thumbnail group

Connect With Us:

ME Channels / TechFront

Tech Front: Aluminum-Alloy Pipe Lightens Drill Sting

An aluminum-alloy drill pipe string over a mile long is credited with significantly reducing drill string hook load and related drilling torque and drag for drilling offshore from Seria, Brunei, in a well, considered one of the most complex by Brunei Shell Petroleum Co. (BSP).

Alcoa Oil & Gas, a division of Alcoa, deployed 1800 m of Alcoa Aluminum Alloy Drill Pipe in the Iron Duke Well C, offshore from Seria, Brunei, in partnership with BSP and AMRTUR Corp., Alcoa’s service partner on the project.

The Alcoa Aluminum Alloy Drill Pipe (AADP), which is produced in 30' (9.1-m) aluminum tube sections and joined together using standard steel connections, is about 40% lighter than all-steel pipes and is said to have the potential to significantly reduce drill string hook load and related drilling torque and drag.Alcoa Aluminum Alloy Drill Pipe is being inspected prior to deployment.

The proprietary AADP drill pipe starts with a tapered, high-strength, aluminum-alloy tube. This tube is coupled with a steel tool joint using a proprietary thermal connection technology that allows steel tool joints to be attached to the aluminum pipe body. Alcoa produces the aluminum tubes at its Lafayette, IN, facility and assembles the finished drill pipe at its Oil & Gas facility in Houston.

“We are constantly challenged to push the drilling envelope further to maximize recovery and minimize cost,” explains Shayne Dustin, BSP’s senior well engineer. “Light alloy pipe was listed as a performance opportunity to help us tackle some of the challenges we face with reduced cantilever loading, high torque, high drag, high sideforce, and casing wear concerns. Without a light-alloy alternative, the furthest reaches of the platform would require a modification to well design.”

The well is considered among the most complex and deviated in the BSP system, with three “S” curves and a long 5000-m (3-mile) horizontal section. The well was successfully drilled to a total depth of 7485 m (4.6 miles) in about 60 m of water.

Brunei Shell plans to use AADP on additional wells in Brunei. Shell is also planning a drilling project using AADP in New Zealand. AMRTUR, which led the staging, inspection, maintenance, and deployment of the aluminum drill string, will be working with Alcoa and BSP to expand the use of the drill pipe in Southeast Asia and the Pacific region, according to Lieutenant Colonel (ret.) Mahmod “Max” Yakop, managing director.

Alcoa produces lightweight, high-strength aluminum alloy drill pipe in 4 1/2, 5, 5 1/2, 5 7/8 and 6 5/8" (114, 127, 139, 149, 168-mm) diameters. In addition, Alcoa Oil & Gas manufactures subsea riser components and assemblies, casing, core barrels and down hole tubular products, conveying pipe, extruded tubing and shapes, and offers large-scale closed-die forging capabilities. ME

For more information from Alcoa Oil & Gas, go to

Orbital Drilling Tames
Aerospace Materials

Drilling holes in titanium, stainless steel, CFRP (carbon fiber reinforced polymer), and combination stack ups of CFRP/Ti or CFRP/Al pose significant challenges to part production costs, tool life, and lead time. For aerospace applications, Orbital Drilling technology from Novator (Stockholm, Sweden) offers a solution for manufacturers of aircraft and other advanced heavy machinery that has proven itself in the aircraft industry with companies like Boeing and Bombardier Aerospace. This year, Boeing is taking delivery of 59 portable P-M40 and P-M60 Orbital Drilling units and related accessories for drilling applications in final assembly on the 787 Dreamliner.

Orbital drilling is based on rotating a cutting tool around its own axis and simultaneously about a center axis which is offset from the axis of the cutting tool. The cutting tool can then be moved simultaneously in an axial direction to drill or machine a hole.

