For many years now, horizontal directional drilling has been the commonly used method for underground utility installation. The industries which rely on directional drilling use the technique to lay pipes and cables for water, electric, sewage, and telecommunications. The process of using directional drilling methods facilitate ease of installation while also minimising environmental disruption. The process begins by creating an angled pilot bore which is then levelled at a specific depth. After reaching the desired depth of the bore, the hole is horizontally advanced until it reaches the intended destination point. The drill then exits the ground upon completing the specified route.
To lay down wires and cables through the drilled hole, the drill head is replaced with a back reamer or expander along with the wire, cable, or pipe, which is then pulled back through the same bore back to the drill starting point.
Types of directional drilling machines
Drilling machines come in different sizes. Each directional drilling machine has three main functions: forward thrust, rotation, and pullback capacity. The size of a drilling machine depends on its pullback capability measured in pounds. Nevertheless, when choosing the right type of directional drilling machine, the rotational torque rating is more important than size. To further categorise drilling machines, there are self-contained units and remote units.
A self-contained drilling machine has the drill pipe, rack, and power unit on board. This type of machine is popular with directional drilling companies because you don’t have to spend too much time setting up the equipment. On the other hand, remote units do not have the power unit on board the machine. The power unit is permanently attached to a truck or trailer and is only skid-mounted to the unit. Self-contained drilling machines are generally larger and heavier. Remote units have the advantage of reduced weight which makes them suitable for use in residential installations.
Parts of a drilling machine
These are the different parts of a drilling machine responsible for its function:
- Drill head. Drill heads come in a variety of sizes and shapes. The most common design is a replaceable duckbill bit used in steering and cutting. A duckbill bit also has a centre cavity used to house electronic parts. Another type of drill head is a three-piece drill bit.
- Drill pipe. Other names for drill pipes include drill string, drill rod, or drill stem. This part comes in different lengths and diameters depending on the size of the rig. Each drill pipe is hollow to facilitate the passing of drilling fluid.
- Back reamer. During the initial process of directional drilling, a drill head creates the pilot bore and bore path. Once this is complete, back reamers replace drill heads to enlarge the hole and allow quick product installation
For every directional drilling project, safety is of utmost priority. As such, you need to ensure that you are renting drilling equipment from a reputable provider. Inspect the quality of the rig as well as each part used. For example, drill pipes must be made from special steel fabrication for enhanced flexibility and strength.
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