown below.

Some photographs of the hammer are shown here:

The 560 became the “standard” for offshore hammers, not only for Vulcan’s American customers but for its foreign ones as well, such as Micoperi, ENAP, Petrobras, Hyundai, Daelim, Jardine and of course CNOOC, the sale to which of two (2) 560’s is documented here.  It also found onshore use with such customers as Manson Construction.

The irony of Vulcan’s “gamble” with the 5′ stroke is that it turned out to be an advantage.  All other things equal (especially the cushion stiffness,) for a given energy a lighter ram with a higher impact velocity will produce an impact pulse with a higher peak force and shorter duration.  With steel piles, this is something of an advantage; their ability to withstand the higher stresses allows higher impact forces and stresses.  With concrete piles, a heavier ram and lower impact velocity is favoured, as it results in lower compressive and tensile stresses during driving.  The stage was set for more 5′ stroke hammers, and the 560 not only was the first to try the concept but was its most popular example offshore.

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