What Makes Radial Drilling Different From Other Drilling Processes?

16 July 2019

Let’s face it, radial drilling machines put steel fabrication projects on the fast-track to success. Sure, cranes and hoists are the key; they enable shop workers to manipulate and erect those otherwise unwieldy steel sections. Nevertheless, all of the corresponding parts couldn’t lock together without scores of precisely positioned bore holes. Tasked with this project-critical assignment, an advanced drilling rig cuts through hardened metal beams like the alloy was butter.

Precision-Assured Radial Drilling

Watching the machinery in action, it’s easy to forget this is hardened steel. Structurally capable, corrosion resistant and physically tempered, it’s very difficult to drill structural steel by hand. The tool skids away from the surface when someone attempts this action. In the process, the drill bit damages the alloy’s galvanized coating. The steel is still strong, but now that corrosion resistance feature is in doubt. To prevent this mistake, let’s reverse time. Back before the conventional drilling rig was used, the metal beam turns instead towards a radial drilling station. There’s a wide table, plus a clamping mechanism, so bore cutting stability is assured. Dropping down slowly but surely on a pillar-mounted arm, a tungsten carbide drill bit bores all the way through the beam. With the job done, the drill head is raised to await the next hardened steel element.

Injecting the Design with Advanced Features

Really, there’s no limit to the design possibilities. More stable than a conventional drill, radial drilling machines can move and pivot on any axis. A large rotating handle allows an operator to lower and raise the drill head on a rail or pillar. But then there’s a problem, the fact that no one wants to move the support table, not when it’s supporting hundreds of kilos of heavy steel. Therefore, the head receives additional axial flexibility. It rotates in places, moves forward or backwards then lowers incrementally to deliver a clean bore hole. Some radial drills can even pivot at an assigned midpoint, so the carbide tip can work at an angle. Finally, should all of these features be too much for a skilled operator, there are machine variants that hookup to automated CNC device.

Let’s finish up by talking about equipment scalability. For smaller equipment benches, their support tables are rarely larger than a half-metre across. For large-scale structural work, though, those support surfaces grow to accommodate many metres of steel. The erection components get locked into place, and then it’s time to configure that multiaxial drill head. When that’s done, the workpiece is stable and the drill bit is angled just-so. From here, the application of depth and diameter controlled bore holes proceeds without issue. Accurate bore hole placement, even on large-scale parts, is guaranteed when using radial drilling equipment.

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