Sunday, November 16, 2014

Waterjetting 27b - Drilling rock under stress

Last time I opened discussion on the topic of cutting a material that contained high levels of stress. This is a more common situation when working with rock, since – as a general rule of thumb – the vertical stress on a rock increases by 1 psi, for every foot deeper one goes into the earth. Thus, for example, if one goes down around 700 feet, the depth of a number of coal mines, then the background pressure on that rock is some 700 psi due to the weight of the rock that is pressing on it from above.

Now I should also mention that this is only a general rule, because, over the millennia, the rocks move, are split by earthquakes, overlain by volcanic eruptions and many other events that make that generalized statement less accurate for any given location. And one factor is that, if there weren’t such movements, then the natural horizontal stress on the undisturbed rock would be about a quarter of the vertical stress (the ratio is known as Poisson’s ratio, though usually derived for the resulting strain on the material, rather than the driving stress).

What one often finds, when these values are measured, is that the horizontal stress is higher than the above simple calculation would suggest. Which is a long way of saying that it is often difficult, without making a measurement, to know exactly what stress a rock is actually undergoing when found underground. But if some of the rock is removed (because it contains valuable ore) then the stress field redistributes, and some of the simpler assumptions come back into play. And we found that out when we drilled these holes:


Figure 1. Oval holes drilled into a lead-bearing sandstone;

You can see that we were drilling oval holes. The drill we were using used two high-pressure (10,000 psi) waterjets that were rotating at constant speed as we fed the drill into the rock. (And I’ll discuss the drill design and other stress effects in the next post). The small dark spots in the rock are galena, and as I will discuss in some future post, we were able to separate the galena from the sandstone at the drill, in part because of the way the waterjets penetrate, as I will discuss below.


Figure 2. Waterjet drill penetrating sandstone at up to 12 ft/min.

The region of the mine we were working in was around 700 ft. deep, and had been previously mined. Roughly half the rock volume had been removed, over a relatively large surface area, so that the pillars that were remaining were carrying roughly twice the load that they were before mining took place. On the other hand, since the rock on either side of the pillars had been removed, the vertical load was all that was acting on the rock within the body of the pillar, where we were drilling the holes. So very crudely the vertical stress, before we started drilling was around 1,500 psi in the rock.

Now, to explain why the holes are oval rather than round, consider that a waterjet works by getting into the cracks that exist in the rock, pressurizing the fluid and causing the crack to grow until it meets other cracks that together free a small piece of the rock mass. In this case the rock is made up of grains of sandstone and galena which have boundary cracks around each particle. By growing the cracks using this process, the rock is broken out into the individual grains of sand and galena.

But when the rock puts pressure on the rock, so the cracks are squeezed closed, and the water finds it harder to penetrate into them. This happens to the rock on the sides of the hole. As it is being formed, the load that was being carried by the rock being removed transfers to the rock on either side of the hole. Because the load is vertical this means that the jets find it harder to penetrate the rock on either side of the hole, and the horizontal diameter of the hole is therefore less than it would be otherwise.


Figure 3. Lines showing equal stress magnitude around a hole drilled into a rock loaded vertically. (This is purely representative and does not carry a scale, the lines are of diminishing intensity as they move away from the hole.)

On the other hand, as the load from the overlying rock moves out to either side of the hole, it comes off the rock at the top and bottom of the hole, and those cracks get larger, and were no longer being squeezed shut. As a result the jets found it easier to penetrate into the rock, and the vertical diameter of the hole is thus larger than it would be otherwise.

Put these two together and the result was that the jet drilled holes that were oval in shape, as shown in Figure 1.

As one way of making sure that this was really the cause of the change in hole shape, we used the waterjets to cut a slot around the perimeter of a part of the rock in the pillar. By making a horizontal cut above the slab that this outlined, we removed the vertical loading that the rock was seeing due to the overlying rock.

With no external loads on the rock, from either direction, it was as easy for the jets to cut into the rock in all directions, and, as a result, the holes that the jet drilled were round.


Figure 4. Round holes drilled in unstressed rock near the block of holes shown in Figure 1.

Again, while the effects are much larger when shown in cutting and drilling rock, the effects would be similar if we were cutting material that was under other internal stresses and which were then cut by a jet in a shop or other surface facility.

