Posted 06.18.18

Big Challenges Produce Breakthroughs in HDD Tooling

The breakthrough designs behind our HDD tools always emerge as a response to real challenges facing real HDD drillers. Whether it’s jumping down into the pit with a crew to check out a situation or talking to distributors who hear about difficult jobs day-in and day-out, all our tools are built to improve efficiency for drillers.

Here are some of the biggest challenges we’ve seen drillers face over the last few years and the HDD tools we’ve designed to tackle them.

Challenge: Shearing off bolts

Bolt-on duckbills take a lot of stress, especially when boring through hard ground conditions or when operating a rig with too much force or speed for the tool to handle. Bolts are meant to hold the blade in place, not absorb a massive amount of pressure. Sure, they’ll take some shear load, but overpowering the blade can cause bolts to snap off suddenly. Even with standard use, bolts can rattle loose over time, causing tooling to fall off. We saw drillers losing their blades underground, forcing them to reshoot the hole or spend hours trying to retrieve tools. Productivity was taking a serious hit. How could we prevent this from happening?

Breakthrough: Blades secured by dowel pins

As an aftermarket supplier of HDD tools, we must follow the standard patterns set by the OEMs.  We were challenged with creating a stronger connection between blade and transmitter housing, while still retaining the current bolt pattern.

We couldn’t change the bolt pattern, but we could reinforce it. Enter: our PitBull System™, which allows the best of both worlds. We could significantly strengthen the existing connection by introducing two or three solid steel dowels into the housing. Our patent-pending design includes holes for removable solid steel pins that absorb force, so the bolts don’t have to. Getting the maximum benefit requires using the PitBull™ housing with a Melfred Borzall blade, but by making the pins removable, we enable drillers to use the housing with blades from other manufacturers. Those set-ups will operate like a standard housing/blade connection.

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Challenge: Changing tools in tight spots

Removing a transmitter housing and blade and attaching a backreamer is difficult in areas where digging a long pit is impossible or the space is crowded with underground utility pipes. In some cases, if it’s not physically impossible, the process can be incredibly time-consuming. During our visits to the field, we saw lots of drillers struggle as they tried to quickly remove the drill head off and attach a backreamer in its place.

Breakthrough: A reaming system that leaves the drill head on

Other tool manufacturers focused their attention on solving the problem directly. They changed the thread pattern to connect and disconnect faster. Made sense, but it didn’t solve the tight-space problem. We tackled the issue from an entirely different angle. We asked: How can drillers increase their hole size without having to remove the drill head in the pit at all?

After four years of intense R&D, we released our breakthrough FastBack System, an all-in-one set-up that allows drillers to essentially convert their transmitter housing into a backreamer. By attaching removable cutter blocks, a pullback device and swivel to the end of the bit or blade, drillers can pull back without the cumbersome process of removing the housing and replacing it with the backreamer. In short pits – or in any pit, really – the FastBack system is a major timesaver.

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Challenge: Stepping up hole size in clay required a set of expensive, heavy full-size reamers

We became aware of this challenge directly from customer and distributor feedback. When drilling in sticky conditions like clay, drillers needed a reamer with great cutting and mixing action. Our Tornado reamer (formerly known as the Terminator) was a great solution, providing the perfect mixing action to keep the reamer from balling up. However, stepping up hole sizes required swapping out full-size tools – which were starting to get expensive. One driller summed it up by asking, “Do I have to buy a full-size reamer?”

Breakthrough: A compact, more cost-effective reamer

It turns out that the answer to that questions is “no.” We created the Tornado Pup, a shortened version of the famous Tornado reamer. The pup allows drillers to attach the reamer with the right diameter for the hole size they’d like to step up to. If they’re going to be doing multiple passes on the same hole anyway, it makes sense to use a right-sized reamer that bumps up to the next hole diameter, but is much easier to transport and attach – and cheaper to buy.

We have always been laser focused on getting the best performance out of every tool a driller needs. Our engineering team has released new designs that have advanced drilling productivity by leaps and bounds. We know this because we not only listen to the issues that drillers contend with, we put our tools directly into their hands for rigorous testing at every stage. That’s how we know that all Melfred Borzall HDD tools are proven to perform.

Drillers will continue to face all kinds of unique problems during the course of their jobs and we’ll continue to stand by, ready to convert those challenges into breakthrough tooling solutions.

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