Title:
POLE EMBEDMENT DEVICE AND SYSTEM AND METHOD OF EMBEDDING POLE
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A system and method for embedding structures in soil is provided. Certain embodiments include a burrowing head having a channel positioned proximate a burrowing end of the burrowing head to direct a fluid medium therethrough. Other embodiments further include a structure, such as a pole, attached to the burrowing head, and a fluid source attached to the channel. Methods of embedding the burrowing head and structure that include directing a fluid medium into soil, and lowering the burrowing head and structure assembly through the soil to a predetermined depth.



Inventors:
Clarke, Dennis L. (Richmond, VA, US)
Application Number:
12/047578
Publication Date:
09/18/2008
Filing Date:
03/13/2008
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E02D7/24
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
SINGH, SUNIL
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MCGUIREWOODS, LLP (1750 TYSONS BLVD SUITE 1800, Tysons Corner, VA, 22102, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An apparatus for facilitating emplacement of a structure in a soil medium, comprising: a cone-shaped member, said member including a burrowing end and an end adapted to attach to an object, the object being emplaceable in a soil medium; and a channel extending proximate said cone-shaped member, said channel having a first end and a second end, said second end being configured to direct a fluid medium proximate said burrowing end of said cone-shaped member.

2. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein said cone-shaped member comprises a plurality of sides.

3. The apparatus of claim 2, wherein each of said plurality of sides comprises a width proximate said burrowing end that is smaller than a width proximate an opposing said burrowing end.

4. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein said fluid medium permeates said soil medium.

5. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein said object comprises a pole-type structure.

6. The apparatus of claim 5, wherein said pole-type structure comprises a utility pole.

7. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein said channel is detachable from a source of said fluid medium and adapted to remain in said soil medium after said object has been emplaced in said soil medium.

8. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein said second end comprises a reducer.

9. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein said object comprises a pole, the apparatus further comprising: said pole adapted to attach to said object; and a fluid source configured to deliver said fluid medium, said fluid source being attachable to said first end.

10. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein said fluid medium comprises water.

11. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein said fluid medium comprises a liquid and a gas.

12. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein said end adapted to attach to an object includes at least one horizontal member for supporting said object.

13. An apparatus for embedding a structure in a soil medium, comprising: a burrower configure to burrow in a soil medium; an attacher configured to attach a vertical structure to said burrower; and a fluid source configured to deliver a fluid medium to a soil penetration end of said burrower to reduce soil cohesion during emplacement of said vertical structure in said soil medium, said fluid medium being under pressure, wherein said burrower is adapted to remain in said soil medium after emplacement of the vertical structure.

14. The apparatus of claim 13, wherein said vertical structure comprises a pole.

15. The apparatus of claim 13, wherein said fluid medium comprises a combination of a liquid and a gas.

16. The apparatus of claim 13, wherein said fluid medium is substantially a liquid.

17. An apparatus for embedding a structure in a soil medium, comprising: means for burrowing including a burrowing end; means for directing a fluid medium proximate said burrowing end; means for attaching a vertical support structure to said means for burrowing; and means for attaching a fluid medium source to said means for directing a fluid medium.

18. A method for embedding a structure in a soil medium, comprising: providing a cone-shaped member, said member including a burrowing end and an end adapted to attach to an object emplaceble in a soil medium; providing a channel extending proximate said cone-shaped member, said channel comprising a first end and a second end, said second end being configured to direct a fluid medium proximate said burrowing end of said cone-shaped member; attaching a vertical support structure to said end adapted to attach to an object, creating an embeddable vertical support structure and cone-shaped member assembly; attaching a device for delivering at least one fluid medium to said first end; orienting said embeddable vertical support structure and cone-shaped member assembly relative to a surface of said soil medium, said burrowing end of said cone-shaped member being positioned proximate said surface of said soil medium; and providing said at least one fluid medium to said first end of said channel said at least one fluid medium being provided at a rate and a volume sufficient to reduce cohesion of said soil medium, allowing said embeddable vertical support structure and cone-shaped member assembly to descend through said soil medium to a predetermined depth.

