Failure Analysis on Radial Drilling

15 November 2018

A long power transmitting train couples a hired crane’s hydraulic heart to a radial drilling arm. There are fluids under pressure. Electromechanical actuators and feedback electronics are buzzing away underneath the fluid activity. If the auguring equipment fails, where would we even start looking for the defective component? Not to worry, repair engineers have an extra tool. Known as failure analysis science, it’ll lead the repair tech to the fault.

Failure Analysis: The Objective

The goal is to use procedural engineering science to narrow down all current troublemaking components and to gain an insight into the possible causative factors that are responsible for the problem. Be it a momentary glitch or a longstanding mechanical headache, all relevant factors are statistically analyzed before a conclusion can be drawn. From soil conditions and rocky shale to mechanical defects, through to operator errors, the study progresses. Among the likeliest issues, ones that trouble ground-penetrating radial drilling equipment, the following problems pop up often:

  • Soil conditions
  • Rock formations
  • Environmental circumstances
  • Equipment failure incidents
  • Operator errors

Clearly, just about every one of the above system headaches is correctable. Operators can be trained to circumvent ground problems. Corrosion and mechanical breakdown challenges are harder for crane drivers to solve, though, so where do we go from here?

Investigatory Case Studies 

It’s the job of a crane rental agency to either conduct a case study or to outsource the study to an engineering firm who will come back with a collated report. The failure analysis report could indicate a manufacturing problem, in which case the crane brand needs to be taken to task. Stress tests analyze the radial drilling tool to see if transient loads are adversely impacting the hydraulic components. Are the requisite safety measures in place so that the crane chassis sits stably on the ground while the auguring tool drills? What about vertical auger analysis? Adding a small amount of angular declination to the job, will the stress kill the crane’s hydrostatic muscle? These and other questions are addressed in a logical manner during the course of a properly conducted failure analysis program.

Without a single doubt, this is an engineer’s job. A hire company can spot damage to the radial drilling equipment, and a savvy technician can even track down overheating problems and carry out small repairs. But, should the structural damage go deep, perhaps as deep as the fractured microcrystalline lattices in a crane boom, then it’ll take a failure analysis program to find and address the root cause of such an alarming issue.

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