Friday, November 28, 2014

Waterjetting 27d: Drilling at a fixed diameter

In the last post I described how we initially came up with a simple design for drilling through material, using an axially aligned jet and a larger jet offset to one side at an optimal angle of around 20 degrees.

One of the problems with the use of this design is that the outer jet has to remove all the material in front of the nozzle during the time that it rotates around and advances the distance of the incremental feed rate. If it does not then there is a significant problem. Consider the case where the drill penetrates through a layer of limestone, while drilling otherwise in sandstone.


Figure 1. Sectioned waterjet drilled hole through a sandstone:limestone:sandstone sandwich of rock.

Note that although the hole does not deviate as it goes through the harder material since, unlike conventional drills, there is no mechanical contact between the high-angled rock and the nozzle assembly. But the hole reduces in size. If the hole reduces in size below the diameter of the nozzle holder, this will not contact the rock until it has passed behind the plane of the reaming jet. In other words the only way the blocking rock can be removed is to back the nozzle along the hole so that the reaming jet can hit the material blocking progress.


Figure 2. Drill passage blocked by protruding rock in the path of the nozzle body, but behind the cutting plane of the inclined jet.

One way to ensure that this is not a problem is to advance the drill at a slower rate, with the rate of penetration controlled by the ability to cut the hardest rock that the drill will pass through. The problem with that approach, and concurrently that of setting a fixed advance rate, is that, at the same advance rate and rotation speed, the drill will drill through different rocks at a different diameter. While this can be an advantage, in a limited number of cases that I will discuss in a later post, in most cases it is better if the hole is at a relatively constant diameter.

So how can we solve this problem?

One approach taken in Australia was to change the design and location of the cutting jets. Rather than have a single jet cutting out to the perimeter of the hole, two jets were used, but crossed over the axis and cut on the opposite side to their location. This had an additional advantage over the initial design in that, when drilling longer holes (and this went on to drill horizontal holes that ranged up to a kilometer in length IIRC) the head was balanced and so did not wobble and get out of alignment because of the force imbalance.

To overcome the problem of drilling at too small a diameter additional reaming jets were placed on the front of the nozzle assembly, so that he hole would be reamed to the diameter needed to allow the support hose access.


Figure 3. The addition of a pair of reaming jets. Note that offsetting the two front nozzles will also allow them to put a torque on the front part of the nozzle, which can therefore be self-rotating from the left hand of arrow A forward.

But the problem is not completely solved with these changes, since should any rock protrude into the hole in the distance A, so that it hits the larger diameter that follows, again it is not possible for the reaming jets to cut this rock without backing up the drill.

There is another problem, in drilling horizontal holes where the hole diameter can vary. Consider that if the drill goes into a softer material then, at constant advance (ROP), the hole diameter becomes larger. As the drill moves over this larger hole it will be riding on the floor of the hole, and thus the front of the drill will tip forward into the floor of the larger hole. This will incline the drill downwards, and so the hole will no longer be of constant alignment, but rather will gradually, over distance, tip increasingly downwards.

It is therefore critical that the hole be drilled at a relatively constant diameter (allowing for some hole roughness). How to achieve this? The answer is to put a gaging ring or collar of the required hole diameter, in the cutting plane of the rotating jets.


Figure 4. The use of a collar at the front of the nozzle to ensure the hole is cut to the right diameter.

It itself this isn’t sufficient to give the hole a constant diameter, since there is still the problem of drilling through materials of differing resistance. To overcome that problem we put a spring at the back of the drill, with a contact switch to a valve on the feed to the hydraulic motor powering the drill advance. Thus the drill would start to rotate, and the motor would increase the speed of advance until the collar bumped up against the rock. At that time the spring would compress, the contact switch would close, and the advance would momentarily stop. The drill would rotate around and remove the obstructing rock, the spring would expand opening the flow to the motor, and the drill would move forward. It may sound as though it would be a stuttering advance, but when we tried it in a mine you couldn’t tell that the mechanism was working, apart from the hole being of constant diameter, and by watching the spring. It drilled at between 7 and 12 ft a minute in an aggressive sandstone.


Figure 5. The drill assembly used underground. The hydraulic advance motor (it pulls the drill forward using the chain drive) can be seen under the drill sash (the red and grey bar – painted in 1 ft intervals).

In a normal drilling operation when a drill intersects a previously drilled hole at a shallow angle, then the second drill will follow the path of the first hole, and cannot drill through the opposing wall at that shallow angle. (We know this from experience having broken two drill steels trying while excavating the OmniMax Theater under the Arch in St. Louis). But with the waterjet drill we were able to make to second drill cross the intersection.


Figure 6. Photo down one drill hole, showing the point where the hole intersected a second, and crossed without deviation.

Hopefully there is now enough background so that next time I can talk a little more about the effects of borehole pressure on drilling performance.

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