In the above case we were working in a mine where there was free access to the rock, the situation changes if we had been trying to drill down from the surface, and that will be the topic of the next post. In passing it should be noted that the waterjet drill was not only quieter, but also less powerful and smaller than the existing mechanical drill, and it could drill the rock faster.


Figure 5. Comparison of mechanical drill (upper) and the waterjet drilling equivalent (lower) on a drilling rig underground in a lead mine.(You need to look closely to see the drilling rod that is shown in Figure 2.)

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Monday, November 10, 2014

Tech Talk - Geothermal Plant Opens

The Missouri University of Science & Technology Geothermal system was officially opened last Thursday, some months after the coal and wood fired power plant that had previously warmed the campus had been shut down.


Figure 1. Chancellor Schrader cutting the ribbon to officially open the system.

The operation ended up being a little larger than originally anticipated, although the receipt of several grants kept the need for external funding bonds down to $30 million. Overall, as the old heating and cooling system was replaced around campus, deferred maintenance costs of some $60 million disappeared as the new system eliminated those needs, and is anticipated to generate fuel overall savings of some $1 million initially rising to $2.8 million a year as future fuel prices rise over the years.

In the end some 645 wells were drilled to feed three different geothermal plants located around the campus. Well depths ranged from 420 to 440 ft., and with a background temperature around the wells averaging around 60 deg F.

The installed system is, to a large extent, computer controlled, so that it was necessary to find employment for the fifteen workers at the power plant who would otherwise have been laid off. Given that some took retirement, the University was able to absorb the rest into the workforce in various ways. But it does point out that, now that the system is installed, the number of jobs associated with this new sustainable energy system are significantly below that required at the power plant, and the coal mine and forestry products supplier that previously supplied the fuel. Maintenance of the system, which is largely built around pumps, pipes and valves can, in the main, be carried out by the normal trades staff at the campus.


Figure 2. Overview board for the individual geothermal flow loops

To illustrate the degree of control that the new system exerts on the Heating and Air Conditioning (HAC) network, consider a simplified circuit for one building.


Figure 3. Illustrated circuit for a single building

Hot water is fed into the building from the network (top left) at a temperature of 118.7 degF, and is mixed with a portion of the previously circulated fluid to give a starting temperature of 113.6 degF entering the building. (The values are in the small boxes over the sensing valve emulations). The hot water circulates around the building providing heat as needed. At the point where the water would exit back to the network for reheating the temperature of the returning water is measured (in this case 102.3 degF). Depending on that temperature a control valve opens or closes to send more (or less) water back for reheating, while the remainder stays in the circuit, with make-up from the main network. (with the valve 41.3% open some 3% of the returning water is being recycled). The computer also calculates the heating load being fed to the building (327.5 kBtu/hr).


Figure 4. Details of the control valve and instrumented values.

By using a similar circuit for cooling the components of the system are largely similar, reducing the inventory costs for maintenance supplies, and the two circuits are simply monitored through instrumentation around the circuit.

This is similarly true for the three geothermal plants, the status of each of which is also represented by a monitoring screen.


Figure 5. Control circuit monitoring the performance of the heat exchangers between the field circulation water and that being used in the building circuit.

The heat exchanges between the ground water and the heating/cooling circuits is through use of three screw type heat recovery chillers, the operation of which is described as:
A heat recovery chiller operates on the basis of a refrigeration cycle: the same basic cycle that is used for refrigerators, air conditioners, and heat pumps you find in your homes. It is designed to provide both useful cooling and useful heating energy from the machine. The work or energy put into the machine through the compressor is used to simply transfer heat from evaporator to the condenser, which makes it a more efficient use of energy than combusting fuel for heat.

As seen in the diagram below, the refrigerate, R-134a in our chiller, is first compressed using a screw-type compressor. This hot gas is then condensed to a liquid as it travels in a circuit through the condenser, and heat is transferred to the water flowing through the condenser tube bundle. The pressure and temperature of the refrigerant is reduced as it flows through the throttling valve. The refrigerant next passes through the evaporator where heat is transferred from the water flowing through the evaporator tube bundle back to the refrigerant. Then the cycle repeats as the refrigerant goes back to the compressor. The refrigerant is confined inside of the heat pump chiller for the entire process.

