Imagine being deep in the field (or the jungle, or the forest) and the work has been flowing smoothly for a couple weeks and you’re nearly three quarters finished. It’s an important job, a big contract, and you’re poised to not only hit your projected timeline, but you’re going to do so under budget as well.
Now imagine your first thought, or the first 4-letter word you’d use, when the last of your custom-made drill bits cracks and breaks.
The crew is onsite, your drilling rig is humming along, but it all comes to a screeching halt because one of the smallest pieces of the puzzle has crumbled under the pressure.
It happens. We’ve all been there. Drill bits and tooling is expensive, so the longer the last the more cost friendly they become. It’s a familiar refrain, and one we’ve worked hard on since Viking West was created a couple years ago.
How do we save our customers from those frustrating moments in the field? How do we make custom drill bits that can withstand extreme stress?
To find some answers, I turned to Viking West’s own Kevin Reimer.
Kelvin: I think the key to creating custom tooling and drill bits to last is understanding exactly where they’re going to be used, right?
Kevin: For sure. We’ve got customers working in conditions all over the world. It’s not just the drilling rig that needs to adapt, which is something we see when customers report back with specific needs regarding slopes and limited access locations.
One particular customer of ours is currently on a job drilling into rocky formations that are completely bone dry. There’s no water table to speak of, so the bit gets incredibly hot in no time at all.
How do we solve the issue to make the bit last? We test, test, and test some more so we know exactly how a bit will perform. After that it comes down to selecting the appropriate wearing materials and tungsten carbides and carbide patterns to provide the best performance.
Is the process different for each customer, or does it only hinge on where they’re going to be working?
It’s always a bit different, cost is a factor that changes so we don’t want to overdo something that the customer won’t need. With this customer, we did some variations of sample bits. They’re dealing with heat and dryness, so the variations we sent were chosen carefully. Based on the feedback for those variations we were able to make adjustments on the design until we hit the sweet spot.
When it comes to finishes and treatments, is it a little like a chef’s private recipe? Do OEM’s guard these secrets with their lives or are there common methods everyone uses?
The first part of that question is a yes, but it really just depends on the testing. Bits perform differently based on everything from the shape of the bit to the pattern of the carbides and the material. These are the essential components when it comes to bits made to withstand extreme conditions.
But the other part, and the more important component, is simply listening intently to your customer. We make sure we’re talking to more than one person in the organization as well. If you’re talking exclusively to the sales manager then you could miss the opinion of the operator. Who’s in the field doing the drilling? Who’s building the rig in the shop?
What happens in the field or shop doesn’t always get transferred to management. That multi-tiered communication is a huge part of our job. It’s amazing what you’ll learn just by putting in a bit of extra time.