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Deep Vibro Techniques

Brochure 10-02 E
Deep vibro techniques
present flexible solutions
for soil improvement.
They are mainly used
under foundations of
structures that are to be
constructed on soils of
low bearing capacity.

Keller developed the depth

vibrator (patented in 1934),
which was originally used
to compact granular soils
such as sand and gravel.

Today Keller improves a

variety of granular and
cohesive soils employing
a wide range of depth
vibrator models and


Overview of
deep vibro techniques.......... 3
Vibro Compaction................ 4
Vibro Replacement............... 6
Structural Foundation
Elements................................ 8
Special Applications............ 10
Quality Control...................11
Keller Branches................... 12
Overview of deep vibro techniques

The subsoil stones in cohesive soils and granular soils The principle of
Usually the soil conditions are described in a with high fines content. the vibro process
soil investigation report. If the properties of The third technique creates structural
the existing soil cannot fulfil the requirements foundation elements in the ground which
set by the proposed loading conditions, deep will allow comparatively high loads to be
vibro techniques offer an economical solution safely carried by soils where no adequate
for the ground improvement. They can be lateral support for Vibro Replacement
carried out to almost any depth. columns can be mobilized.

The depth vibrator The execution

The cylindrical depth vibrator is typically For all techniques the vibro process starts
between 3 m and 5 m long and weighs with the penetration of the oscillating depth
approximately 2 tons. The core element of vibrator into the ground to the required im-
the vibrator is an electrically driven eccentric provement depth. Subsequently, the vibrator
weight which induces the horizontal oscillation is then removed as required by the employed
of the vibrator. The vibrator string is assem­ technique to either compact the soil from
bled with the vibrator and extension tubes to the bottom up, to build a stone column or to
suit the improvement depth and suspended construct a structural foundation element.
from a crane or mounted on a custom built
base machine (i.e. the Keller vibrocat). The benefits
The deep vibro techniques present a very
The techniques versatile ground improvement method that
The depth vibrator is used for 3 distinct tech­ can be adjusted to a wide variety of ground
niques which differ both in their soil improve­ conditions and foundation requirements. Its
ment and in their load transfer mechanism. execution is comparatively fast even if large
The foundation design is therefore frequently volumes of soil are to be improved and
developed by Keller in close cooperation subsequent structural works can follow very
between both the consultant’s geotechnical quickly. The soil improvement enables the
and structural engineers. contractor to utilise standard shallow footings
The Vibro Compaction technique compacts which, in turn, leads to additional savings.
granular soils with negligible fines content by Another advantage is the environmental
rearrangement of the soil particles into a friendliness of the deep vibro techniques,
denser state. as natural and in situ materials are used. In
The Vibro Replacement technique builds load addition, only a comparatively small quantity
bearing columns made from gravel or crushed of soil is removed during the process.

Limits of application for deep vibro techniques

Clay Silt Sand Transition Gravel Cobbles

Sieve passing [weight %]

100 100

80 80

60 Vibro Replacement 60

Vibro Compaction
40 40

20 20

0 0
0,002 0,006 0,02 0,06 0,2 0,6 2,0 6,0 20 60
Grain size [mm]
The Vibro Compaction process
in granular soils

Equipment and execution

The compaction of granular soils is most
economically attained with vibrators oscillating
at a comparatively low frequency to achieve
optimum compaction of the soil particles.
The vibrator is typically suspended from a
crane. The penetration of the vibrator and,
to a certain extent also the compaction
process, is aided by water flushing with
jets of variable pressure. The pressure
Flexible pipes and jets form an integral part of the
coupling vibrator string. The compaction is carried
out from the bot­tom of penetration
upwards in predetermined pull out steps
and compaction intervals. The compaction
Water result is dependant on the effectiveness
or of the vibrator and the soil conditions.
air supply
Geotechnical aspects
Under the influence of the induced vibration,
the soil particles within the zone of influence
are rearranged and compacted. The range of
this zone depends on the vibrator used, the
soil and the method employed. The volume re
duction of the compacted soil can reach values
weight in the order of 15 % depending on The process
the soil conditions and the intensity
Nose cone
of the compaction effort. 1 Penetration
At full water pressure the oscillating vibrator
penetrates to the design depth and is surged
up and down as necessary to agitate the
sand, remove fines and form an annular
before after gap around the vibrator. At full depth the
water flow is reduced or stopped.
Compaction below
raft footings

The foundation concept The layout of the compaction points can be

The range of compaction for an individual adjusted in such a manner that soil volumes
Compaction below
single footings
point is governed by several parameters. of any size are compacted.
Keller is able to draw upon a wealth of The achieved degree of compaction can be
experience to propose a suitable foundation easily and economically verified using a range
concept. The optimum arrangement of of different tests.
the vibro compaction points is usually best
achieved by an on-site trial, where different
compaction grids and methods can be
tested and evaluated. After compaction, high
loads can be safely carried and can reach
foundation pressures of up to 1 MN/m2.
Natural or man made deposits of sand and gravel are frequently not dense
enough or are too inhomogeneous to allow a proposed structure to be safely
and reliably founded. With Keller’s depth vibrators the soil density can be
increased and homogenized independently from the groundwater table.











