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No Hammering?  No Blasting?  No problem! ... when you have a Rockwheel

Posted by Chip Kogelmann

Oct 24, 2017 4:26:16 PM

Just last week I was in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada on the western shore of Lake Ontario.  Beautiful part of the world.  Much of Hamilton is perched on karst topography which involves geological formations with  subsurface drainage, caverns and passages caused by dissolving rock, especially prevalent in limestone formations like the Niagara Escarpment.  We were at a site where underground infrastructure was being installed for water and sewer services.  This means trenching and you didn't have to go very deep until shelf rock was encountered.  Where it was permitted the contractor was blasting the rock.  Elsewhere hydraulic hammers were in use along with excavator mounted hydraulic rotary drum cutters (i.e. Rockwheels).  In some areas of the site, due to the presence of underground karst features, blasting and hammering was explicitly prohibited.  In these areas the only option was the Alpine Rockwheel drum cutter.  Rockwheels are the lowest vibration method of rock removal.  Precise and rapid grinding of the rock limits the disturbance to the surrounding rock mass.   A Rockwheel model G40 (200hp) was utilized.  Production rates varied depending where we were on the site.  Rockwheel rock grinders excel where there are natural fractures and weakness planes but even in the solid rock the rock cutting attachment got the job done.  The trench was cut to exact specifications with no overbreak which is a problem with hammers.  Cuttings could be reused as backfill saving hauling costs.   Rockwheel Americas a division of Alpine has a large inventory of units for rental and purchase.  Call 1-814-466-7134 or email info@alpinecutters.com to get more information.  You can alwasy find us online at www.alpinecutters.com 





Topics: Cutter Heads, drumcutter, rock grinder, rock trenching

Rockwheel D20 trenching in West Virginia sandstone and blue rock...a microcosm on the paradigm shift in rock excavation

Posted by Chip Kogelmann

Apr 13, 2017 6:40:13 AM

With winter finally coming to a close the construction season in the Mid-Atlantic region is picking up steam.  With this seasonal uptick we at Alpine Rockwheel are getting more and more calls as excavation contractors and engineers recognize the benefit of Rockwheels as an alternative to hydraulic hammers in many rock removal applications. Excavator mounted rock grinding attachments (Rockwheels) have reached a tipping point where it has become clear that something has been missing from the toolbox for economical removal of rock.

Here it is in a nutshell:  Ground strength varies along a continuum starting from soft ground that can be excavated with buckets (with or without ripper teeth) to extremely hard rock that requires heavy hammers or drill-and-blast.  Between these two extremes is a wide range of rock strength from approx. 1200 to 15,000-psi where excavator mounted rock cutting attachments are the most effective tool.  They are more efficient because:

  • Continuos grinding:  Less time re-positioning the tool compared to hammers
  • Higher production:  3-5x the producting of hammers in suitable rock (especially in layered rock!)
  • Precision:  eliminate overbreak and dont excavate more than you have to
  • Reusable cuttings:  ground rock can be recyled onsite as backfill or more easily transported


Case in point is a recent rock trenching job in West Virginia.  The contractor had to trench through 3-ft of sandstone underlain by  3 1/2 ft  of blue rock (limestone).  In addition, they were crossing some existing utilites that could not be disturbed.   Knowing the limitations of hydraulic hammers in terms of ability to cut smooth trench walls and flat bottoms he decided to use a D20 Rockwheel hydraulic rotary rock grinding attachment.  Installed on a 20-ton excavator the Rockwheel exceeded expectations in terms of productivity and finished product.  In the photo below you can see the rock layers, smooth exact side walls, and a crossing utility line that was undisturbed.  


Could a hammer have done this job?  Sure, but it would have been much less efficient and cost effective.   Hammers will always have a place in the the excavation of rock but the current paradigm shift is raising awareness that there is a better option for a wide range of rock types.  It's all about the right tool for the job and having a toolbox equipped with a range of options.