Figure 6. Operation of the heat exchanger.


Figure 7. Overview of the three chiller units in the McNutt plant

Manually readable gages provide back-up to the computer monitoring instruments.


Figure 8. Monitoring gages for the chilled water loop.

When additional heat is needed, this is provided by a bank of natural gas heaters for the water that can be engaged as needed, and that are similarly monitored.


Figure 9. Overall monitoring board for the natural gas boiler system

While the system may get an early test of effectiveness this week as a Polar Vortex brings an early taste of winter to town, with temperatures predicted to drop to a high of 34 and a low of 19 on Thursday.


Figure 10. Natural gas boiler to provide additional heat as needed.

Since I won't be able to take advantage of those boilers, I’m glad I have my wood stacked, and that I swept my chimney this morning.

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Sunday, November 9, 2014

Waterjetting 27a - Cutting materials with internal stress

Safety glass, or toughened glass is typically designed so that, when it fails it will break into small pieces with few of the relatively sharp, and thus dangerous, fragments formed by ordinary glass. It is used in making shower doors, and automobile windows. As such is differs from laminated glass (which I will discuss in a later post in this section). The toughened glass is formed by quickly cooling the glass, after it has been heated. And one way to check if a sheet has been treated this way is to look at it through polarized sunglasses. Tempered glass will show a pattern. The reason for that, and for the rapidity of the breakup of the glass, is that the lines show the internal stresses that the glass treatment deliberately leaves in the material. (There is an interesting variation on this way to tell the difference using an iPhone.)


Figure 1. Broken pieces of tempered glass, showing the small fragments that result. (Floydglass)

Because the treatment puts the outer parts of the glass into compression, while the inner part is in tension once cracks start to appear in the glass, then the glass is designed so that these stresses will cause the cracks to grow, bifurcate and join in patterns that cause the glass to shatter into less dangerous fragments. But this creates a considerable problem if there is a need to reshape the glass after it has been heat-treated.

Note that this treatment is the opposite of the result where glass is annealed, where – by cooling the glass at a slow rate – the internal stresses are much reduced, but as a result, when the glass breaks the fragments can be more damaging.


Figure 2. Sheets of annealed glass, showing how it may break from impact. (ADMglass)

Annealed glass is, as a general rule, relatively easy to cut with an abrasive waterjet system provided that certain simple precautions are taken. However, when it comes to cutting tempered glass, one of the suggestions is to anneal it first, so as to get rid of the internal stresses. Unfortunately, in the process this also removes the benefits of the tempered treatment.

When one tries, without other treatment, to cut tempered glass the results are not pretty. Edgar Hernandez has posted a video of what can be expected to happen.

The problem goes back to the basic way in which waterjets, and abrasive waterjets work in cutting through material. Simplistically waterjet impact will penetrate the cracks that exist in a target surface; the following slug of water then pressurizes the water within the crack, causing it to grow. As cracks get longer it takes less and less pressure, either internally within the crack, or in the surrounding material, for that crack to grow catastrophically to failure of the piece. Where there are relatively few natural cracks in the material – as happens with glass – then abrasive is introduced into the waterjet stream, so that the impact of the small particles will form small cracks when they hit the glass surface. Normally those cracks are relatively small, and when first cutting into or piercing the glass the pressure of the jet is often lowered so that the particle speed is also lower and the crack length that the particles create is also small and localized around the impact point, so that the integrity of the whole piece is not threatened.


Figure 3. Cracks around the impact of single particles of abrasive onto glass.

The problem, from a cutting aspect, with tempered glass is that the internal stresses that are deliberately placed into the glass are designed so that cracks do not have to be very long before the concentrated stress at the crack tip (which increases with crack length) reaches a point where it will continue to grow at an increasing rate to failure of the piece. The longest cut we have made in tempered glass before it shattered was about an inch-and-a-half.

Because the stress in the glass is an inherent part of the nature of that particular type of glass there is no really effective way of cutting the material, after it has been tempered. If a particular shape is required then the glass should be cut to final shape before it is tempered, and care should be taken to ensure that there aren’t any large cracks or chips along the edge of the glass before it is then tempered.

