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What Is a Ground Compactor?

Dan Cavallari
By Dan Cavallari
Updated May 17, 2024
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A ground compactor is a device used to compact soil or other materials, thereby removing void or gaps from that material. Such devices are usually used in construction settings to create a flat, stable surface on which other materials can be placed and supported. Several types of ground compactor models exist, the most common of which are jumping jack compactors, plate compactors, and trench compactors. Each device has a specific purpose and is appropriate for different settings that cannot be accommodated by the others. Compactors can be dangerous to operate, so only experienced users should operate the devices.

A jumping jack ground compactor is a motorized device that can look somewhat similar to a jackhammer, except no cutting bit is used. Instead, a flat plate is attached to the bottom of the machine, and a hydraulic piston will move the plate up and down rapidly. As the plate makes contact with the soil or other material, that material will be compacted downward. This type of ground compactor can be difficult to control, so the user will need to be in good physical shape in order to be able to safely manipulate it. A jumping jack is most appropriate for compacting small areas of material.

For larger spaces, a plate compactor may be the most appropriate choice. This machine is sometimes known as a vibratory plate compactor because the large, broad plate will vibrate rapidly to compact materials. The plate is much larger than the plate on a jumping jack, which means an operator can compact more material at once. Medium-size jobs will often require the use of a vibratory plate compactor. The user will walk behind the machine as the vibrating plate drives it forward, and much like the jumping jack, this machine will require the user to be in good physical condition in order to control the machine properly and safely.

A trench ground compactor is used to compact soil or materials both within and above a newly created trench. The body of this ground compactor will be fairly narrow, and it can be operated using a remote control so the user will not necessarily have to enter the trench along with the compactor. Steel wheels are used to compact the soil in this case, and once the trench has been refilled, the compactor can be used to tamp down the soil on top of the trench.

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