What’s Percussion Drilling?

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Hammer drilling involves repeatedly raising and lowering a drill bit attached to a rope or cable to create a deeper hole. It is adaptable to any technology and is used for drilling wells and mineral exploration. It is a cheap and reliable way to drill water wells in third world countries. Drawbacks include being slow and requiring heavy equipment. Modern cable drills use steel cables and larger bits, and can drill holes up to 11,145 feet deep. Rotary drills are more common now, but hammer drilling still has a place in some geothermal producing areas and has been adapted to laser drills.

Hammer drilling is a drilling technique in which a drill bit attached to a rope or cable is repeatedly raised and lowered, impacting soil and rock and creating a deeper hole. Frequently used to drill wells or during mineral exploration activities, this type of drilling has been used for thousands of years and is adaptable to any available technology. Drills can be simple appliances that consist of a heavy bit and string and are operated manually. Modern versions may also be called cable drilling and use a motor and cable to drill holes that can be hundreds of feet (meters) deep.

One use of hammer drilling is in third world countries as a cheap and reliable way to drill water wells. The equipment is easy to build, transport and simple to use. These drills introduce less contamination than conventional hand drilling methods, and this technique can drill a hole narrower and deeper than drilling by hand through many different soil and rock types.

If the substance being drilled is strong enough, drilling can continue until it reaches the water. If it occurs in loose soil or sand, a pipe may need to be inserted to prevent the walls from collapsing. After the well is deep enough, a permanent lining is also installed.

There are some drawbacks to hammer drilling. It is slow and requires heavy equipment and some drill bits can be very large and heavy if you are drilling into certain types of tough rock. Unless an engine is available, the process can be very time consuming. You also need to add water to the hole to make it easier for the dry material to penetrate, and use a bailer to remove accumulated mud and debris.

Modern cable drills use steel cables and larger bits, which can weigh up to a ton (about 907 kg) and are powered by motors. Holes can range in depth from less than 100 feet (30.48 m) to ten times that distance or more. The deepest hole ever dug by this method was 11,145 feet (about 3,397 m) in 1953.

For many years, percussion drilling was the primary method used to drill geothermal and oil wells. In recent years, rotary drills have become more common because they are faster and aren’t limited to vertical holes, as corded hammer drills are. They still have a place, however, in some geothermal producing areas.
This technology has also been adapted to laser drills. Gas turbine engine manufacturers have used focused laser beams to drill holes smaller than 0.04 inch in diameter (about 1 mm) in turbine engine components. These holes are used to cool the motors and prevent overheating.

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