Stress problems aren’t restricted, however, to trying to cut tempered glass. When cutting larger pieces of metal one can also run into problems from stresses that were left in the material after it was initially formed. Perhaps the most common of these is found where a partial cut allows a stressed part to lift slightly above the plane of the rest of the material. If the part is being cut in steps, the raised piece can then move into the path of the cutting nozzle as it moves back over the piece. This can have some unfortunate consequences for the nozzle and focusing tube (there goes bitter experience speaking again).

Other problems that can crop up come from the shifting of the piece in the plane of the part, but where the stress relief moves the edges so that subsequent cuts into the part no longer comply with the blueprint for the cuts, since the material has shifted. This shift can be a relatively small movement – depending on the level of stress that was captured in the material, but it can be enough to take the final part out of tolerance, and thus it never hurts to be sure of the stress condition of the piece before starting to cut.

I’ll return to this theme, but with a different illustration of stress effects next time.

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Friday, October 31, 2014

Waterjetting 26d - Range, position and rewards for jet assisted cutting

In the earlier posts in this chapter I have discussed the problem of getting the nozzle of a waterjet system close enough to the tool:target contact that the jet retains enough power to be effective. At the same time the jet must strike within roughly 1/10th of an inch of that contact to be effective in helping with the cutting process. In the figure below, for example, the jet that comes from the nozzle ahead of the pick will initially strike in that region, while the jet at the back (right) of the pick box will not.


Figure 1. Potential positions for jet nozzles around a conical pick

There is one other consideration, perhaps more relevant in a rock cutting operation than in a metal cutting one, and that is the issue of tool wear. In the above situation while the rear jet can never hit the critical zone, the one at the front of the tool will lose effectiveness as the small carbide cutting cone wears and moves the crushing zone back under the pick shoulder. As an improvement consider the situation shown below:


Figure 2. Simplified schematic showing a high-pressure waterjet hitting the contact between a cutting tool and the underlying rock.

In this case when the tool is sharp then the jet is striking the rock just in front of the edge of the tool, and the performance is enhanced. Further, as the tool starts to wear, so the jet impact on the rock begins to move further forward of the tool contact. But because the face of the tool and the jet are almost parallel the slight change in distance is relatively insignificant.

By the same token, if the rearward jet in the first example had been moved so that the jet struck just under the back of the pick it would still have been able to remove the crushed rock, even as the bit wore. One way to improve the effect of the jet is to spread the water flow by making the jet into a fan or conic spray, this can be effective:


Figure 3. Reduction in thrust with lower pressure fan jets (after Hood)

Again the bit is cooled, keeping it sharper, but also even at the lower pressure if the rock is removed as soon as it is first fractured then it does not crush and then re-compact under the bit.

However higher pressures work better, both in terms of overall rate and in terms of the efficiency of cutting, based on British data.


Figure 4. Change in cutting performance with increasing jet pressure (after Morris 1985)

Given therefore the need to bring the jet to the crushing zone in as powerful a form as possible, one suggestion has been to bring the jet down through the center of the cutting pick.


Figure 5. Nozzle located above the contact point, but fed through the pick body. (After Fairhurst).

The problems with doing this are several. In the particular example shown the orifice is pointing the jet into the rock some quarter-of-an-inch above the crushing zone and this is too far away for the jet to achieve maximum benefit. Further as the tool will wear, so the contact surface will move back further away from the jet, further losing the assistance and failing to be able to remove any of the crushed rock as it is formed.

There are practical problems, however, when (as has been done in Russia) the orifice is brought closer to the tip of the tool. One of the difficulties is that whenever the tool is then used without the jet operating at pressure, then crushed rock will enter the nozzle and within a very short distance plug it with compacted fines.

It is then, frequently, not possible to use jet pressure to get that material out of the nozzle, (particularly when the pump is supplying several orifices on a cutting head). Without the water the tool rapidly erodes, because of another weakness in the design.

For when the orifice is placed within the lower tip of the tool, the volume of the orifice is removed from the bulk volume of the cutting bit, making it much more susceptible to wear.

