Helical Pile Installation Actual Torque Displayed in Real Time on One or More Wireless PDAs‚ It's About Time!
Every now and then a product comes along and changes an industry in a profoundly positive way. For the helical pile industry, one such product is the Intelli-TorkTM wireless torque, angle and depth monitoring system developed and sold by PRO-DIG, LLC of Lawrence, Kansas (www.pro-dig-usa.com). This product records actual torque being applied to the helical pile, the current angle of pile installation, the drive unit's shaft RPM, and the current pile depth, all with no connection or dependency to the torque motor or any other equipment components or variables. And, as if all that is not good enough, the Intelli-TorkTM system displays all this information in real time on one or more wireless, handheld PDAs with digital readouts.
Anyone who has been involved with the installation of helical piles over the last 10-15 years is well aware of the lack of consistent and trustworthy installation torque data that contractors have submitted to the engineers of record for a project. And this is not to say in any way that the contractors have been the problem, not at all. The problem has always been a significant lack of accurate torque being delivered by the torque motor used in the installation. Of course everyone is aware of the hydraulic-based measuring and conversion systems that have been on the market for years, but these products can only record the pressure drop across the hydraulic motor and then interpolate the installation torque using the torque motor manufacturer's specifications. And that's where the problem originates, torque motor efficiencies can and usually vary significantly due to many factors like age or hours of use, flow and pressure of the hydraulic source (skidsteer, backhoe, etc.), ambient temperature and/or oil temperature, etc.
The Intelli-TorkTM system is comprised of three primary parts and one optional part including:
- Torque Analyzer Rotor Installed between the Kelly Bar and the Drive Tool Couplings
- Torque Analyzer PDA Indicator or Laptop USB Receiver
- Battery Charger Unit
- Optional GPS Location Recording
The Intelli-TorkTM state-of-the-art design features a hub that has no mechanical parts and a battery life of up to four weeks on a single charge. (Click here to see Intelli-Tork brochure)
"When we conceptualized this system, we knew we had to come up with a design that would deliver a very high degree of accuracy (+/- 0.3%) while also providing the user with easy to see real time data, said company founder and president," Michael Charlton. "In addition, we knew all system components had to be sturdy and rugged enough to withstand the daily rigors of helical pile installations in any conditions. And with all this focus on accuracy and ease of use, we needed to develop an easy to use software utility to provide the interface between the torque transducer and the PDA device," Charlton added.
The Intelli-TorkTM software utility can be configured to record torque readings in time intervals ranging from every 1 seconds to 10 minutes in order to meet varying engineering and installation specifications. The torque, pile installation angle and pile depth information is recorded independently for each pile and collectively for all helical piles on the project. The data is stored in industry standard text file format, and the file(s) can be uploaded to any server or device via an internet connection or a direct USB connection. Most Intelli-TorkTM customers are using Microsoft Excel to import and format the data as needed for their field installation log submittals. (click here to see an example raw data report) or (click here to see data as a graph)
The Intelli-TorkTM, previously named the C440, was first introduced to the market late in 2009. Since the initial product release, PRO-DIG now offers four standard versions of Intelli-TorkTM including:
- H200, 10,000 Ft. Lbs.
- H300, 25,000 Ft. Lbs.
- S400, 60,000 Ft. Lbs.
- S600, 200,000 Ft. Lbs.
Additionally, PRO-DIG offers custom torque and flange units that are manufactured to customers' specifications.
"We are seeing a significant increase in orders for higher capacity Intelli-TorkTM units. Larger diameter helical piles, or screw piles as they are called in Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, are growing in popularity with engineers and deep foundation contractors," Charlton added.
Another very important component of PRO-DIG's overall Intelli-TorkTM business model is an annual certified calibration of every Intelli-TorkTM. "Earlier this year, we completed construction of our state-of-the-art 200,000 Ft. Lb. torque bench," Charlton noted. "We know the helical pile industry must have accountability and quantifiable accuracy for installed piles, and installation equipment with certified calibration is essential to meet this industry requirement. Each Intelli-TorkTM system we ship is calibrated and certified to 0.3% accuracy using our torque bench, and the torque bench itself is traceable to NIST standards. Our annual certification program insures our customers and the engineers on their projects that each and every Intelli-TorkTM system is delivering certifiably accurate installation torque," Charlton added.
Jeremy Brownie of Brownie Geotech (www.browniegeotech.com ) purchased Intelli-TorkTM (C440 at that time) in the summer of 2010, and his company has successfully completed 5 projects using Intelli-TorkTM. Before we started using Intelli-TorkTM, we used hydraulic systems that measured the hydraulic pressure across the motor. These readings were then applied to toque motor efficiency charts supplied by the motor manufacturer," Brownie said. When using these systems, we experienced inconsistencies with expected pressure objectives versus the actual load test results. The source of the problem appeared to be unknown variances in motor efficiencies. Now with Intelli-TorkTM all those concerns are gone because the system measures the actual torque being delivered to the pile. In addition to near 100% accuracy on our installation torque, the convenience of having the torque displayed in real time on handheld PDAs is a real plus, especially for engineers who are monitoring the projects. They really like this feature," Brownie continued.
"Another great feature that Intelli-TorkTM has is the inclination or angle monitoring. On a recent helical tieback project, the engineer was extremely particular about the angle of installation to the point where he required a + / - of one half of one degree. Any contractor that has ever installed tiebacks knows how challenging it can be to maintain a tolerance like this, but with Intelli-TorkTM it was very, very easy to control right from the cab with the handheld PDA," Brownie added.
Jeff Wilkinson, the national sales manager for the utilities division of Earth Contact Products (ECP), says the Intelli-TorkTM system has proven to be a valuable tool for both installation crews and for training of new helical pile installation crews. Prior to standardizing on Intelli-TorkTM, ECP's utility customers were using hydraulic gauges, sheer pins indicators and dial gauges to monitor torque. "We began selling the (C440) Intelli-TorkTM to our utility customers about a year and a half ago. It didn't take long at all for the operators and engineers to see just how valuable the device is for making the installation process much more accurate and manageable, and to have all this information captured and stored for permanent record keeping adds even more value," Wilkinson said.
PRO-DIG has developing a step-by-step, How To video for new and prospective Intelli-TorkTM customers. You can watch the video through a link on the Intelli-TorkTM page of our web-site.