The newest vacuum excavator introduction by McLaughlin meets a growing market demand for more powerful air vacuums, but by still combining a water vacuum system offers a more complete on-site solution for contractors, says company president Dave Gasmovic.
The Xtreme line of combination air/water vacuum excavators was introduced at this year's International Construction and Utility Equipment Exposition (ICUEE) in Louisville, Ky. as the first McLaughlin-made machine to boast a positive displacement blower rated at 1,200 cubic feet per minute (cfm). The actual model on display was the second built; a Pennsylvania gas contractor bought the earlier prototype.
"We've been doing vacuum excavators for probably 14 years. What we have seen as vacuums have been developing is that most of them were hydro vacs, but now with water becoming a scarcer resource and it being hard to dispose of wet mud in a tank, more and more people are looking at doing air vacuuming," says Gasmovic, whose company two years ago signed a private label agreement with Vermeer under which all of its vacuums are made for and sold by Vermeer and that company's authorized dealers. "One of the problems with air is always that air breaks up a lot quicker than water does. Water has a lot more destructive power, air disperses quicker, so what we have done is up the power on some of our vacuums and made a combination air-water vac.
"What the 1,200 cfm does is give you a lot more air speed to move the material out of the hole, get it up faster and let you dig faster. It's got a built-in on-board air compressor, so you don't have to have a second compressor on the job, and it still does have a water system, because some ground conditions just aren't going to allow you to dig with air."
Meeting the market's want for air vacuums including notably in Europe, the Xtreme vacuum excavator uses a three-stage "cyclone" filtration system that, while accommodating wet vacuuming excavation also, spins the dry material as it comes out of the tank, taking the dust out and leaving very little final material in the final filter. "The nice thing about when you do air vacuuming, you're able to put the material back in the hole you've done the excavation from, if they allow that," says Gasmovic, "or at least even if you have to bring in clean backfill, it's easier to dispose of dry material than it is wet material.
"Even though we're not using water and we say it's dry vacuuming, the ground still has moisture in it. If we're using air in this, it's still going to be sticky, and if you don't have enough air speed, you start to clog and then you have to deal with the clogs."
Powered by a 99-horsepower Kubota diesel engine, the Xtreme line has a water system rated at 5.6 gallons per minute that produces up to 15 inches of mercury and 3,000 pounds per square inch of pressure. The unit on display at ICUEE had a 500-gallon spoil tank. "The only thing you'd maybe want different is to go to a larger spoil tank, to be able to stay on the job longer before you have to go dump," says Gasmovic. Tanks holding 800 and 1,200 gallons are available.
The combination air/water vacuum excavator is available in either a trailer- or skid-mounted configuration. Looking ahead, there may be room for a larger model, says Gasmovic, but it is not McLaughlin's intention to get into the manufacture of full truck sizes, focusing instead between that range and what is now offered.