19. The method of claim 18, further comprising removing said at least one fluid medium from said first end of said channel, leaving said embeddable vertical support structure and cone-shaped member assembly embedded in said soil medium.

20. The method of claim 18, wherein said step of providing said at least one fluid medium provides a liquid.

21. The method of claim 18, wherein said step of providing said at least one fluid medium provides a combination of a liquid and a gas.

22. The method of claim 18, wherein the step of providing said at least one fluid medium allows said embeddable vertical support structure and cone-shaped member assembly to descend through said soil medium substantially without any rotation.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims priority to U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/894,823, filed Mar. 14, 2007, and entitled “POLE EMBEDMENT DEVICE AND SYSTEM AND METHOD OF EMBEDDING POLE,” the disclosure of which is incorporated by reference herein in its entirety.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The invention is directed generally to a system and method for embedding structures in the ground and, more specifically, to methods and systems for using fluids in connection with placing a structure at a desired depth in the ground.

2. Related Art

Placement of structures, such as utility poles and like, in the ground is commonplace. Indeed, such embedded structures are ubiquitous, and are used for a myriad of purposes, such as to mount power lines, antennas, lights, and signs. Such embedded structures typically include an above-ground portion and an embedded, below-ground portion. Still other embedded structures have no above-ground portion, such as piling-type supports that are intended to support a separate, above-ground structure built onto the piling-type supports.

Common to many or most embedded structures is a need for the structure to be stably placed in the ground such that the embedded structure remains in the desired position and orientation relative to the ground surface after emplacement. Structures are commonly embedded in the ground in such a way as to achieve fairly uniform support about the base of a structure, and to eliminate, at least in part, a need to provide an above-ground system for anchoring the structure in place and to achieve the requisite amount of support for the structure. The embedded structure is generally desired to be sufficiently stable so as to remain in the desired position and orientation in the event that limited lateral force or torque is applied to the above-ground portion of the embedded structure.

FIG. 1 shows an embedded structure 50 according to the prior art. The particular embedded structure depicted is a pole that may be used as, for example, a utility pole application for mounting power lines and the like. Embedded structure 50 may be embedded in the soil 5, and when so embedded has an embedded portion 1 and a non-embedded portion 3 extending generally perpendicular to the surface 7 of soil 5.

Embedded structures such as embedded structure 50 may be emplaced in soil according to one of a number of known methods. One method, for example, includes excavation of a suitably-sized hole in the soil 5, followed by emplacement of a portion 1 of the structure 50 in the hole. Because soil often tends to be unstable, the excavated hole must often be significantly larger in diameter than the structure 50 to be placed in the hole. Where soil 5 has a high sand content and/or includes the presence of a high water table, excavated holes often must be larger than the diameter of structure 50 by orders of magnitude due to soil 5 eroding from the walls of the hole into the hole during excavation. Following excavation, structure 50 is placed into the hole in the a desired orientation relative to the soil surface 7, then the space around the embedded structure 50 is backfilled with soil 5 and the surface 7 is tamped to further compact the soil 5 around the outer surface 52 of the embedded structure 50. So emplaced, the soil 5 imparts a relatively uniform stabilizing force, at a particular depth, to the outer surface 52 of the embedded structure, in, for example, the directions A and A′. The excavation of a hole necessary to embed a structure 50 is ordinarily carried with mechanized digging tools, such as, for example, augers or backhoes, or any other suitable method or device.

Another method of emplacing the structure 50 in the soil 5 is to provide a vibratory hammer (not shown) and casing (not shown) to embed the structure 50 in the soil 5. According to this method, a casing having a larger diameter than the structure 50 to be embedded in the soil is first driven into the ground with a vibratory hammer. The vibratory hammer may be a mechanized device that may be operatively connected to the casing, often by using a boom truck or crane, to oscillate the casing sufficiently so as to cause the casing to burrow into the soil 5 to a desired depth. A vibratory hammer is a relatively large piece of machinery, and typically must be hauled to an excavation site. After the casing is embedded, the soil within the casing is excavated and the structure 50 to be embedded (such as a utility pole) is placed within the casing with a crane or boom truck or the like. Thereafter, the casing is backfilled around the embedded structure 50 to stabilize it. The vibratory hammer and casing method of embedment is generally desirable for soil having a high sand content and/or high water table.

