Mains cracking made simple, safe – AND affordable

September 7, 2016

Breaking out redundant or inserted cast iron mains has always been a risky business as operators use a variety of hand-held tools, including the podger bar, which are labour intensive and have been long associated as a hazard to the workforce and even to passers-by.

Until the latest development from Steve Vick International, the alternatives, though effective and well designed, have been expensive. Steve Vick believe that they have the answer to this longstanding problem with the Rapid Cracker (now CRACKERJACK™); a manually operated mains cracker that combines performance and easy handling with low cost. The equipment will be unveiled on the company’s outdoor stand (Number 55) at NO-DIG LIVE 2016, on 20-22nd September.

The major difference between the Rapid Cracker (now CRACKERJACK™) and other mechanised crackers on the market is its power source. Instead of being battery operated, or connected to an excavator, the Rapid Cracker is operated from a standard site compressor via an air over hydraulic pump which comes as part of the kit. The pump delivers 700 bar of hydraulic pressure, plenty of power to crack cast and spun iron mains up to 6” in diameter in a couple of minutes.

Ideal for live mains insertion

The operator uses a foot pedal on the pump to open and close the jaw of the Rapid Cracker (now CRACKERJACK™) and is thus able to control the pressure applied so that just sufficient force is used to crack the metal. By moving the Rapid Cracker (now CRACKERJACK™) along the main, and rotating it through 180°, the pipe can be broken out in several places to facilitate the removal of the redundant section or to gain access to an inserted PE pipe, making it the ideal system for live mains insertion.

Because of its design, the Rapid Cracker (now CRACKERJACK™) breaks the sides and the bottom of the pipe with virtually no effort, something which is not easy to do using traditional hand-held tools. By turning the Rapid Cracker (now CRACKERJACK™) around the pipe, the top can also be successfully broken out. The equipment is particularly effective on spun iron which is more difficult to break out using a podger bar and the like because of the ‘springy’ nature of the metal.

A further advantage of the new Steve Vick mains cracker is that minimum clearance is required around the pipe in order to break it out. No space is necessary beneath the pipe and just 75mm either side is sufficient to fix the Rapid Cracker (now CRACKERJACK™) in place. This results in smaller trenches, less digging and less spoil to dispose of. And being so easy to manoeuvre, the Rapid Cracker (now CRACKERJACK™) can be moved away from third party plant without the need to dig out more ground.

The Rapid Cracker (now CRACKERJACK™), including the main cracking unit with its hydraulic ram and the pump, weighs in at just 15kg, making it an easy lift for one person. Ideally, the pump is operated from the top of the trench whilst the cracking unit is lowered onto the main using a long handle and steadying strap to position it accurately. Again, one person can carry out this process as a combination of the handle and the strap ensures easy manoeuvrability. There is no need for the operative to enter the trench, always an advantage from a health and safety perspective. The handle can be easily removed by withdrawing the R Pin should it be necessary.

One size fits all – up to 6” diameter

Setting up the Rapid Cracker (now CRACKERJACK™) takes moments and the same unit is suitable to break out cast iron mains of 3”, 4”, 5” and 6” diameters (and sizes in between). It’s simply a matter of selecting one of two size location holes and using the adjuster bolt to achieve a close fit.

Pressure is applied to the main at three positions – one on the pivoting break-out ‘beak’ and two pressure points on the solid ‘beak’. In order to achieve the most efficient and effective crack, the operator is able to achieve the closest fit onto the main by turning an adjuster bolt.

The Rapid Cracker (now CRACKERJACK™) is fitted with integral hose lines for air intake and hydraulic output. A 2 metre pneumatic hose is supplied to attach to the site compressor hose. A further 20 metre extension airline hose reel is included with the kit which allows the Rapid Cracker to be operated up to 30 metres away from the compressor. If the compressor is sited advantageously, this could mean that cracking could take place at any point along a 60 metre length of main.

The Rapid Cracker is highly robust to withstand rugged conditions on site and is designed to be relatively maintenance-free. Simple checks on the tightness of bolts and clips is all that is required for day to day operation whilst an annual service is available from Steve Vick International.

Asked about the impact of the new Rapid Cracker (now CRACKERJACK™), Steve Vick International’s Sales & Marketing Director, Katie Higgins, said, “We’re very excited about this product because we believe we have finally solved the problem of how to break out mains – even live inserted ones – in a safe and controlled way and at an affordable price. We’re looking forward to demonstrating its benefits at No Dig”.

Even more ways of handling pipe safely

In the last decade or so, Steve Vick International has steadily built up its range of pipe handling equipment including the MACAW pipe crackers which attach to the quick-hitch or bucket pins of excavators and are capable of cracking cast iron mains up to 24”. The company has also expanded its

range of pipe handling machines, which again attach to an excavator to manoeuvre pipe – up to 900mm diameter – safely around the site as well as insert PE into old host mains.

Pipe cutters are also big business for the company who is the international supplier of Keel cutters – machines that automatically cut steel, cast iron, ductile iron, plastic and asbestos up to 1500mm diameter. Steve Vick’s Rapid Window Cutter was developed in collaboration with Wales & West Utilities to dramatically reduce cutting time on ductile iron pipes between 100mm and 200m (4” to 8”) during live mains insertion. Probably the fastest on the market, the machine typically cuts a window in just ten minutes. A compact Rapid Rotary Cutter, capable of cutting a 4” ductile main in around two minutes, is also on offer from the company who is rapidly becoming the pipe handling experts.

The Rapid Cracker (now CRACKERJACK™) hand operated mains cracker is available to buy or hire from Steve Vick International as is all the equipment mentioned above.