Last year was a banner year for innovation here at Melfred Borzall. Our engineers were busy designing and tweaking some exciting new HDD equipment that has finally made its way into the hands of drillers. We’d like to share the stories behind our breakthrough HDD tooling solutions from 2018.
One of our most exciting achievements was the launch of improvements to a system we designed to make swapping out HDD tools faster and more efficient. The FastBack® System was inspired by what we saw at job sites, as we noticed the wasted time and rising frustration of having to change tools in tight areas (that is, if there was even enough room in the pit to swap out tools at all.)
Making it easier for HDD drillers to be more efficient in small spaces has always been important to us. Our first tool for reaming using the drill head was the Tornado Jr. Blade Reamer. It featured a single blade that attached to the bolt on paddle. It worked well but could only drill one size, and was only as strong as the bolts holding the paddle to the housing. Because there was only one blade doing all the cutting and the mixing, the system was limited in its use. So, we took the idea and ran with it and the FastBack System was born.
By adding two blades on the housing, drillers could get more cutting action: one blade that cut up to a third of the final hole diameter, with a bigger blade that followed right behind it. Now drillers could use the FastBack System for actual backreaming. Of course, reaming requires more drill fluid, so we added extra fluid ports called MudBoost adapters. These innovations turned the drill head into a full-scale backreamer with the same cutting, mixing and fluid flow action as a standard backreamer…but without the time and manpower lag required to replace the drill head entirely.
Don’t believe us? The video below proves it. Check out a real-time side-by-side comparison between the standard method of removing a drill head and replacing it with a reamer, versus the FastBack system.
The FastBack System works like a charm in dirt, sand, clay, and hard, compact soil. On the horizon for 2019: FastBack solutions for a wider variety of ground conditions.
The possibility of snapping off tools has always been a problem in the HDD industry. If you have the luxury of knowing you’re going to be in hard, rocky, cobble, of course you’ll choose a bit that isn’t bolted on. But you don’t always know what you’re going to run into underground. So, you’re faced with one of the drawbacks of standard bolt-on blades: they’re more susceptible to catching on rocks and shearing off bolts. Or, with enough vibration, the bolts can back out, allowing the blade to fall off from the housing and trapping your tool underground.
Many HDD manufacturers try to solve the problem by adding more bolts. But space is limited, so more bolts may weaken the integrity of the blade. We developed the Pit Bull™ Housing and Blade to take some of the stress off of the bolts without transferring it to the transmitter housing itself. The Pit Bull setup takes all the stress and vibration that normally affects the bolts and transfers it to solid dowel pins in the housing. This tight fit prevents all the vibration that typically would occur—now the bolts are there to simply hold the blade to the housing, not absorb the shearing load when the blade comes in contact with a rock or other unforeseen obstruction.
Eagle Claw SD is the evolution of one of our best-selling hard soil bits. By looking at the wear patterns
on our standard Eagle Claw, as well as checking out wear and tear on competitor tooling, we came up with an updated design that lasts a heck of a lot longer. We’re often asked what the “SD” stands for. Give the new Eagle Claw a try and you decide—Super Duty? Super Deluxe? So Destructive? Or our engineers’ favorite: “Super Duper”!
Careful carbide placement in the Eagle Claw SD helps with steering in harder ground conditions. These 3 replaceable cutter teeth take the most abuse, so we coated them with carbide impregnated hardfacing. By adding carbide block protection, we’ve been able to seriously extend the life of the tool. And by putting our welding robot on the job, we can keep the final cost down.
We’ve sold lots of Eagle Claw SDs this year and only two have come back for repairs so far, so these enhancements are working. Of course, like every piece of HDD equipment, Eagle Claw SD will eventually wear out. But careful design features make it easier to rebuild. Instead of using braised button carbides that are essentially glued in, we’re using cutter blocks (the same as on our Steep Taper and Red Diamond blades) that have a block of carbides welded in. If the carbides are lost, we can just weld a new block in its place, bringing the tool much closer to its original condition.
In addition to tooling innovation, we’ve worked hard to expand and improve the distribution of Melfred Borzall products. We’ve improved our distributor training, offering more in-depth and frequent training sessions. We’ve also made sure that each distributor has an HDD specialist on staff, so drillers can get complicated questions answered by an expert. By actively working to enhance distributors’ knowledge of our offerings, we help get drillers the tools and resources they need to get back to work quickly.
Overall, 2018 was a busy year and it looks like there’s no sign of things slowing down. The reason we strive to innovate is not just for innovation’s sake. It’s to come up with innovative products that solve HDD contractors’ problems—and ultimately improve their production and profitability. Cheers to all our recent successes and all the people who helped make them so. We look forward to 2019 being full of more innovations in HDD.