Title:
Excavation aid
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A method for preparing ground for excavation comprises providing at least one excavation aid including a fluid inlet configured to receive fluid from a fluid source and at least one elongate member having a ground penetrating member configured to use the received fluid and gravity to penetrate the ground while dispersing the fluid into the surrounding ground. The excavation aid is placed on ground to be excavated with the ground penetrating member of the at least one elongate member resting on a surface of the ground and then connected to a fluid source. Once the at least one excavation aid has distributed an amount of fluid into the ground so as to allow the at least one elongate member to penetrate the ground to a predetermined depth, the at least one excavation aid is removed from the ground so that the area can be excavated manually.



Inventors:
Moon, Michael B. (Carmel, IN, US)
Application Number:
11/396496
Publication Date:
10/04/2007
Filing Date:
04/03/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E02D3/00
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
LAGMAN, FREDERICK LYNDON
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MAGINOT, MOORE & BECK, LLP (INDIANAPOLIS, IN, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An excavation aid comprising: an upper member including; a fluid inlet configured to receive a fluid from a fluid source; and at least two fluid pathways in communication with said fluid inlet; and at least two elongate members operably connected to said upper member and projecting downward therefrom, said at least one elongate member including; a hollow conduit including an inlet end and an outlet end, said inlet end fluidly connected to a corresponding one of said at least two fluid pathways; and a ground penetrating member removably connected to said outlet end of said hollow conduit, said ground penetrating member having a fluid passageway connected to said outlet end of said hollow conduit and at least one opening for dispersing said fluid from said passageway outside said ground penetrating member.

2. The excavation aid of claim 1, wherein: said upper member includes a substantially triangular platform member; and said at least two elongate members includes an elongate member connected to each corner of said triangular platform member.

3. The excavation aid of claim 1, wherein: said upper member includes a substantially elongate bridge member; and said at least two elongate members include at least three elongate members connected to said bridge member and spaced along the length thereof.

4. The excavation aid of claim 1, wherein: said upper member includes a hollow central hub fluidly connected to said fluid inlet; said water distribution means includes; an outer hollow circular member; and at least one hollow conduit extending from said central hub to said outer circular member to distribute water from said central hub to said outer hollow circular member; and said at least two elongate members include at least three elongate members fluidly connected to said outer circular member perpendicular to a horizontal plane of said outer circular member and spaced about a circumference of said outer circular member.

5. The excavation aid of claim 1, wherein said ground penetrating member includes two cone-shaped sections connected together by an inset annulus section.

6. The excavation aid of claim 4, wherein said ground penetrating member includes an axial passage leading to an axial opening for dispersing fluid axially from said ground penetrating member.

7. The excavation aid of claim 4, wherein said ground penetrating member includes at least one radial passage extending from said axial bore, said at least one radial passage leading to a radial opening in the peripheral surface of the annulus section, said radial opening for dispersing fluid radially from said ground penetrating member.

8. The excavation aid of claim 1, wherein said hollow conduit of said at least one elongate member includes a penetration stop configured to prevent said elongate member from penetrating ground past a predetermined distance.

9. The excavation aid of claim 7, wherein said penetration stop is adjustable to varying positions along a length of said hollow conduit.

10. A method for preparing ground for excavation, the method comprising: providing at least one excavation aid including a fluid inlet configured to receive fluid from a fluid source and at least one elongate member having a ground penetrating member configured to use said fluid and gravity to penetrate the ground while dispersing said fluid into the surrounding ground; placing said at least one excavation aid on ground to be excavated with said ground penetrating member adjacent a surface of said ground; connecting said at least one excavation aid to a fluid source; waiting for said at least one excavation aid to distribute an amount of fluid into the ground so as to allow said at least one elongate member to penetrate the ground to a predetermined depth; removing said at least one excavation aid from said ground; and manually excavating said ground from said area.

11. The method of claim 10, wherein said providing at least one excavation aid step further comprises: providing at least one excavation aid including a platform member having a substantially flat upper surface and including at least three elongate members, said at least three elongate members being operably connected to said platform member so as to allow said excavation aid to be freestanding.