As long as the jet is brought up to pressure first, and the tool only then brought into contact with the rock or other target, then the tool performs well. Unfortunately (as operators are human and thus prone to the occasional error) cutting heads have often been brought into contact with rock without the jets being at sufficient pressure, and the benefits of the jet assist are thus eliminated due to this loss in nozzle clearance.

There is a corollary to this, in that, as jets began to be used more frequently on cutting heads, the amount of water spraying into the working zone became both a source of irritation and a considerable unnecessary loss in power, given than the cutting head tool only makes contact with the rock for a small fraction of the rotation around the shaft axis.


Figure 6. Roadheader with jet assist working at the Middleton Mine in the UK

To reduce the volume of water, control valves were set into the flow channels so that water was directed at only those picks that were in contact with the rock. The problem with programming this is that, depending on where the head is around the profile of the tunnel, so the arc of the head that the picks are cutting on will change.

But the benefits, where all these different factors are considered in the design and operation of the machine are considerable. As a very rough statement, the cost of a machine will increase more than linearly as it’s weight is increased. In order to cut harder rock without jet assistance, the picks must be pushed harder into the rock, and this thrust must be resisted by the friction exerted between the floor of the tunnel and the base of the machine – usually treads. Thus harder rock requires that conventional machines be heavier. However, when jets are added to the machine that power cost is removed, as the thrust levels are reduced. Thus smaller (and more mobile) jet-assisted machines can cut more effectively than their conventional counterparts.


Figure 7. Introduction of heavier machines to mine harder rock, until the advent of the waterjet assisted machine in 1980 (after Morris)

The savings in the reduced cost of the machine (saving $500,000) more than covered the cost of the high-pressure waterjet equipment (around $100,000).

Hood, M., A Study of Methods to Improve the Performance of Drag Bits used to cut Hard Rock, Chamber of Mines of South Africa Research Organization, Project No. GT2 NO2, Research Report No. 35/77, August, 1977.
Morris, A.H., "The Development of Boom-Type Roadheaders," Seminar on Water Jet Assisted Roadheaders in Rock Excavation, Pittsburgh, PA., May, 1982.
Fairhurst, C.E., Contribution A L'amelioration De L'abbatage Mecanique De Roches Agressives: Le Pic Assiste Et Le Pic Vibrant, Doctoral Thesis, L'Ecole Superieure des Mines de Paris, October, 1987, 221 pages (in French).

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Tech Talk - more on volcanoes, peak oil and slow transitions

Many news agencies are following the slow inundation of the Hawaiian town of Pahoa, as lava from Kilauea inches into the small town at the rate of around 15 ft an hour. It is a slow death to parts of the community since the lava started moving in June and the flow has travelled over 24 miles on its way to the sea. Not quite as prominent in the news is the continued outflowing of lava in Iceland where the flow from Bárðarbunga has now covered just over 25 square miles, and the threat from the outpouring of sulfur dioxide continues to move around the island as the wind patterns change. As the energy of the eruption falls, there is concern that less of this is getting into the upper atmosphere, causing higher concentrations in the lower layers of the cloud. The volcano is putting out about 35,000 tonnes a day more than all the industries in Europe. Safe concentrations are considered to be around 500micrograms/cu. m. while levels as high as 21,000 micrograms have been measured.


Figure 1. Gas cloud threat from Bárðarbunga on October 31 (Icelandic Met Office)

It is only the high winds of the Icelandic winter that dilute the gas below the threat to individuals. And yet the earthquakes in the caldera persist with events above level 5 still occurring almost daily. There were 200 yesterday, with ten being larger than magnitude 4.


Figure 2. Earthquakes in the Bárðarbunga region of Iceland in the last 48 hours. (Icelandic Met Office)

The water in the caldera is melting at an estimated rate of 2 cu. m/second with hot magma residing under the originally half-mile thick glacial cap.

While these events are generating hundreds of megawatts it is not in the form of useful energy at this point, but despite the disappearance from the headlines of the Icelandic event, it still has the potential for much greater societal impact than does that in Hawaii. But it will happen more slowly (at least until the potential eruption when the icecap is penetrated.) And sadly it is this demonstration of the short-term focus of the news media and the need for dramatic pictures that again bring me to the analogy of these events to what is happening with Peak Oil.