The above-described methods and devices for emplacing embedded structures generally work well, but are not without problems. For example, soil having relatively high sand content and low clay content (“sandy soil”) is inherently less stable than soil having relatively low sand content and high clay content. When emplacing structure 50 in sandy soil, it is often necessary to excavate a relatively larger hole in which to emplace the structure 50 due to the tendency for the walls of the hole to collapse. As such, emplacement in such environments is relatively time-consuming and labor-intensive.

There is a need, therefore, for a system and method for emplacing a structure in the ground that eliminates or greatly reduces the need for excavation prior to emplacement of the structure, and which further reduces the material and labor costs associated with emplacement of the structure. The present invention meets these needs.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Embodiments of the invention include an apparatus for facilitating the emplacement of a structure in a soil medium. The apparatus may include a generally cone-shaped member that includes a burrowing end and an end adapted to attach to an object intended to be emplaced in a soil medium; and a channel extending proximate the cone-shaped member that has a first end and a second end, and the second end is configured to direct a fluid medium proximate the burrowing end of the cone-shaped member. Embodiments of the apparatus may be attached to a pole, and may include a device for delivering at least one fluid medium attached to the channel first end.

According to another aspect, an apparatus for embedding a structure in a soil medium is provided that includes a burrower configured to burrow in a soil medium, an attacher configured to attach a structure to the burrower, and for a fluid source adapted to deliver a fluid medium under pressure proximate to a soil penetration end of the burrower to reduce soil cohesion during emplacement of the structure in the soil medium, wherein the burrower is adapted to remain in the soil medium after emplacement of the structure.

Embodiments of the invention may also include a method for embedding a structure in a soil medium. The method may include providing a generally cone-shaped member comprising a burrowing end and an end adapted to be attached to an object intended to be emplaced in a soil medium, and providing a channel extending proximate the cone-shaped member, the channel having a first end and a second end, the second end being configured to direct a fluid medium proximate the burrowing end of the cone-shaped member. A vertical support structure may be attached to the end adapted to attach to an object; and a device for delivering at least one fluid medium may be attached to the channel first end. The vertical support structure and cone-shaped member assembly may be oriented relative to a surface of the soil medium such that the bottom surface of the cone shaped member is positionable proximate the surface of the soil medium; and a fluid medium may be provided to the first end of the channel, the fluid medium being provided at a rate and volume sufficient to reduce cohesion of the soil medium to allow the vertical support structure and cone-shaped member assembly to descend through the soil medium to a predetermined depth.

Additional features, advantages, and embodiments of the invention may be set forth or apparent from consideration of the following detailed description, drawings, and claims. Moreover, it is to be understood that both the foregoing summary of the invention and the following detailed description are exemplary and intended to provide further explanation without limiting the scope of the invention as claimed.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The accompanying drawings, which are included to provide a further understanding of the invention, are incorporated in and constitute a part of this specification, illustrate embodiments of the invention and together with the detailed description serve to explain the principles of the invention. No attempt is made to show structural details of the invention in more detail than may be necessary for a fundamental understanding of the invention and the various ways in which it may be practiced. In the drawings:

FIG. 1 is a side view of a pole embedded in soil according to the prior art;

FIG. 2 is a side view of an embedment assembly of an embodiment, according to principles of the invention;

FIG. 3 is a top view of an embedment assembly of an embodiment, according to principles of the invention;

FIG. 4 is a side view of an embedment system and assembly of an embodiment, according to principles of the invention;

FIG. 5 is a top view of an embedment system and assembly of an embodiment, according to principles of the invention; and

FIG. 6 is a flow diagram of an embodiment showing steps for embedding a structure, according to principles of the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