Alpine maintains a national rental fleet so you can try this equipment for yourself without a purchase commitment. Excavator dealers and rental houses can utilize our rental fleet to offer their excavators equipped with Rockwheel rock cutting attachments.    From our long history in the mining and underground contruction markets we are excited to bring rock grinding technology to your excavator!  Contact us to let us know how we can help.  Tel.  814-466-7134  email.  chip@alpinecutters.com  www.alpinecutters.com 


Topics: Cutter Heads, Trenching, Excavation, Rockwheel

D20 Rockwheel for rapidly removes outcropping limestone....then grinds some large stumps!

Posted by Chip Kogelmann

Mar 11, 2017 10:40:32 AM




If you live in Pennsylvania, USA chances are there is underlying bedrock which at times is exposed at the surface as outcroppings.  This prevalence of rock (limestone, shale, & sandstone) presents a challenge for any form of earth work be it trenching (sewer and water), preparation of foundations for buildings, grading along roads, and even farming where outcropping rock can damage expensive planting and harvesting machinery.  

The traditional solution to this problem is to use hydraulic hammers.  While these tools can get the job done, drawbacks exist.  Hammers (a.k.a. breakers or hoerams) are very loud and have high vibrations which affects the surrounding rock mass and upsets neighbors. In addition, hammers are not capable of precise removal of the rock.  Overbreak is a common problem resulting in extra time and expense.  Moverover, the large chunks of broken rock cannot be reused without additional crushing otherwise it musted be hauled offsite which is costly.  There is frequently a need to remove only a thin layer of rock, say 6"-12", but with hydraulic hammers twice that can in inadvertantly removed.

There is a far more efficient and economical option.  Alpine Rockwheel rock and concrete grinding attachments are the solution.  These excavator mounted rock and concrete cutting attachments can rapidly remove the rock to a precise cut line (within 1"-2" with a skilled operator, or better when a depth control guide is used).    Moreover, in trenching or footer jobs, rock grinding attachments leave smooth walls, sharp corners and flat bottoms.  Trench profiles with rock cutting attachments are slot shaped compared to the V shape common with hammer.  This means you're not excavating unnecessary material.  Finally, you're left with a crushed stone that can be reused as backfill.

This winter a business owner in Shippensburg, PA wanted to expand his builiding but immediately adjacent to the existing struture was a 6-8 ft thick limestone bedrock outcrop in the way.   The customer decided to use a D20 (95-hp) Rockwheel excavator mounted rock grinder (Rockwheel) on a Volvo EC220.  The Rockwheel is powered by the standard auxilliary hydrualic kit of the excavator and installs like a hammer with a simple two line system.  With a peak torque of over 13,000 ft lb, the Rockwheel was very affective and made quick work of the rock removal.  The excavator operator quickly learned the correct down pressure to maximize rock cutting performance and was impressed by how smooth the D20 cut, espeically compared to using a hammer.  Once the main job was done, they installed a set of wood cutting teeth and removed several large diameter stumps. 

All in all, it was a very successful job!



Topics: Cutter Heads, Excavation

Alpine D20 RockWheel for Rock Trenching: When is a RockWheel the best call?

Posted by Chip Kogelmann

Jun 12, 2015 3:08:27 PM

With regard to trenching in rock, a frequent question I get from customers and equipment dealers is "When do I use a RockWheel vs. a hammer or ripper bucket?"  The answer is somewhat simple, the RockWheel is the best option when the ground is too hard to rip with a bucket yet not so hard that a heavy hammer is required.  There is a wide range of rock strength that falls within this RockWheel Zone as the figure below illustrates.


Of course we live in a world of nuances and gradients where the choice isnt always so easy so here are a few other pointers on when a RockWheel should be the tool of choice for a rock trenching job:

  • If the hammer is just punching holes in the rock, a RockWheel is a better option.
  • If noise and seismic disturbance (e.g. in residential area or near sensitive structures) is an issue, the quieter, smooth cutting RockWheel is a better option.
  • If you want to create reusable fill (2" and smaller rock cuttings) and not bring in a crusher, a RockWheel is a better option
  • If a flat trench bottom is required, the RockWheel is a good choice.  Even if you option to break out the rock with a hammer, the RockWheel can be used to trim the walls and trench bottom.
  • If the rock is highly fractured, the RockWheel is an excellent choice because the many teeth on the drums will act as multiple rippers and excavator very rapidly.
  • If a slot cut it desired, not the "V" trench one gets with a hammer, a RockWheel is an excellent choice.

