PDI revamps the hardware and software for their Standard Penetration Test analyzing package

By Jim Chliboyko

It’s one of the rules of using software in your daily life: it’ll eventually need to be upgraded. It’s why you constantly get notifications from iTunes and Windows and every other app on your phone or every other program on your computer.

Recently, U.S.-based Pile Dynamics, Inc. (PDI) revamped both the hardware and software for their Standard Penetration Test (SPT) analyzing package.

For many decades, the SPT has been normalized based on the energy that it takes to drive this rod into the ground. There are several ways of assessing energy, many of them are empirical. The SPT Analyzer offers a way of measuring the energy that is better than just estimating empirically.


“At the end of 2014, the Pile Driving Analyzer® [PDA] system was completely redesigned,” said Gina Beim, a consultant with MCDA Consulting who works with PDI. The newer version of the hardware, says Beim, is simpler, and the look of it has also been adapted towards more recent trends in mobile equipment.

“It’s now in its eighth generation and it’s got the look of the tablet, with features like the pinch and the zoom, and many of the things that any tablet does,” she said. “The SPT Analyzer was similarly redesigned. So, it’s the same size of the new PDA, has all that functionality, the pinch and the zoom and all those features, and at the same time, the software that powers the equipment was completely redesigned. Up until recently, the SPT Analyzer was a simplified PDA that was adapted for SPT testing. [This time,] they started from scratch and made it really dedicated to the SPT hammer calibration. So that made it so much easier for engineers who were only focused on SPT hammer calibration to learn the software and use it. And they can issue a report so much faster because they don’t have to jump through as many hoops.”

Whatever test is used, says Beim, may have to do with either soil conditions or tradition, but the SPT remains a popular method. She says the calibration of SPT hammers with a PDA-type device emerged, all those years ago, after the development of dynamic load testing.

“In the 1960s and 1970s, this new way of assessing how much a pile can support was created, researched and invented, and that’s called a dynamic load test and that’s based on measurement of force and velocity on the pile,” said Beim. “Engineers realized that since they were also evaluating energy transferred to the pile, that energy could be useful for the SPT test calibration.”

Buying a PDA was a significant investment for engineers who wanted to calibrate SPT hammers but whose business model did not include assessing foundation capacity. PDI then created an instrument that was simpler and more affordable and was marketed to people who only wanted to do SPT testing.

Of course, it’s also important to keep your SPT testing equipment calibrated.

“Several of the Departments of Transportation in the United States say if you’re going to use SPT testing to assess the soil, the equipment you use needs to be calibrated every [two or three] years,” said Beim.

Beim said the reaction has, so far, been positive.

“Pile Dynamics, the manufacturer, has a sister company [GRL Engineers] that provides various deep foundation-related services, including SPT hammer calibration. The engineers of that company have used the new software and they love it,” said Beim.

And unlike a lot of software packages out there, PDI is not going to go upgrade-crazy anytime soon, says Beim. This upgrade should last for awhile.

“The electronics are state of the art. The tablet functionality is the best you can get and the software has just been redesigned. I don’t think there are plans to make any updates in the near future; it’s a pretty good software package and the equipment is working pretty well.”


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Piling Canada is the premier national voice for the Canadian deep foundation construction industry. Each issue is dedicated to providing readers with current and informative editorial, including project updates, company profiles, technological advancements, safety news, environmental information, HR advice, pertinent legal issues and more.