How are your teeth? One of the quick, routine maintenance tasks on the Vermeer Terrain Leveler SEMs and Vermeer trenchers is changing out their teeth. Making sure you have the right kind of teeth on your surface miner or trencher can help maximize jobsite productivity and keep your machine running smoothly. Knowing what kind of teeth you should use, and how you can use them most effectively, will depend on the details of your jobsite and the tooth itself. Below are five tips to consider as you select your teeth.
1. Decide on a tooth style
The first step is to pick the appropriate style for the ground conditions. Barry Scieszinski, Vermeer applications specialist, said contractors should think about the available styles like sledgehammers and pickaxes. “The head on a tooth can range from rounded dull surfaces to pointed spiked styles,” he said. “The rounded face teeth with a larger carbide surface hold up to abrasion longer than more aggressive, smaller carbide-tipped teeth. The larger surface area teeth are effective at breaking up softer rock formations like sandstone and limestone. For harder rocks, contractors should employ a more aggressive tooth style for deeper rock penetration.”
Like a sledgehammer, teeth with a smaller surface area can break the rock into large, thick sizes using less energy (horsepower). At the same time, the more aggressive, larger pickaxe style produces smaller-sized material with each percussion and will require more energy or chain revolutions to dig.
- Plug style is for harder rock and hard impact and sits deeper in the steel body of the tooth to give the carbide more support
- Cap style teeth are for softer and more abrasive rock and the carbide profile is designed to deflect material away from the steel body of the tooth to prevent steel wash
- Narrow bottom style teeth take attributes from both cap and plug styles to offer a more versatile tooth in a wide range of applications
In the end, the right tooth style comes down to what type of rock you’re cutting and how tough it is.
2. Compare the tooth quality
Next, you’ll want to consider the quality of the tooth. If you’ve shopped for teeth before, you know there are hundreds of options to choose from in a wide range of prices. Scieszinski and Gregg Van Roekel tell contractors to remember — you get what you pay for.
“Just because a low-cost tooth may look identical to a much more expensive one doesn’t mean it will perform the same, and it probably will not last as long,” added Scieszinski. “There is a lot that goes into the construction of tooth shanks and the process for applying the carbide. Going with the low-price option can cost more in the long run due to more frequent teeth replacements, slower production rates and more extensive maintenance requirements.”
3. Keep top-down cutting in mind
Top-down cutting is a major breakthrough in rock cutting. This technique allows the teeth to gain penetration without the tracks having to drive the tooth into the rock. Cutting from the top down on the rock helps with less material grade blending, and less wear on the drum, tooling and machine undercarriage, resulting in an increase in drum power.
Operators have the ability to size material by varying the depth of cut, travel speed and drum rotation speed. Since all the material passes under the drum and the tooth penetration reduces with depth, deeper cuts achieve smaller material. Conversely, larger particles may be achieved by reducing the digging depth and increasing the speed (increased tooth penetration). Top-down cutting minimizes contact of the cut material with the drum, which reduces wear on the picks and pick holders.
“There’s a distinct advantage here,” explained Van Roekel, an applications specialist at Vermeer. “If you do a bottom or up cut, the material builds up in front of the drum, and it may hit several teeth before it gets away from the drum. But with a top-down cut, the material hits the teeth once and then passes 30 degrees behind the drum, resulting in a more consistent particle size, less horsepower used and reduced wear on cutting teeth.”
4. Consider a staggered pattern
Now let’s talk about tooth pattern. Scieszinski said when crews are working in exceptionally hard rock, they may want to consider using a staggered pattern that incorporates short and long teeth on their trencher. “For this pattern, longer teeth are placed in the middle of the chevron to make the initial impact, while shorter teeth are used at the outer edges to pull the chips out of the way,” he explained. “Using a combination of smaller carbide-tipped teeth and larger surfaced carbide teeth is also another combination often employed. This configuration mimics the way a person chews their food. Teeth in the middle cut and the outer teeth grind and reduce the particle size.”
Pick the pattern you think will work best for your jobsite.
5. Watch your pockets and teeth
Some teeth, like the ones that Vermeer recommends from teeth vendors, have a type of pocket protector built onto each tooth. The protector is a skirt around the tooth resembling a bell. This helps maintain your teeth over time and reduce wearing down too far.
“There’s a lot at stake if you don’t maintain your teeth properly,” explained Jeff Utter, Vermeer product manager. “If you don’t change your teeth often enough, they can wear down too far into the pocket and you have to cut it off and weld a new one. This can take a couple of hours and create unnecessary downtime.”
Routinely maintaining your machine’s teeth and pockets is crucial to the uptime and productivity on the jobsite. A normal tooth change takes anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute, any amount of time beyond that is time you shouldn’t have to spend on routine maintenance.
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