An Alpine D20 RockWheel was rencently employed for sewer line trenching in upstate, NY.  The very hard shale was not rippable with the CAT 345 bucket with Tiger Teeth and becasue it was in a residential zone with concerns about noise, a hammer was problematic. Alpine installed a D20 RockWheel on a new LinkBelt 250X4 (Tier 4).  The LinkBelt was easily programmed to allow three speed & torque settings for the RockWheel and the customer made rapid headway in the trenching job.  When the rock was softer he went for faster drum RPMs and when  harder rock was encountered, they went for lower RPMs but more torque in seconds.  The result was a trench cut to the excact cross section without any overbreak or extra width at the top as is often the case when trenching with a hammer.  Moreover, the milled rock made for perfect pipe bedding and backfill, saving the cost of bringing in this material.




Here are a few photos:IMG_7800





Topics: Cutter Heads

How Deep into Rock Will a RockWheel Cut?

Posted by Ryan Leech

Apr 14, 2015 10:30:00 AM

deep_cutterheadWhen you are placing a bid on an excavation project there are an abundance of factors that you are taking into consideration.

There are concerns about the geographical location of the project site and the conditions you will potentially face and what equipment and manpower will be necessary to complete the task to the customer’s highest level of satisfaction.

One piece of equipment that is extremely useful in a variety of excavation applications is a cutterhead.

Like most tools, cutterheads come in a variety of options, including specialized custom cutterheads available for particularly challenging or unique situations.

Cutterheads offer numerous advantages over simpler excavating products such as hydraulic hammers.

The enhanced functionality of a cutterhead will give you more precise control over the quality and structure of your Rockwheel_foundationexcavationexcavation projects.

In addition to better overall performance, cutterheads also have the ability to lower costs and improve the efficiency of your project as well.

How deep will a cutterhead cut?

Today we’re going to look specifically at one aspect of cutterhead performance that is important to excavation projects, namely, how deep will a cutterhead cut?

The short answer is that cutterheads theoretically have the ability to operate at any depth, but they are dependent on the excavator or carrier machine they are attached to for reach and depth.

The power and rate at which a cutterhead operates should be constant, so the biggest restriction to a cutterhead’s ability to cut is how far the carrier machine can physically put the cutterhead into the ground.

This means the machine type will obviously have an impact on how the cutterhead performs. Knowing what excavator or carrier machine you have will affect the scope of your project.

Know beforehand what type of excavator or carrier machine you will be attaching your cutterhead to and you’ll be able to determine how deep your cutterhead will be equipped to cut.

Different machines have different capabilities, and even factors such as the machine’s weight and dimensions will change the way a cutterhead performs.

If you have any specific questions about an attachment or need help installing a cutterhead, feel free to contact one of our team members here at Alpine.

There are a few other factors that will directly impact the depth at which a cutterhead will perform.

These include the specific type of cutterhead you select as well as the surrounding conditions of the project site.

The soil type and the surrounding landscape such as the presence of fault lines, utility lines, and any other obstacles will have a direct correlation to how deep the cutterhead can safely excavate.

Cutterheads have the capability to operate at any depth you need to get the job done, and most scenarios will need to be evaluated on a case by case basis.

Find out everything you need to know about rock grinding with a cutterhead



Topics: Cutter Heads, Trenching, Excavation

Precision Concrete Scaling in Wet Conditions with a Rockwheel

Posted by Ryan Leech

Dec 16, 2014 11:00:00 AM

Concrete Dam Scaling Alpine TC-DOne of the more challenging excavation site conditions is the removal of concrete in wet conditions.

The presence of water can drastically reduce the efficiency of an excavation operation by severely limiting the capacity of equipment. To finish these projects in a timely manner, the tools used for the job become very important.

The requisite amount of planning and preparation inevitably increases when dealing with wet conditions. In addition to determining what equipment decisions will result in the best work, greater attention to scaling and the slope of grades is needed to ensure that the project will proceed safely at an efficient pace. In situations that call for concrete scaling in wet conditions, an ALPINE drum cutter is usually the best tool for the job.

