Suction/Vacuum Excavation has been operating within Europe in excess of twelve years in one form or another, but it is new to Australia.
Suction excavation in simple terms allows the use of a suction excavator, also referred to as a vacuum tanker or vacuum lorry, to operate and excavate material around buried services or utilities including gas, electric, water, telecoms and fibre-optics by removing the soil, earth or other material covering the services by means of high volume air flow.
Suction Excavation, or Vacuum Excavation as we have mentioned it may be referred to, avoids the requirement for invasive digging methods such as hand digging or the use of traditional mechanical excavators, thereby virtually eliminating possible cable or service damage.
Within Europe this safe dig approach is now a highly accepted and requested method of safe excavation with more and more companies and industries using the technology to help reduce service strikes and also avoiding possible injury to site operatives.
The process is simple - A Suction Excavator, also sometimes known as a Vacuum Tanker or Vacuum Lorry (see video below) generates a high volume flow of air by means of its twin or triple air fans.
Air flows through the machines intake nozzle and hose into a series of chambers, including the main material storage tank, before passing through a micro mesh filter system and then out into the atmosphere.
When an operator directs the machines intake nozzle at the ground to be excavated, the air flow pulls the ground material into the suction excavator and this material is deposited into the main storage tank.
Small soil particles drop into a further two smaller tanks and any dust particles are caught in the micro mesh filter system before the air finally passes from the machine.
If the ground conditions prove to be more challenging, the trained operator will then use an air lance/soil pick or other air tools that are connected to the suction/vacuum excavator. These tools will assist in breaking the ground free. This will then allow the air flow to catch the material and then remove it into the suction excavator.
This new safer approach to excavation projects is not intended to replace traditional or hand dig methods. There will always be operations where these approaches will need to be applied, however where there are services that could be damaged, or if there is uncertainty in the exact location of services, then suction/vacuum excavation is the way forward.
As a safe dig system suction/vacuum excavation is most often compared with Hydro Vac/Jet Vac machines. Although both systems excavate safely without using an invasive dig approach there are many benefits when using the MTS system.
*based on our experience as an operator and depending on material being excavated.