2 Compaction 3 Backfilling 4 Finishing

The compaction is carried out Around the vibrator a After completion of the
in steps from the maximum crater develops which compaction, the surface is As early as 1939 a
depth of penetration upwards. is backfilled with sand, relevelled and, if required, compaction depth of
It encompasses a cylindrical soil which is either imported compacted with a surface 35 m was reached on a
body of up to 5 m diameter. (A) or taken from the vibratory roller. site in Berlin. Nowadays
The increase in density is existing soil (B). For this maximum compaction
indicated by an increased power purpose a volume of up depths beyond 50 m
consumption of the vibrator. to 15 % of the treated
have been achieved.
soil volume is required.




Vibrator in a compaction crater
Special applications
With depth vibrators, slender elements
such as dolphins, soil anchors or steel
profiles can be sunk into sandy soils and
securely anchored.
A further field of application is the
densification of embankment zones –49
and excavation bases to reduce their
Vibro Replacement in granular soils with
high fines content and in cohesive soils

Equipment and execution

For the construction of Vibro Replacement
columns the bottom feed process is frequently
employed, which feeds coarse granular material
Air chamber
to the tip of the vibrator with the aid of pres­
and lock
surized air. To optimize the performance of this
process and to accommodate the specialized
equipment, Keller has developed the vibrocat
base unit which guides the vibrator on its
leader and allows the exertion of an additional
pull-down pressure during penetration and
Extension tube compaction. The Vibro Replacement process
and stone
feeder pipe consists of alternating steps. During the retrac­
(material tion step, gravel runs from the vibrator tip into
storage) the annular space created and is then com­
pacted and pressed into the surrounding soil
during the following re-penetration step. In this
Flexible manner stone columns are created from the
bottom up, which act as a composite with the
surrounding soil under load.

Geotechnical aspects
Insofar as any compaction can be achieved in
mixed or fine grained soils through horizontal
vibrations and soil displacement (which depends
mainly on their degree of saturation), this im- The process
motor provement should be evaluated in the same
manner as Vibro Compaction. The pure Vibro 1 Preparation 2 Charging
Replacement process, however, does not as- The vibrocat positions the The skip is lifted and empties
Stone feeder sume any compaction in the surrounding soil. vibrator over the required its contents into the air
location of the compaction chamber. Once the air lock
point and stabilises itself is closed, the material flow
using hydraulic supports. towards the vibrator tip is
weight Design diagram for Vibro Replacement A wheel loader fills the assisted by pressurized air.
skip with aggregate.
Improvement factor

7 ϕS = 45.0°
6 ϕS = 42.5° μB = ⅓
5 ϕS = 40.0°
4 ϕS = 37.5° input parameters. For the foundation design,
3 ϕS = 35.0° the improved ground is treated like normal
subsoil. The allowable bearing pressure that is
achieved after the improvement is typically in
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 the range of 150 to 400 kPa.
Area ratio A / A S
Settlement evaluation for single footings
The improvement relies on the higher stiffness
Settlement ratio s/s∞ *

and higher shear strength of the stone column.
No. of stone columns

The foundation concept 0,6 400
While the compaction of the surrounding 225
soil can be easily verified by soundings, the 0,4 64
improvement effect of the Vibro Replacement 0,2
can only be checked by in situ load tests. 1

Keller has developed a reliable design method 0 4 8 12 16 20 24 28

Depth ratio t/d
which uses the geometry of the columns and
* s ∞ = settlement of a theoretical infinite load area
the friction angle of the column material as
Mixed grained and fine grained soils frequently do not possess a sufficient bearing
capacity. For a fines content in excess of 10 % to 15 % a sufficient compaction
result without imported material cannot be expected. For these cases the Vibro
Replacement technique is a viable option. This technique is also suitable for the
treatment of coarse fills such as rubble, building debris and slag heaps.











3 Penetration 4 Compaction 5 Finishing

The vibrator displaces After reaching the maximum The stone column is built
the soil and is lowered depth the vibrator is pulled up up in alternating steps The Vibro Replacement
to the design depth, slightly, causing the aggregate up to the design level. technique was developed
aided by the compressed to fill the cavity created. During the final levelling, in the late 1950s. Without
air and by the vibrocat’s During re-penetration the the surface requires to any special modifications
pull-down. aggregate is compacted and be re-compacted or a of the bottom feed setup
pressed into the surrounding blinding layer is required the vibrocat can install
soil. as an alternative.
columns up to 20 m depth.

Benefits of working with the

bottom feed vibrator: –13
View of the cut off level
after Vibro Replacement –14
• The aggregate is always fed
directly to the tip of the vibrator, –15
creating a continuous column. –16
• Only a single penetration is required.
• The collapse of the hole is not
possible due to the compressed –18
air even in critical soils. –19
• The leader ensures the –20
verticality of the columns.
• No water is required, eliminating
the necessity to dispose of any
mud otherwise created.