ALPINE drum cutters are precise and powerful instruments that are specifically designed to improve control in scaling. Whether you are operating in wet or dry concrete, drum cutters will provide you with the ability to handle the excavation efficiently. Our cutter heads limit the impact angle between the cutter bits and the surface to create a smooth wall that leaves the underlying concrete undisturbed. This prevents the development of micro-cracks and ensures the material remains sound.

Depth gauges are also available to assist in the process of measured scaling. Depth gauges can be used to check top plate angles and cutter length which allows you to limit how deep the cutter head can go into the concrete. If you are looking for improved control, using a depth gauge with your ALPINE drum cutter will provide the improvement you’re looking for.

Excavator2ALPINE drum cutters are well equipped to limit excavation volume. Whether working in wet or dry conditions, our cutter heads have the ability to improve the efficiency of your project by crushing concrete to a fine enough size that it can be used as fill matter on site. No further crushing is necessary which means costly transportation expenses are eliminated as well as additional costs associated with further crushing.

Using an ALPINE cutter head will simplify your project by reducing the unnecessary steps that notoriously waste time and expenses. The bottom line results in a more efficient worksite that saves you valuable time and money.

ALPINE cutter heads are also viable options for projects that require underwater scaling. This would be valuable at a site that included a dock or marine facility. It is only a simple matter of using one small oil plug swap to make the cutter head water tight and then the cutter head will work with the same functionality it provides in dry applications.

The power and precision afforded by an ALPINE drum cutter makes it the perfect solution for scaling in wet conditions. These carefully designed cutter heads are the logical choice for sensitive removals that require a certain amount of precision. With the superior control the cutter head provides, limiting excavation excess, and the flexibility to work underwater, ALPINE cutter heads are the solution for your next concrete project.     

Ready for more information?



Topics: Cutter Heads, Concrete Grinding

How to Boost Rock Trenching Precision and Efficiency with a Transverse Cutter Head

Posted by Chip Kogelmann

Dec 4, 2014 10:30:00 AM

boost-rock-trenching-efficiencyTrenching and rock excavation projects are always tall tasks. The inherent uncertainty and variability of rock strength (measured in psi or MPa) and quality (degree and spacing of fractures) makes bidding these projects a challenge and predicting production rates even more so.

These projects involve a substantial amount of preparation and diligent attention until completion. Project managers have to constantly monitor progress because each situation is different and provides its own unique set of challenges.

In addition to making sure the project is completed as efficiently as possible, project managers are also worried about the inherent dangers that accompany trenching.

If you’re looking to improve your process for digging precise trenches for utility lines, here are a couple reasons Alpine’s cutterheads and RockWheels can provide a more precise and efficient solution.

Cutterheads Increase EfficiencyAlpine_trenching_hiprod

Alpine cutterheads have higher production rates than hammers in most applications. In general, hammers afford operators less control which can create unstable trench walls and unintended overbreak resulting in more costly excavation. This excess material often needs to be transported off site to be crushed even further, not to mention needing more backfill for the overbreak, which is a costly practice that quickly adds extra expenses to your project.

Transverse cutter heads equip you with superior control creating narrower, safer trench walls. Cutter heads can also eliminate up to 50% of excavation volume by cutting only the needed trench width, where a hammer needs a "V" shaped opening (see diagram). Cutterheads have the ability to grind crush rock to a consistent enough size that it is able to be used as fill matter on site. This creates an increased level of efficiency that can pay huge dividends for your trenching project.    

Transverse Cutter Heads Have Unmatched Precision

Transverse cutter heads provide you with surgical precision maximizing your control of the project. If you’re digging a utility line, a transverse cutter head will allow you to safely work around any existing utilities. This precision cut is controlled enough to leave the surrounding rock mass intact, unlike the shock force of a hydraulic hammer which can cause force fractures in the surrounding rock.

One great aspect of cutterheads is that precision does not come at the expense of power. Cutterheads are fully capable of cutting through several layers of hard surfaces including rock, pavement, and concrete. The additional precision helps your company limit expensive backfill and surface patching costs. The ability to provide sufficient power while greatly increasing precision makes transverse cutterheads a great solution for your trenching needs.

