Yesterday I took a group of our engineering students out to the Dando Drilling factory in Ford. We were well received by the MD Martin, the Operations Director Erik, the Design team manager Pete and the Chief Engineering Designer Tim. Many thanks to all for being such great hosts, and for the demo on the 12.8tonne rig afterwards. We were invited to present a range of projects that have been setup between the University of Brighton and Dando. Here is a brief overview of the projects.
Hussam, one of our final year mechanical engineering students is creating a design configurator for a sliding carriage assembly. The sliding carriage assembly is the carriage that slides up and down the main mast of the rig. It holds the rotary head (which holds up all the drilling rods which are connected below it) and has to withstand huge pulling, pushing and twisting loads, not to mention some dynamic loads when the drilling bit gets stuck or when the geology changes at various depths. The configurator will allow the Dando Design team to configure the design of the sliding carriage assembly for various applications and load conditions. It also allows for a quick analysis of its structure, and variations of it, to understand the stress distribution so that it can be tweaked to suit the application without being over designed. One of the good things about a configurator is that it can be setup with standard components using information from the suppliers, the options given in a drop down menu can be specified to only those available on the shelf. While this configurator is meant mostly as a design tool to analyse and change sliding carriage designs quickly and correctly, it can also be a great tool to use with potential customers, to see the various design options that are available and makable!
Harry is doing a similar project, but with the mast structures themselves. The masts are beasty things, supporting huge pull back loads (some take 6 tonnes, some 9, some 12.8, some 24, some 40 tonnes!!) and serious torques too (typically 13kNm which is enormous). A configurator here will help to analyse the strength of the mast using various box section profiles for different applications (drilling for water, minerals, or geotechnical applications). Again, mostly this configurator will be used as a design tool (as opposed to a marketing/sales tool) to quickly analyse and change current designs. One of the big challenges for Harry here is that to create a configurator from existing designs is very complicated. These structures have thousands of components, and all the details are done. Every nut and bold is included in the drawings already. To create a meshable structure (which is required to do a structural analysis) requires lots of defeaturing of the detail to get the basic structural mast. Harry’s task is to find novel ways to create meshable (hence analysable) and configurable structures from existing assembly drawings so that designs can be altered and analysed quickly and then implemented.
Then there is the group of Engineering Masters students who are in the final year of their MEng degrees. These guys are looking at the companies design strategies, to see if there anything that can be done to tweak the design processes, to improve the initial specification of the rigs at the concept stage, and to see how finite element analysis (like what Hussam and Harry are doing above) can be used as early in the design process as possible when the concepts are being thrown around by the designers. These guys, are also looking at automated rod handling systems (to automatically load the drilling rods to minimise handling risks to the workers), electronic monitoring systems on the rig (to provide feedback to the users on rotational speed, torque loads and depth) all to streamline the working processes of the rigs and their users, and to allow for feedback on performance of the drill bits and the rig structures themselves, to learn from what works and doesn’t work in various geological and environmental conditions.
So there’s some really interesting projects here, we will be back at Dando for more discussions (and lunch!) in a few weeks to see how things are progressing. I’m excited by this work, these are good students working on real work projects and their work could really make a difference to the company. They’re bringing fresh ideas, and young minds to an age old problem: how do we drill down to that water/mineral/heat source as quickly and efficiently as possible!