As noted in an earlier post, the EIA have pointed out that the current glut in oil availability and thus the fall in gas prices correlates inversely with the increase in production from Libya. Their OPEC governor has pointed out that the current global oversupply is at around 1 million barrels a day. Libya has recently produced about 800 kbd of this, and while OPEC as a whole is not worried out the imbalance (since they are projecting that global demand will rise this much over the next year), he would like to see current production curtailed by 500 kbd to get the price back over $100 a barrel.

It is this marginal supply of around half-a-million barrels a day which is now the level of volume that can transform us from having too much to not enough. Which goes back to the remarks that Charles Dickens put in the mouth of Mr. McCawber:
'My other piece of advice, Copperfield,' said Mr. Micawber, 'you know. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery. The blossom is blighted, the leaf is withered, the god of day goes down upon the dreary scene, and - and in short you are for ever floored. As I am!'.
Our sixpence, it would appear, is now at around that 500 kbd. OPEC will not increase production much above current levels, in fact it is hard to see where they could anticipate being able to do so. Libya remains threatened by worsening violence, which has been approaching the El Sharara oilfield and it remains questionable as to whether they can continue to sustain production.

The other big question mark remains Iraq. How far the Kurds can increase production up through the pipeline to Turkey remains a question. They have recently announced that the new pipeline is carrying 240 kbd and if the logistics can be put in place the volume could well increase. Problems however with contractors, making the necessary field connections and the nearby conflict will likely combine to slow that progress.

If both sources of supply continue to produce, and even increase a little more than at current levels then the global surplus will still be eaten up by increased demand over the next year. The short-term drop in prices (which may well extend over the winter) will gradually disappear as the surplus reduces. And in so far as the current drop in prices discourages new investment in costly alternate places, even if only in the short term, that cannot but help OPEC as supplies tighten in the future, and that competitive oil is not in place in the market to reduce the consequent price increase.

The short-term loss therefore may well, before long, be returned in higher prices in the summer and towards the end of next year. Such a projection assumes that the recent increases in US production will slow down, and that seems to be a reasonable assumption, given the changing price structure and the lower returns on wells drilled outside the “sweet counties.” One can only drill so many wells where production is rewarding, before the land gets full.

In the short term the drop in prices will also encourage demand, helping to build back what had been a falling away from earlier OPEC projections of demand growth. It will be an interesting year, and perhaps one that will change faster than the slow but steady changes that the volcanoes are having on their local communities. But if so it may still be too slow for the media to closely follow, since many of the controlling events take place away from media attention and occur without, often, immediate visible impact.

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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Waterjetting 26c - Cutting tool shape

When it was first discovered that high-pressure waterjets could significantly improve the performance of mechanical cutting tools, whether in machining metal, or in cutting rock, it was anticipated that this would have a broad-ranging application. This has not been the case, and the reasons are varied, depending on the application, but quite often they relate to the way in which the mechanical tool was expected to work. The examples will, again, come from rock cutting, but also apply when cutting or machining other materials.


Figure 1. Three common types of picks used in cutting into stone for driving tunnels, or for cutting and mining coal.

The initial work of Mike Hood, in cutting quartzite, had used a relatively simple flat-faced bit that was dragged across the rock surface at a known depth of cut and directing s single, or pair of jets to cut along the line of contact between the rock and the carbide was relatively straightforward.


Figure 2. Locations of the jets for Mike Hood’s initial tests on improving jet performance. (Dr. Hood)

Getting the jets to cover the full zone of contact and rock crushing was critical to achieving the best results for the tests, and proved also effective when the cutting tools were tried in the field.


Figure 3. Relative normal forces on a cutting bit with change in the position of the jets assisting in the cutting of rock (Dr. Hood). Note that the machine stalled at 4 mm penetration without the jet assist (the black line).

The cutting picks that are more commonly used in softer rock, shown in figure 1, are not quite the same shape, nor have quite the same purpose. Early trials were with the forward attack pick, which through the early 1980’s was the most common design used.


Figure 4. Laboratory trials with a jet added to a forward attack pick

Rather than having a flat face, this pick has a wedge-shaped front face. This is so that, as the pick cuts into the rock, so the wedge shape pressing into that groove will put a high lateral load on the rock on either side of the cut, causing it to shear off the solid. Those chips can be seen to the front right of figure 4.