Here is a video of the Alpine TC-E transverse cutter head in action digging a precise trench in Las Vegas, Nevada.



As you can see, transverse cutter heads are extremely efficient and can help you dig your desired trench exactly the way you want while crushing rock, concrete, and pavement to a size that allows it to be used as fill matter. Transverse cutter heads also provide an unrivaled level of precision in their cuts that can gently grind to a matter of inches instead of crushing with brute force like a hydraulic hammer.

Thanks to these benefits cutter heads provide a compelling alternative to hydraulic hammers. When in the process of digging a precise trench for a utility line, a transverse cutter head could prove to be just the tool you need to make your project successful.




Topics: Cutter Heads, Trenching

Using a RockWheel for Limestone Scaling

Posted by Ryan Leech

Dec 1, 2014 9:54:00 AM

Alpine 150hp Rockwheel in Limestone quarryTrenching and mass rock excavation projects come complete with a unique set of challenges. Each surface has certain qualities that make different cutter drums better equipped to accomplish the task.

Some situations call for smaller and more precise attachments, others call for large heavier options. One specific scenario that can be challenging for excavation projects is the cutting and removal of limestone.

From a technical definition, limestone is a sedimentary rock that principally consists of calcium carbonate. Due to the many forms limestone can be found in, it is known to vary in hardness. In most of our local applications, the limestone that is found is incredibly hard. The greater hardness levels in these limestone deposits call for heavy duty excavators with large attachments that provide enhanced stability.

Another challenge associated with limestone is that it is commonly found in shallow water.

This means that you need a drum cutter that is durable enough to handle the hard limestone and is equally efficient underwater. Alpine drum cutters and cutter heads are specifically built to not only handle the difficulties of grinding and cutting, but to also be easily fitted to perform in underwater scenarios.

Our fully waterproof systems are guaranteed to perform at highly effective levels in either fresh or saltwater. We are also able to offer some custom solutions if your situation calls for extraordinary equipment applications.

Alpine drum cutters are extremely helpful pieces of machinery that make the entire drilling and cutting process easier. Our broad footprint of cutter drums, power, and large number of teeth make them highly effective options.

One of the more difficult stages of excavation projects involves scaling. Scaling is the finishing step in a drill or blast project when all loose rock and debris is removed to make the interior of the tunnel or room safe for thoroughfare and further work.

This process is a critical step in ensuring a safe work environment. Our smooth, vibration-free machining action effectively completes the job without disturbing the foundation or creating micro-cracks. This results in a smooth wall that is consistent and durable. To have the smoothest scaling possible equip yourself with an Alpine drum cutter.

Limestone provides a variety of challenges for excavation projects, but we're happy to help you with everything you need to handle the job.

Our drum cutters are used in high-production underground limestone quarries across the United States and are also being operated for scaling in underground storage facilities.

Alpine drum cutters have even been used successfully in the removal of limestone in underwater applications.

Our wide variety of drum cutters include heavy attachments that work with large excavators that produce a more stable, less bouncy effect. If your next project involves the removal of limestone, check out ALPINE’s drum cutter selection to find the attachment you need to complete the job.

Learn everything you need to know about our cutter heads:download-rock-and-concrete-grinding-brochure


Topics: Cutter Heads, Rock Scaling

How a rock grinder can boost efficiency and reduce cost.

Posted by Ryan Leech

Nov 13, 2014 9:30:00 AM

cutter-head-trenchingEach construction project provides a unique set of circumstances and challenges that calls for creative solutions to meet your goals and deliver on your objectives. The most successful projects are the ones that strike the delicate balance of finding solutions that lower cost without making concessions on quality. For excavation projects that confront you with the toughest rock and concrete structures, rock grinders can be a useful tool to help reduce your cost while increasing efficiency.

Rock grinders, which can also be referred to as cutter heads, are a precise and efficient way to grind and crush rock. They attach cleanly onto the end of existing excavators and operate by employing the hydraulic lines of the machine to which it is attached.

When configured correctly, the cutter head makes quick work of grinding and crushing rock. Rock grinders offer incredible precision. Designed to make powerful even cuts, rock grinders are also capable of cutting with a high degree of accuracy. This gives you greater control over your operation and allows you to cut until your exact specifications are met.