The embodiments of the invention and the various features and advantageous details thereof are explained more fully with reference to the non-limiting embodiments and examples that are described and/or illustrated in the accompanying drawings and detailed in the following description. It should be noted that the features illustrated in the drawings are not necessarily drawn to scale, and features of one embodiment may be employed with other embodiments as the skilled artisan would recognize, even if not explicitly stated herein. Descriptions of well-known components and processing techniques may be omitted so as to not unnecessarily obscure the embodiments of the invention. The examples used herein are intended merely to facilitate an understanding of ways in which the invention may be practiced and to further enable those of skill in the art to practice the embodiments of the invention. Accordingly, the examples and embodiments herein should not be construed as limiting the scope of the invention, which is defined solely by the appended claims and applicable law. Moreover, it is noted that like reference numerals represent similar parts throughout the several views of the drawings, It is understood that the invention is not limited to the particular methodology, protocols, devices, apparatus, materials, applications, etc., described herein, as these may vary. It is also to be understood that the terminology used herein is used for the purpose of describing particular embodiments only, and is not intended to limit the scope of the invention, It must be noted that as used herein and in the appended claims, the singular forms “a,” “an,” and “the” include plural reference unless the context clearly dictates otherwise.

Unless defined otherwise, all technical and scientific terms used herein have the same meanings as commonly understood by one of ordinary skill in the art to which this invention belongs. Preferred methods, devices, and materials are described, although any methods and materials similar or equivalent to those described herein can be used in the practice or testing of the invention.

FIGS. 2 and 3 illustrate a side-view perspective and a top-view perspective, respectively, of an exemplary, non-limiting embedment assembly 100, according to principles of the invention. The embedment assembly 100 may be configured to be selectively attached to a structure to be embedded in soil, such as a pole similar to that shown in FIG. 1. Embedment assembly 100 may include a burrowing head 101 having a generally cone-shaped configuration. In the embodiment shown in FIGS. 2 and 3, the burrowing head 101 may be constructed of six sides 102, each side 102 being configured as an isosceles trapezoid and joined to one another along a non-parallel edge 107 of each side 102. So configured, the burrowing head 101 may include a narrow end 103 and a wide end 105. A plate 104 may be included and attached to each of the sides 102 at a perimeter edge of each side 102 at the narrow end 103 of the burrowing head 101. The burrowing head 101 need not be faceted, and may instead be constructed as a unitary cone having at least one smooth side. Alternately, the burrowing head 101 may have more or fewer facets than the six, as shown in FIG. 1. Further, the facets may form a pleated configuration of the burrowing head 101. Additionally, ridges or grooves (not shown) of any desired configuration may also be included on at lease one exterior surface of the burrowing head 101 exterior to promote directional burrowing.

One or more members 117 may also be included in the embodiment assembly 100 to facilitate attachment of a structure to be embedded in the soil. Each member 117 may preferably span across a predetermined width of the wide end 105 of the burrowing head 101 and may be attached to the burrowing head 101 at opposed ends of the member 117 by any suitable method, such as welding or fastening. The member(s) 117 may have an L-shaped cross-section comprised of a horizontal portion 118 connected to a vertical portion 120 along a longitudinal edge. The vertical portion 120 may be configured to increase a resistance of a respective member 117 to deformation when a force is applied to the embodiment assembly 100 in a direction generally from the wide end 105 to the narrow end 103.

The burrowing head 101 may also include a channel 106 extending through the burrowing head 101 in a direction generally from the wide end 105 to the narrow end 103, and terminating proximate an opening 109 in the plate 104. The channel 106 may be constructed from any suitable material, such as, for example, a unitary metal, a PVC pipe, a rubberized hose, or the like. In a preferred embodiment, the channel 106 may have an end 108 and is constructed of a galvanized pipe comprising a plurality of pipe segments 112 and joints 114, 116. The channel 106 may extend through the opening 109 in the plate 104 to a predetermined distance outside of the burrowing head 101. A terminal end of the channel 106 may be open and may include an outflow 110. The outflow 110 may have a diameter that is substantially the same or different than a diameter of other parts of the channel 106. In a preferred embodiment, the outflow 110 includes a flared portion 115 that is configured to direct fluid flowing out from the outflow 110 to an area outside the embedment assembly 100 in a generally cone-shaped and distributed manner. Of course, the outflow 110 may be any desired shape such as, for example, a conical shape, a cylindrical shape, a rectangular shape, or any other shape capable of directing fluid in a manner suitable for a particular application, as the skilled artisan will readily appreciate without departing from the scope and/or spirit of the invention.