Where the jet cuts into and removes the crushed rock under the front of the bit, this allows the bit to make a deeper bite, and this, in turn, makes it more likely that the tool will make larger chips. This is not an unflawed benefit, particularly if the jetted slot now extends a little deeper than the tool.


Figure 5. Illustrating the wedging action of the tool in creating lateral chips beside the tool.

As the chips get larger so the force required to break them from the solid increases, and the actions do not occur symmetrically on each side of the tool. As a result the lateral loading on the tool becomes more significant, and because the process of chip forming and breakage is cyclic so there greater fluctuating forces make their way through the drive train back to the driving shaft and motors.

With most machine designs these fluctuating loads are, however, reduced in overall magnitude, because of the reduced forces needed to move the pick forward, without having to deal with the crushed material under the pick, which the water jet has removed, providing it is within about 1/10th of an inch of the cutting tool.

Achieving that positioning becomes a little more difficult with the transition to a radial pick, however there were additional problems with that intermediate design, particularly in harder rocks, where they wore out at rates as high as 7 picks per foot of advance. This led to the development of the point attack pick, as shown in figure 1.

This pick design has become the most popular for use in mining machines over the past 20-years. The round shape of the tool and shaft are designed so that, as the pick wears it will rotate in the holder, and this will spread the wear evenly around the tool, making it last longer – and in the case mentioned in the last paragraph a change to this design reduced pick costs to around 1 pick per foot of advance. But there are a couple of problems with adding waterjets to this tool.


Figure 6. Point attack tool geometry (Goktan and Gunes)

This geometry makes it very difficult to bring in a waterjet to hit the right point at the rock:tool contact, because of the double cone at the end of the tool. While the nozzle can be positioned so that it can direct a jet into the right point (for example by being at the point where α is in the figure) the problem arises with the size of the nozzle mounting block, and the small size of the jet, where a large number are being used to cover all the picks on the cutting head and total flow volume is limited. To fit the nozzle block means that it must be at a greater standoff distance from the point (perhaps four or five inches), while the small orifice size means that the effective range of the jet may be no more than an inch or two.

The change in pick design and the difficulty in adding waterjets to the new tool therefore led to a discontinuation of the trials of the combined system. This was unfortunate since the forward attack picks initially cut better than the point attack, but wore out more rapidly – hence the change. But with the addition of the waterjets the tool lifetime, and sharpness, was increased in some cases more than five-fold times, while the other benefits – such as the ability to use smaller machines to carry out similar performance – made capital investment less. But these events occurred at the wrong time, as the coal market was entering one of its down cycles as the developments were being made, and the technology was therefore not adopted.

I will conclude this small chapter next time, by addressing one of the answers to the problem of getting water to the point attack tool.

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Monday, October 20, 2014

Waterjetting 26b - Jet positions to help bit cutting

The addition of a high-pressure waterjet to the leading edge of a sharp tool can make a considerable difference to the performance of that tool. I have discussed this a little in two earlier posts, the first of which was an introduction to the topic, and the second highlighted the problems of getting the nozzle close to the active contact zone so that it can be effective.

In this post I will discuss the benefits that this jets can create in the performance of the machine. The discussion is largely focused on rock excavations, since that is where most of the basic and applied research was developed, but, as I also mentioned previously, this benefit can also be gained if the jets are added to machine tools that are cutting into metal – even metals that are otherwise hard to machine.

The idea of pushing a sharp(ish) tool into rock to break it out goes back to the deer antler picks used to pry flints from chalk some thousands of years ago. But it worked, although the picks are now made of metal and powered by machines. The shapes have also changed over the years.

To make an effective cut requires two different sets of forces be applied to the picks. The first of these is the one that pushes the pick into the rock and gives it the depth of cut that is needed. (I’ll call this the Normal or Thrust Force, since it acts perpendicular to the surface being cut). The second is the force required to pull the tool along the face, this is often referred to as the Cutting or Drag force. Neither are very constant in rock (as opposed to metal cutting) since the rock will chip around the but as it moves forward, which frees and blocks the passage of the tool as it moves.