12. The method of claim 11, further comprising: placing a weight on said flat upper surface of said platform member to aid ground penetration of said at least three elongate members.

13. The method of claim 9, wherein the providing at least one excavation aid step further comprises providing a plurality of excavation aids, and wherein the connecting said at least one excavation aid to a fluid source step further comprises operably connecting a fluid inlet of a first excavation aid to said fluid source and operably connecting a fluid inlet of each successive excavation aid to a fluid outlet of a previous excavation aid.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates generally to excavation and particularly to devices and methods for preparing ground for excavation.

There is a frequent need for hand/manual excavation of material at a jobsite. For example, a hand/manual excavation of ground is required under many states law to locate and expose an existing underground facility, such as a sewer or water pipes, natural gas or oil pipelines, power cables, fiber optic cables or telephone cables. This hand/manual excavation is necessary to verify the location of these facilities prior to installing a new facility or repairing the existing underground facility. In other instances, hand/manual excavation is required by contractors performing irrigation or landscaping activities. Various excavation methods and equipment have heretofore been employed. Mechanical excavation devices range from simple hand tools such as picks and shovels to backhoes and sophisticated earth moving equipment for scraping, trenching, drilling and otherwise excavating in various soil conditions.

However, the aforementioned excavation equipment and methods have disadvantages when used to locate and work around existing underground facilities. Excavating with power equipment, such as backhoes and drilling machines, tends to be faster and less labor-intensive than excavating by hand, but it requires a significant capital investment and is often attended by a greater risk of cable or line damage. Buried cables and lines are particularly susceptible to damage by backhoe operators. For this reason, excavation with a backhoe may be impractical (and may even violate certain state laws) unless the operator has relatively accurate information on the depth and location of the subsurface line or cable. Otherwise the operator may be completely unaware that a utility line or cable has been exposed until it is severed. Severing a pipeline filled with a flammable material such as natural gas can be quite hazardous, as is severing an electrical line. Even if no personal injury results from severing a utility line or cable, property damage repair costs will often be incurred.

In order to avoid the risks of excavating near underground lines with mechanical equipment, it is necessary to hand dig to expose the existing facility, particularly when the location of the underground line is unknown or in situations where multiple utility lines are buried in an area. Excavating with hand tools offers the advantage of requiring a very small capital investment in equipment, but carries with it the very real drawbacks of being labor intensive, time consuming and, as a result, costly. This is particularly the case when hand tools are used to excavate dry, hard or compact earth, or when a relatively large volume of material must be excavated or relatively deep excavation is required.

One method that has been used to aid in excavation using hand tools is watering of the ground in the area where excavation is required. However, this has the drawback of requiring workers to stand and hold water hoses until the water has saturated the earth in the area thereby softening the soil to facilitate excavation. Alternatively, a watering device, such as a water sprinkler system, has been used. In any case, this can be time consuming because the water must soak through the top soil and thoroughly saturate the ground well below the surface. This problem can be compounded depending on the dryness of the ground, water run off and the type of soil present. Moreover, with these approaches it is usually difficult to saturate the soil to an adequate depth to access the underground facility.

What is needed to overcome these problems associated with the prior art, is an inexpensive device or method for preparing soil for manual excavation that will decrease the time and physical effort required to perform the excavation while minimizing the risks of damaging underground lines and injuries to personnel.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In order to address these needs, the present invention contemplates an economical excavation aid that can be operated easily and is capable of effectively softening ground to a sufficient depth so as to facilitate manual excavation.

The device comprises an upper member comprising a fluid inlet configured to receive a fluid from a fluid source, a fluid outlet configured to discharge fluid from the upper member and a fluid distribution means in communication with the fluid inlet and outlet. The fluid inlet and outlet are capable of being connected to a standard hose. Therefore, the fluid outlet of one excavation aid may be connected to the fluid inlet of another excavation aid. This allows a plurality of excavation aids to be connected in series to a single fluid source for aid in excavating a larger area.

The device further comprises at least one elongate member operably connected to the member and projecting downward from the upper member. The at least one elongate member comprises a hollow conduit including an inlet end and an outlet end. The inlet end is configured to receive fluid from the water distribution means. The elongate member also includes a ground penetrating member removably connected to the outlet end of the hollow conduit. The ground penetrating member is configured to receive fluid from the outlet end of the hollow conduit and includes at least one opening for dispersing the fluid from the ground penetrating member.

