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  • Writer's pictureVirve Juhola

Digital pile positioning makes a most cumbersome construction task much easier

Updated: Feb 28, 2020

Positioning piles for foundations is a time-consuming and frustrating construction job performed in challenging open-air conditions. GPS positioning significantly helps this traditional task of a banksman/spotter while saving lots of time for the entire project. Digital pile positioning with Trimble’s products is being utilized on the new Trimble Finland offices’ construction site in Espoo.

Reverting to the traditional method, the banksman must tread on challenging grounds to check and fix the positions of the piles if the piling rig does not fit between the marks or if the marks are gone for some reason. At worst, the rig is forced to stand idle waiting for the spotter. In addition to enduring challenging outdoor conditions, the job requires utmost accuracy; each pile must be positioned within a certain tolerance in order for the foundation to meet the quality criteria.

“Digital pile positioning is particularly useful with slanting piles, the inclination of which is difficult for the driver to mark,” says sales engineer Mikael Nenonen of Sitech Finland. “Using the computer-controlled digital method, the rig driver can compare planned and actual inclinations based on vector data as the piling progresses.” The driver is able to define the locations of the piles accurately based on GPS positioning in the cabin of the machine.

Digital pile positioning improves precision and work efficiency

“Thanks to GPS positioning, the driver can work independently without the banksman and transfer real-time post-piling progress data to the office,” Nenonen says. “Digital positioning enhances precision and quality assurance in piling, independent of the human factor, and saves plenty of time for the entire project.”

“Digital pile positioning has been used in Finland since the early 2000s, and at Sitech Finland, we adopted the method in 2015,” Nenonen says. “The Trimble Groundworks machine control system has been used all over the world and found to be an effective overall solution. It is completely compatible with the Junttan pile driving rigs most used in Finland, and it is easy to learn and implement. However, implementation requires the piling company to take the leap and rely on the methods of the future. Adopting a digital pile positioning system requires an investment in equipment and software and pile planning in a machine-readable format. But since sourcing the plans from outside the company can easily cost ten thousand per year, the investment in digitalization can return in just a few years.”

Trimble Groundworks guides the rig driver in positioning the piles

“Trimble Groundworks is a machine control system for piling and drilling. It guides the rig driver on where to drive the piles,” Nenonen explains. “On the Trimble display in the cabin, the driver can see clearly where to position the pile. The system guides the driver both regarding the pile’s angle and tip location. The display shows the way like a flight simulator would show the plane’s approach angle on the landing strip.”

“The pile positioning is done using GPS satellite navigation, enabling circa 2 cm precision as specified by the Real-Time Kinematics (RTK) method. Trimble Groundworks is integrated to the Junttan machine used in Finland across a proprietary Controller Area Network (CAN). We utilize Junttan’s inclination and depth-sensing ability. For example to create official pile-driving documentation for real-time use in a site meeting, Trimble Groundworks sends post-work data directly to the Junttan system. Data transfer is wireless to the machine and back from its cabin to the office, and the piles are accurately placed into correct positions correctly inclined. Work on site is more efficient with the driver having the up-to-date pile location information at his disposal. The banksman’s role is less critical compared to the old times, and this is a huge benefit in terms of work efficiency on site,” Nenonen says.

Information is transferred from the design to the piling rig by utilizing the piling plan. The planned locations, elevations and inclinations are transformed into a piling pattern with Trimble Business Center software. This software also transfers the data wirelessly to the driver in the rig cabin so that any changes to the plans can be implemented real-time. Respectively, post-piling documentation and reports on the quantity and quality of piling can be transferred back through the same channel.

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