Structural Foundation Elements

Premixed Vibro Concrete Columns (PVCC)

Equipment and execution

These foundation elements are built in the
same manner as described for the Vibro
Replacement process.
For premixed vibro concrete columns, a
special coarse grained concrete mix typically
ranging between strengths C8/10 to C25/30
is installed. It behaves identically to the stone
material, allowing the same compaction and
displacement effects in the surrounding soil.
Installation of premixed
vibro concrete columns Geotechnical aspects
The load bearing behaviour of the structural
foundation elements is largely identical to the
behaviour of piles.

The foundation concept

For Premixed Vibro Concrete Columns Keller
has the approval of the German supervisory
board for construction.
The external load bearing mechanism that is
used for the design of the soil improvement
is very well supported by a large number of
load test results as per DIN 1054. Depending
on the soil conditions and the materials
Excavated premixed vibro concrete column
used, working loads of up to 900 kN can be
routinely achieved. Vibro concrete columns
can be easily combined with the normal Vibro
Replacement method by eliminating the use of
concrete in the upper or lower section of the
column as required, thus creating a buffer or
transition zone to the rigid concrete columns.

Penetration Formation of the toe Installation of the column

Pull down

Vibrator charging
with stone
feeding tube

weak strata Nozzle

competent strata Column toe

This method is employed if the fine grained subsoil does not mobilize sufficient
lateral support for stone columns or when high organic contents are found
which decompose and cause soil shrinkage. Another field of application is the
foundation of structures with high loads.

Vibro Concrete Columns (VCC)

Equipment and Execution

Vibro Concrete Columns consist typically of
pumpable concrete, with C20/25 strength.
The toe of the column is enlarged by repeated
retraction and repenetration of the vibrator,
however the shaft is built in a single pull due
to the high internal strength of the concrete.

Geotechnical aspects
During the installation of Vibro Concrete
Columns no particular effort is taken to Installation of Vibro
densify any specific soil layer. As with other Concrete Columns
structural foundation elements, a high degree
of improvement can be achieved at the toe of
the column, thus attaining a particularly high
capacity and low deformations under load.

The foundation concept

For Vibro Concrete Columns Keller also
has the approval of the German supervisory
board for construction.
Vibro Concrete Columns are generally
more slender compared to other structural
foundation elements. Typical shaft diameters
range between 40 cm and 60 cm. The capacity
Excavated Vibro Concrete Columns
under working load reaches up to 1200 kN
depending on the ground conditions and on
the possibility to enlarge the toe.

Cross Section of
a Vibro Concrete

Penetration and Installation of

toe formation the shaft

Pull down

Vibrator with
feeder pipe

Concrete Readymixed
Vibrocat Pump concrete

weak strata Concrete nozzle

competent strata Column toe

Special Applications

Multiple Vibrators and

Offshore Compaction
Vibro Compaction of large areas both
onshore and offshore can be carried out
with multiple vibrator assemblies.

dredged and
clay, silt replaced by sand

For Vibro Replacement offshore, such as for

quay walls and bridge pillars, a special gravel
pump is used to construct columns with the
bottom feed process.

Gravel pump

weak soil


Vibro Replacement –
Top Feed Method
In suitable ground conditions the Vibro
Replacement process can be performed
using crane hung vibrators similar to the
Vibro Compaction setup. In this case water
or air flushing is used. The flushing medium
assists rapid penetration into the ground and
stabilizes the annulus around the vibrator.
It also can be used to increase the column

Quality Control

For all vibro techniques, electronic measuring

devices can be employed to ensure and
record constant high quality of workmanship.

The measuring device

To control the process, monitor the quality
and for production records, the relevant
construction parameters for each compaction Display unit and CPU of
probe can be measured, saved and printed the M5 measuring device
as proof of production and quantities.

The measurement device consists of

• The display unit in the operator’s cabin,
• The CPU with data storage,
• PC with printer at the site office,
• Dot-matrix printer mounted on the base
unit for real time printout (optional).

Process: Vibration Process (3.0.0)

Inventory: 9130517 Site: 1234173
Section: 0 Point: 241 Ref. No.: 15
Date: 15.10.08 Time: 05:10:47 Interval: 4 sek
Weight: 1.5 kN/m

Time Depth Penetration Rate Thrust Power

[sec] [m] [m/min] [bar] [A]






Load tests are a suitable
option to verify the
1500 improvement of the soil

2000 2

Event Time Depth Electrical Susp. Net Total Inclination Inclination

Energy Point Weight Weight Right/Left For/Back
No. Type Description hh:mm:ss [m] [kVAh] [cbm] [ton] [ton] [Deg] [Deg]
01 09 Point Start 05:10:47 0.1 0.00 0.00 2.98 2.98 -0.2 +0.3
02 10 Point End 05:45:08 0.1 21.03 0.00 2.79 5.77 -0.4 +0.2

Total Time: 34.33 min Max. depth: 10.00 m Rel. weight: 0.58 ton/m

The measurement results

During compaction a number of different site
and production parameters are automatically
Values such as time, depth, penetration/
pullout speed, pull-down force and current
can be graphically displayed and printed. If
required, the energy consumption can be
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