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What is a Boulder Buster?

By Klaus Strasser
Updated May 17, 2024
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A boulder buster is a type of tool that is generally used for breaking or splitting materials like rock, concrete, and boulders. It incorporates propellant technology, which means that no explosions are required. Rather, the boulder buster, using special cartridges, generates an impulse wave that fractures the material. These tools have a wide variety of applications, such as in construction, demolition, site clearance, swimming pool excavation, farming, and trench digging.

There are usually four parts to a boulder buster, a breech body, a firing mechanism, a safety mat, and an impulse barrel. Cartridges that resemble shotgun shells contain the propellant material. They are inserted into the breech body, which is then enclosed by the firing mechanism. A lanyard is usually attached to this firing mechanism, enabling it to start. A packaged boulder buster has a weight of approximately 40 lbs (18.14 kg).

The methods for properly using a boulder buster can vary, but there are typically a number of steps that are common to all approaches. Firstly, a hole is drilled into the rock, or whatever material needs to be broken down. This hole is usually filled with either water or gel. The breech body is inserted into the hole and the safety mat is placed around it, then the cartridges are put in the breech body. When the cartridges are in place, the firing mechanism is attached on top of the breech body, and, using the lanyard, an operator triggers the device.

The science behind the boulder buster is that it creates pressure impulse waves, which are directed from the breeching body into the pre-drilled hole. These impulses are then carried by the fluid column used to fill the hole. The pressure and tension results in fractures that cause the rock to split. At the same time, the propellant causes static pressure, which leads to tension in the rock, which can contribute to fracture.

Some of the advantages of the boulder buster are that it does not use any explosives. This means that it is generally safer to operate, and no blasting license is required. The lanyard can usually be pulled at a distance of 25 meters (82 feet), helping to ensure worker safety. There is also little to no flying debris caused by the device, and no potentially dangerous toxic gasses are released. The boulder buster typically does not damage nearby structures or materials, as the pressure waves are concentrated in the material that needs to be broken.

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