In a preferred embodiment, the ground penetrating member has a pair of cone-shaped sections connected together by an inset annulus section. An axial passage in the ground penetrating member terminates in an axial opening. The annulus section has radially extended passages leading to radial openings in the peripheral surface of the inset annulus section. The fluid flow from the axial opening of the ground penetrating member initially softens and lubricates the soil for easy soil penetration of the ground penetrating member and the fluid from the radial openings softens and lubricates the soil about the remainder of the ground penetrating member to provide for the continued easy insertion of the elongate member.

The present invention further contemplates a method for preparing ground for excavation. The method comprises providing at least one excavation aid including a fluid inlet configured to receive fluid from a fluid source and at least one elongate member having a ground penetrating member configured to use the fluid and gravity to penetrate the ground while dispersing the fluid into the surrounding ground. The excavation aid is placed on ground to be excavated with the ground penetrating member of the at least one elongate member resting on a surface of the ground and then connected to a fluid source. Once the at least one excavation aid has distributed an amount of fluid into the ground so as to allow the at least one elongate member to penetrate the ground to a predetermined depth, the at least one excavation aid is removed from the ground so that the area can be excavated manually.

It is, therefore, an object of the present invention to provide a novel, efficient and economical excavation aid. It is a further object of the present invention to provide an excavation aid that alleviates problems associated with excavation methods that are typically used. For instance, there are some areas where it is not convenient to use, or against state law to use mechanical excavation equipment such as around buried utility lines. The excavation aid allows manual excavation to be performed in less time with less physical exertion thereby alleviating the need to use mechanical excavation equipment, such as backhoes, that can cause damage to underground lines.

These and other objects and benefits of the invention will be readily discerned from the following written description, taken together with the accompanying figures.

DESCRIPTION OF THE FIGURES

Aspects and features of the present embodiments will become apparent as the following description proceeds and upon reference to the drawings, in which:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of an excavation aid for preparing ground for excavation.

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of an alternative embodiment of the excavation aid of FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of another alternative embodiment of the excavation aid of FIG. 1.

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of yet another alternative embodiment of the excavation aid of FIG. 1.

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of the ground penetrating member of the excavation aid of FIG. 1.

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of the excavation aid of FIG. 1 placed for use at an area to be excavated.

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of the excavation aid of FIG. 1 after the area to be excavated has been sufficiently prepared.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

For the purposes of promoting an understanding of the principles of the invention, reference will now be made to the embodiments illustrated in the drawings and described in the following written specification. It is understood that no limitation to the scope of the invention is thereby intended. It is further understood that the present invention includes any alterations and modifications to the illustrated embodiments and includes further applications of the principles of the invention as would normally occur to one skilled in the art to which this invention pertains.

Referring to FIG. 1, there is shown an excavation aid 10 in accordance with the present invention. The excavation aid 10 comprises an upper member 14 having a fluid inlet 20 configured to receive a fluid from a fluid source (not shown), a fluid outlet 36 configured to discharge fluid from the upper member 14 and a fluid distribution means in communication with the fluid inlet 20 and the fluid outlet 36. The device further comprises at least one elongate member 24 operably corinected to the upper member 14 and projecting downward from the upper member 14. The at least one elongate member 24 comprises a hollow conduit 28 including an inlet end 30 and an outlet end 34. The inlet end 30 is configured to receive fluid from the fluid distribution means. The elongate member 24 also includes a ground penetrating member 40 removably connected to the outlet end 34 of the hollow conduit 28. The ground penetrating member 40 is configured to receive fluid from the outlet end 34 of the hollow conduit 28 and includes at least one radial opening 38 for dispersing the fluid radially from the ground penetrating member 40 and at least one axial opening 36 for dispersing fluid axially from the ground penetrating member 40.