As I mentioned last time, pushing the tool into the rock will cause the rock under the tool to crush, and then re-compact, if the particles aren’t removed. Thus the most effective time to remove them comes as the tool first breaks them free from the solid. This also saves the energy that would otherwise go into not only further crushing, but also re-compacting the particles. Once they are re-compacted and compressed they become harder to remove and help increase the friction on the tool that cause it to heat, and weaken.

But if the particles are effectively removed, then the region under the bit is washed free, there is less confinement on the remaining rock, and it becomes easier to break.


Figure 1. Crushed rock under an indenting tool. (Richard Gertsch)


Figure 2. Crushed rock under an indenting tool, with the tool removed and a 10,000 psi jet fired at the contact point after removal. Note that there is still some crushed rock that was not removed.


Figure 3. Crushed rock removed during crushing by a jet pointed under the bit as it indented the rock (basalt) (Richard Gertsch)

The impact on the forces that the bit sees can be dramatic. In the early tests of drag bits in cutting the quartzite rock that holds the gold veins in South Africa, Dr. Michael Hood took a tool that normally stalled out under full load, when it was cutting into the rock to a depth of 4mm.


Figure 4. Normal forces on a bit (in KN) without jet assistance (black) where the machine stalls at 4 mm penetration, and with jets at different locations along the cutting face.

Mike tried a number of different locations for the jets at varying points over the face of the drag bit. Initially he used higher pressure merely as a way of getting enough water to the bit to keep it cool, but quickly saw that the performance was greatly improved. As Figure 4 shows, the normal force pushing the bit into the rock was considerably lowered, even when the depth of cut into the rock was increased almost three-fold, with the best location for the jets showing that the machine retained considerably capacity for cutting.

Similar results were obtained with improvement in the cutting forces seen in pulling the bit down the face.


Figure 5. Change in cutting forces with high pressure jet applications to a cutting tool in basalt (Mike Hood)

Again the machine stalled with a depth of cut of 4 mm, without waterjet assistance, and cut to more than 11 mm depth with power to spare with waterjets in the optimal location. This was found to be at the corners of the cutting tool, since in this location the jets were confined by the uncut rock on either side of the tool, and thus rebounded to cover the entire line of contact between the bit and the rock.


Figure 6. Optimal location for the jets on the drag bit for cutting South African Quartzite. (Mike Hood)

For the jet to work most effectively the water must continue to remove all the crushed material from under the bit as it is created. Where the rock is already fractured (as it may be because of natural ground fractures or high stresses on the face because of the depth at which mining takes place) then the confinement of the space around the tool can be less and this reduces the ability of the water to spread along the face of the tool and remove all the crushed rock as it is formed.

Others have also looked at the position of the jet relative to the cutting face, and sometimes, especially in harder rock, where the jet can intersect broken rock above the cutting tool, it may be better to bring the jet into the crushed zone from behind the bit.


Figure 7. Changing bit performance with change in jet pressure at three jet positions relative to the bit. (After Ropchan, Wang and Walgamott).

A slightly different experiment was tried by French investigators who tried locating waterjets around the carbide inserts of a drilling bit. Part of the problem with such bits is to ensure not only that the nozzle is close enough to the crushing zone as to remove the rock, but also to make sure that the nozzle is close enough to the surface that the jet retains enough power. In this particular case, by drilling a small hole through the carbide tool, the investigators were able to bring the two tip jets to the point that they needed, with enough power to be effective. This is shown by the ability to achieve a rate of penetration (ROP) which was more than double that of a conventional bit, with only conventional cooling, for the same amount of thrust force.


Figure 8. Change in rate of penetration with change in jet location on a drill bit.

I’ll return to this topic next time.

Hood, M., A Study of Methods to Improve the Performance of Drag Bits used to cut Hard Rock, Chamber of Mines of South Africa Research Organization, Project No. GT2 NO2, Research Report No. 35/77, August, 1977.
Ropchan, D., Wang, F-D., Wolgamott, J., Application of Water Jet Assisted Drag Bit and Pick Cutter for the Cutting of Coal Measure Rocks, Final Technical Report on Department of Energy Contract ET-77-G-01-9082, Colorado School of Mines, April, 1980, DOE/FE/0982-1, 84 pages.

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