In an alternate embodiment, the channel 106 may be configured to extend along or proximate an exterior surface of the burrowing head 101 and terminate proximate an exterior side of the plate 104. In other embodiments, the outflow 110 may be located at one or more locations on one or more of the sides 102, either alternately or in addition to a location proximate the plate 104.

In other configurations, the burrowing head 101 may include a plate (not shown) that is adapted to be placed over the wide end 105 to form a chamber. The plate may have an inlet (not shown) to which the channel 106 may be attached. In such a configuration, fluid directed through the channel 106 may enter the chamber through the inlet and exit through the outflow 110.

FIGS. 4 and 5 illustrate an exemplary, non-limiting embedment system and assembly 200 operatively connected to a utility pole 250. The pole 250 may be of any configuration, including a plurality of faceted sides 252 along a generally tubular structure, for example. The end plate 254 may be attached to a bottom end of the pole 250 to facilitate attachment to the embedment assembly 200. The embedment assembly 200 may be attached to an end of the pole 250 that is intended to be embedded in soil. The end plate 254 may be attachable to the horizontal portions 218 of one or more members 217, and may be attached by any suitable method, such as, for example, welding, riveting or fastening. Alternatively, the end plate 254 may be eliminated and the pole 250 may be directly attachable to the one or more members 217 of the embedment assembly 200.

A fluid source 280 may be attached to a channel 206 having a length extending upwardly of the embedment assembly 200 sufficient to extend beyond the soil surface to the fluid source 280 when the pole 250 and embedment assembly 200 are embedded at a predetermined depth. In a preferred embodiment, the fluid source 280 is an air compressor and/or a water pump.

As previously described, the fluid source 280 may preferably provide a gaseous and/or a liquid media to the channel 206. The fluid source 280 may be any suitable fluid source, as the skilled artisan will readily recognize, depending on a particular application that provides a fluid to the channel 206 at a predetermined volume and a predetermined rate of flow. In a preferred embodiment, compressed air and/or pressurized water may be provided by the fluid source 280. The fluid source 280 may be configured to provide only gas or only liquid, or may be configured to provide both alternately or mixed together, thereby allowing a user to select which fluid media to use at a particular point in the embedment process. Moreover, the predetermined volume and/or predetermined rate of flow may involve multiple predetermined volumes or rates of flow that may optionally be applied at different times in the embedding procedure, depending on soil condition for example.

Once the embedment assembly 200 and pole 250 (collectively, embeddable pole 270) are assembled as shown schematically in FIG. 4, the embeddable pole 270 may be embedded in the soil. It may be desirable to first drive a relatively narrow auger, such as a flight auger, into the soil to a depth that the embeddable pole 270 will be emplaced. This may serve to detect for obstructions that may exist below the soil surface which may impede the progress of emplacing the embeddable pole 270 as it descends through the soil. Subsequently, a user may orient the embeddable pole 270 in a predetermined direction, generally corresponding to the direction the embeddable pole 270 is intended to be sunk into the soil with the outflow 210 placed proximate the soil surface.

Once the embeddable pole 270 is positioned as described above, the fluid source 280 may be operated to provide a fluid to the channel 206 for release through the outflow 210. The fluid may be provided at a sufficient rate to permeate the soil and cause the soil particles, and particularly any sand in the soil, to become relatively cohesionless (or at least less cohesive) and suspended in the fluid. Once the soil is suspended in the fluid medium, the embeddable pole 270 is lowered onto and downwardly through the soil, until it reaches a predetermined depth. When the embeddable pole 270 is positioned as it is intended to remain, the fluid from the fluid source 280 may be terminated and the soil surrounding the embeddable pole 270 may cease to be suspended and again become relatively cohesive. In addition, the soil surrounding the embeddable pole 270 tends to become more, after embedment compact than at times prior to embedment due to the displacement and compaction of soil by the presence of embeddable pole 270.