In the preferred embodiment, the upper member 14 has a substantially triangular shape with a substantially flat upper surface 18 as shown in FIG. 1. In this embodiment, there are provided three elongate members 24 with one elongate member being connected to each corner of the horizontal platform member 14. This configuration provides the excavation aid 10 with a stable structure so that it can be placed freestanding in an area that needs to be excavated. Therefore, there is no need for personnel or extra equipment to hold or stabilize the excavation aid 10 during use. Moreover, in this configuration, the flat upper surface 18 of the member 14 can be used for placement of weights (not shown) that can apply an additional downward force on the excavation aid and thereby facilitate ground penetration by the elongate members 24.

Referring now to FIG. 2, there is shown an alternative embodiment of the excavation aid 10. In this embodiment, the excavation aid 200 comprises a bridge member 204 having a fluid inlet 208 configured to receive a fluid from a fluid source (not shown), a fluid outlet 210 configured to discharge fluid from the bridge member 204 and a fluid distribution means in communication with the fluid inlet 208 and the fluid outlet 210. In this embodiment, the bridge member comprises a substantially straight hollow structure. The device 200 further comprises at least three elongate members 214 downwardly projecting from the bridge member 204. Preferably, the elongate members 214 are positioned substantially parallel to each other and evenly spaced apart along the length of the bridge member. This configuration is useful in narrow areas that require excavation. In addition, the excavation aid 200 can be easily stored and transported because of its narrow structure. It can be appreciated that the length of the bridge member and the spacing of the elongate members along the length of the bridge member can be varied to provide optimal fluid dispersion depending on the need of a situation.

Referring now to FIG. 3, there is shown another alternative embodiment of the excavation aid 10. In this embodiment, the excavation aid 300 comprises a central hub 304 having a fluid inlet 308 configured to receive a fluid from a fluid source (not shown), a fluid outlet 310 configured to discharge fluid from the central hub 304 and a fluid distribution means (not shown) in communication with the fluid inlet 308 and the fluid outlet 310. The excavation aid 300 further comprises an outer hollow circular member 314 and at least one hollow conduit, or spoke, 318 extending from the central hub 304 to the outer circular member 314. In this embodiment, fluid is received through the fluid inlet 308 at the central hub 304 and distributed to the outer circular member 314 via the hollow conduits 318. Preferably, in this embodiment, there are at least three elongate members 320 operably connected to the outer circular member 314 perpendicular to a horizontal plane of said outer circular member 314. The three elongate members 320 are preferably substantially parallel relative to each other and evenly spaced about a circumference of said outer circular member 314. This embodiment 300 has the benefit of being able to leave it freestanding in an area to be excavated. It can be appreciated that the diameter of the outer circular member 314 as well as the number of elongate members 320 can be varied to fit the needs of a situation.

Referring again to FIG. 1, the fluid inlet 20 of the horizontal platform member 14 is preferably a flow control valve that is adapted to receive and regulate fluid flow from a standard 1″ hose, although other size hoses and fluid flow control methods are contemplated. The fluid distribution means (not shown) may comprise a reservoir or other fluid retaining means located adjacent the fluid inlet for receiving fluid that passes through the fluid inlet. The fluid distribution means supplies fluid received from the fluid inlet 20 to the inlet ends 30 of the hollow conduits 28 of the elongate members 24.

As described above, the elongate members 24 comprise a hollow conduit 28 including an inlet end 30 and an outlet end 34. The hollow conduits 28 are preferably hollow rods machined from stainless steel or other rigid and corrosion resistant material, and have a general cylindrical shape. The inlet end 30 of the hollow conduit 28 is secured to the horizontal platform member 14 in any usual manner such as by welding, press fit or threaded engagement. In some embodiments, the hollow conduit portion 28 may include a penetration stop 32. The penetration stop 32 comprises a flange or protrusion from a predetermined position on the outer surface of the hollow conduit 28. The penetration stop 32 acts to prevent the elongate member 24 from penetrating ground after the elongate member 24 has reached a predetermined depth. In some embodiments, the penetration stop 32 may be adjustable along the length of the hollow conduit thereby controlling the depth of penetration of the elongate member.