Rock grinders are the ultimate precision tool to allow you to work within precise dimensions without collateral destruction.

A great example of this is the TC-D cutter head with a cutting force of nearly 18,000 foot pounds. In one case it was employed for a water line trenching job in soft rock of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The cutter head replaced a hoe-ram attachment that was simply poking holes in the rock, and wasn't making good progress. The TC-D exhibited excellent trenching efficiency and cut vertically into the desired width. 

In addition to effectively cutting rock and concrete, rock grinders are also efficient when it comes to cleaning up the debris. When using a rock grinder, rock rarely needs to be hauled off site to be crushed further. The grinder produces a much more consistent waste product than traditional methods like hydraulic hammers. Rock grinders are also exceptionally precise, meaning that one only grinds as much rock as he or she needs. The condensed waste translates directly into saving you both time and money.Rockwheel_foundationexcavation

The efficiency provided by rock grinders does not come at the price of power. Each individual rock grinder is composed of tough carbide teeth that are fitted on rotary drums. This fitting makes them extremely durable.

Rock grinders are exceptionally resistant to wearing out. Unlike some other applications, rock grinders can be counted on for more than one project before needing to be replaced. Being able to use a rock grinder for multiple projects that involve a variety of surfaces makes rock grinders a valuable investment. Alpine rock grinders provide an unparalleled combination of efficiency and durability.

If you are searching for a versatile tool that can increase the efficiency of rock or concrete removal in sensitive areas, then an Alpine rock grinder could be just what you need. Alpine offers a full line of rock grinders that are sure to be suited to your unique situation.

Grinders can be selected on the basis of size and horsepower to ensure that you receive the best option available.

Our dedicated team of experts is readily available to provide you with assistance every step of the way. Lower the cost and increase the efficiency of your next project by calling today.



Topics: Cutter Heads, Concrete Grinding, Trenching

Cutterheads for Safe and Effective Scaling on Bridges and Dams

Posted by Ryan Leech

Nov 10, 2014 9:30:00 AM


NYstate_damscaling2Cutterheads are used primarily for trenching, tunneling, and scaling applications. In scaling, the use of a cutterhead offers both a safe and effective method of scaling large structures like man-made bridges and dams. Through the use of a transverse cutter head, areas that are normally tough to access like bridge abutments and structural areas of dams can be rehabilitated effectively. Let's take a look at some of the cutter heads uses.

Scaling Uses

More specifically, cutterheads use an impact angle placed between the tops of the bits on a cutter, or what we often refer to as “picks.” It is truly amazing how precise and delicate such a forceful piece of machinery can be.

The cutterhead has a very smooth action that is entirely free of any significant vibration, and has a relatively low amount of noise, especially for such a powerful machine. In application, the cutter head scales a surface, but its bits manage not to destroy or create additional structural problems, such as micro-cracks in the concrete.

Beyond the scaling of large structural masses, the cutterhead can, and is used for scaling debris after blasts. For instance, most often, an attachment is used to knock out chunks of concrete after any drilling and blasting is performed, which is just another example of how versatile a cutter head can be in terms of scaling objects of all sizes.


The performance of a cutter head is most synonymous with large structural operations, for instance, a municipal dam, or an interstate bridge. These are the jobs that a cutter head thrives on. In the process, the cutter head will operate at a relatively low speed, somewhere between 60 and 120 rpm. However, the machine's high amount of torque gives it incredible precision and effectiveness. Many cutter heads also have a big drum, which allows them to cover a large surface area when scaling a tall structure.


Using a cutter head for scaling, it is especially crucial to keep the machine's maintenance up. Things like greasing the drum once or twice a day is critical to the performance of the machine when meeting the rigors of a scaling job. Drum greasing, along with daily gear oil, bolt, and hydraulic system checks will ensure that the cutter head is able to consistently scale and perform on the most challenging bridges and dams.

Find out everything you need to know about rock grinding with a cutterhead


Topics: Cutter Heads

About this blog

This blog is a resource for research, how-to's, and general news regarding rock grinders, transverse cutter heads, roadheaders, and alternatives to hydraulic hammers. 

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