Following embedment of the embeddable pole 270 to the predetermined depth, the fluid source 280 may be uncoupled from the channel 206. The burrowing head 201 may remain in the soil. The burrowing head 201 may be constructed of six sides 202, each side 202 typically being configured as an isosceles trapezoid and joined to one another side 202. The burrowing head 201 may also include a channel 206 extending through the burrowing head 201 in a direction generally from the wide end 205 to the narrow end 203. The channel 206 may be constructed of a galvanized pipe comprising a plurality of pipe segments 212 and joints 214, 216. The outflow 210 may include a flared portion 215 that is configured to direct fluid flowing out from the outflow 210 to an area outside the embedment assembly 200 in a generally cone-shaped and distributed manner.

Thereafter, the embeddable pole 270 may be used for any suitable purpose, such as, for example, for mounting utility lines, or the like. In addition to being firmly seated within the soil as a result of the suspension/de-suspension process described above, the embeddable pole 270 is further stabilized by burrowing the head 201 in the soil, due in-part to the flared configuration of the wide end 205 that preferably extends out beyond the perimeter of the pole 250, and thus may act to create a resistance to anchor the embeddable pole 270 within the soil. Of course, the burrowing head 201 need not extend out beyond the perimeter of the pole 250, and may instead have approximately the same width as, or be narrower than, the pole 250, depending on user selection, as the skilled artisan will recognize, without departing from the scope and/or spirit of the inventions.

FIG. 6 is an exemplary, non-limiting flow diagram of an embedding process for embedding a structure, according to principles of the invention. The embedding process begins at step 600 and proceeds to step 605, where a burrowing member may be provided, typically a cone-shaped structure which may have a plurality of sides (such as described in relation to FIGS. 2 and 3, for example). At step 610, a channel may be provided to deliver, a fluid, typically compressed (but not a requirement), to a burrowing end of the burrowing member. A structure, typically a vertical structure, such as a pole, pillar, pile, post or column, may be attached to the burrowing member at step 615. At step 620, a device to deliver a fluid medium (such as, e.g., a gas and/or a liquid medium) may be attached to the channel.

At step 625, the combined structure and burrowing member assembly may be oriented in substantially vertical direction in relation to a soil surface. At step 630, a fluid medium may be provided to the channel to reduce soil cohesion, or to make the soil particles suspend in the fluid (making a substantially fluidic soil), thereby creating much less friction for sinking (or embedding) the combined structure and burrowing member (assembly) into the soil medium, usually without any need for any substantial rotation of the structure and burrowing assembly. The assembly may now descend to a pre-determined depth by sliding through the soil medium. At step 635, the fluid medium source (i.e., the device to deliver the fluid medium) may be disconnected, thereby leaving the embedded assembly in the soil. At step 640, the process then ends; the installation being complete.

As an example, embodiments of the invention may be used to economically install pole-type structures (e.g., posts), piling, pillar, or support columns, in loose (or even not very loose) cohesion-less soils (or similar soils), with or without a high water table. In testing on a prototype, according to an aspect of the invention, a 2 inch diameter supply for the fluid, such as compressed air, at a rate of at least 1000 CFM and at a pressure of approximately 60 psi was employed successfully. Moreover, a second somewhat smaller prototype was tested for smaller structures which utilized 2 inch to 1¼ inch reducers while maintaining an air volume, with equally satisfactory success. Variations of air pressures (or fluid pressures) and optimum air volume (or fluid volumes) may be used for various types of structure types, structure depths, and for soil conditions.

While the invention has been described in terms of exemplary embodiments, those skilled in the art will recognize that the invention can be practiced with modifications in the spirit and scope of the appended claims. These examples given above are merely illustrative and are not meant to be an exhaustive list of all possible designs, embodiments, applications or modifications of the invention.