Referring now to FIG. 5, the ground penetrating member 40 of the elongate member 24 is secured to the hollow conduit 28 by a threaded or press fit engagement therewith. In the preferred embodiment, the ground penetrating member 40 comprises a pair of coaxially extended cone sections 44 and 48, each of which is of a generally inverted conical shape, connected together by an inset annulus section 50. An axial passage (not shown) in the ground penetrating member 40 terminates in axial opening 36 in the tip of the ground penetrating member 40. In addition, at least one radially extending passage (not shown) leads from the axial passage to a radial opening 38 in the peripheral surface of the annulus section 50. For a more detailed description of the ground penetrating member 40, reference is made to U.S. Pat. No. 4,705,218, the disclosure of which is incorporated herein by reference.

In use, a conventional hose is connected to the fluid inlet 20 with the flow control valve in the closed position. The flow control valve is then opened, allowing water to flow through fluid inlet 20, water distribution means, hollow conduit 28 and ground penetrating member 40 and out into the dry subsurface soil through opening 38. The fluid flow from the fluid outlet tip 36 of the ground penetrating member 40 initially softens and lubricates the soil for easy soil penetration of the first conical section 48 and the fluid from fluid outlets 38 softens and lubricates the soil about the remainder of the ground penetrating member 40 to provide for the continued easy insertion of the ground penetrating member 40. When the ground penetrating member 40 has been inserted, the fluid from the fluid outlets 38 in the annulus section 50 tends to collect about the ground penetrating member 40 for dispersion in concentric soil portions about the ground penetrating member 40.

Referring now to FIG. 4, in another embodiment of the invention, the fluid outlet of one excavation aid is connected to the fluid inlet of a successive excavation aid. This configuration allows multiple excavation aids to be connected in series to a single fluid source. Any number of excavation aids can be linked in this manner depending on the fluid pressure from the fluid source. For example, a hose 414 from a fluid source 410 is connected to the fluid inlet 420 of a first excavation aid. A hose 424 is then connected between the fluid outlet 430 of the first excavation aid and a fluid inlet 440 of a second excavation aid. The flow control valves of the fluid inlet and outlet of the first excavation aid, as well as the flow control valve of the fluid inlet of the second excavation aid, are then opened, allowing fluid from the fluid source to reach both excavation aids. This embodiment provides complete control as to the number and placement of the excavation aids in an area to be excavated. This can be accomplished with any of the embodiments discussed above (See FIGS. 1-3).

Another embodiment of the present invention is a method for preparing ground for excavation. The method comprises providing at least one excavation aid 10 including a fluid inlet 20 configured to receive fluid from a fluid source and at least one elongate member 24 having a ground penetrating member 40 configured to use the fluid and gravity to penetrate the ground while dispersing the fluid into the surrounding ground. The excavation aid 10 is placed on ground to be excavated with the ground penetrating member 40 of the at least one elongate member 24 resting on a surface of the ground (See FIG. 6). The excavation aid 10 is then connected to a fluid source. Once the at least one excavation aid 10 has distributed an amount of fluid into the ground so as to allow the at least one elongate member to penetrate the ground to a predetermined depth (See FIG. 7), the at least one excavation aid is removed from the ground so that the area can be excavated manually.

In another embodiment of the method, the excavation aid is provided including an upper member having a substantially triangular shape and three elongate members, one elongate member being operably connected to each corner of said platform member and downwardly projecting (See FIG. 3). This configuration provides the excavation aid with a stable structure so that it can be placed freestanding in an area that needs to be excavated with no need for personnel or extra equipment to hold or stabilize the excavation aid during use. This embodiment of the method may further comprise placing a weight on the horizontal platform to aid ground penetration of said elongate members.

In yet another embodiment of the method, a plurality of excavation aids is provided. A fluid source is connected to the fluid inlet of the first excavation aid. The fluid outlet of the first excavation aid is then connected to the fluid outlet of a next excavation aid. This method is particular useful when the need exists to manually excavate a large area in a relatively short amount of time. This method is also useful when excavating or exposing a significant portion of an underground line. In this instance, successive excavation aids are placed along the path of the underground line.

While the invention has been illustrated and described in detail in the drawings and foregoing description, the same should be considered as illustrative and not restrictive in character. It is understood that only the preferred embodiments have been presented and that all changes, modifications and further applications that come within the spirit of the invention are desired to be protected