In orbital drilling, the cutting edges have only partial and intermittent contact with the surface. This combined with 6–7-bar air-pressure cooling avoids overheating, prolonging the life of the cutter. One cutter can be used for all operations, e.g. drilling holes of varying sizes, adaptive stack drilling, complex shaped holes, cutting returns, countersinking, and reaming, reducing cutting tool inventory required.Orbital Portable M-Series drilling units are designed for drilling cylindrical and countersunk holes in demanding applications such as composites, titanium, stainless steel, and combination stack-ups. Available in two models, P-M40 with 40-mm drill stroke and P-M60 with 60-mm drill stroke, the portable drilling units are fixtured in smart templates during drilling.

Total production lead times can be dramatically reduced with orbital drilling because the assembly can be performed in one operation. In an assembly process using conventional drilling, there are a number of time-consuming steps including disassembly and reassembling for deburring, separate reaming, and cleaning of coolants. The advantage of not using coolant or using MQL (minimum quantity lubrication) in the drilling process eliminates coolant cleaning and makes it possible to drill in clean environments.

Orbital drilling has several advantages compared to conventional drilling with regard to hole quality. The lower thrust force results in burr-less holes when drilling in metals. When drilling in composite materials, the problem with delamination is virtually eliminated. The higher thrust force in conventional drilling equipment dulls the cutter point with the result that the hole diameter increases, the cycle time lengthens, and the hole finish worsens. The tools used with orbital drilling have a smaller diameter than the hole and produce smaller chips that are efficiently removed through the airflow system, avoiding damage to surface finish from recutting chips. ME

For more information from Novator AB, visit, or phone +46-8-673 5470.

Operating in an
Ultra-High Vacuum?

Renishaw (Hoffman Estates, IL) has introduced a true-absolute optical encoder called Resolute UHV for ultra-high vacuum (UHV) environments such as semiconductor and scientific applications. Resolute UHV is the latest ultra-high vacuum compatible readhead, offering true-absolute position feedback, submicron accuracy and resolutions to 1 nm for both linear and rotary applications. The new range of Resolute UHV encoders are constructed from clean vacuum-compatible materials and adhesives to give low outgassing rates and proven clean residual gas analysis (RGA), making them suitable for high-performance, semiconductor, and scientific applications requiring vacuum compatibility to 10-10 Torr.

Like the standard range of Resolute true-absolute encoders, the new ultra-high vacuum variant determines position immediately upon switch-on, without the need for any movement or battery backup. Instant commutation means axes are immediately under control after power loss. This eliminates risks of unchecked movements or collisions, an advantage that is essential in applications such as wafer handling, where safe extraction of high-value wafers is critical.

Resolute UHV from Renishaw is an ultra-high vacuum compatible readhead that offers true-absolute position feedback, submicron accuracy, and resolutions to 1 nm for both linear and rotary semiconductor or scientific applications.Safety is assured via a built-in, independent position-checking algorithm that actively checks every reading, ensuring any potential problem is flagged before it reaches the controller. Resolute UHV uses pure serial communications with CRC (cyclic redundancy check), which eliminates the need for auxiliary 1 Vpp signals, offers higher noise immunity, and detects data corruption. Available with a wide range of serial protocols, including BiSS, FANUC, Mitsubishi and Panasonic, Resolute UHV is compatible with industry-standard controllers.
Materials are carefully selected to ensure low outgassing rates and a proven clean RGA, and representative RGA test results are published. All UHV encoders are supplied with an RFI-screened, UHV-compatible cable and manufactured in clean conditions and shipped in specially designed packages to avoid contamination.

Resolute UHV systems are available for both linear and rotary position feedback, and because the system uses a single-track scale code, each installation is compact with wide setup tolerances for quick, easy fitment and long-term operation. All scale formats are coating-free and can be subjected to specialized cleaning and degreasing, if required.

Designers can choose from a variety of linear scales in either stainless steel or ZeroMet low thermal-expansion alloy, with accuracy to better than ±1 µm on lengths up to 1.13 m. Mounting can be either self-adhesive mechanical or track-mounted. The self-adhesive scales also have proven clean RGA spectra. Stainless steel rotary rings feature large through-holes and patented taper mounting for quick, easy and precise adjustment of eccentricity, while minimizing shaft preparation costs. ME

For more information from Renishaw, go to; phone 847-286-9953; or email:

Coolant Cuts Tough
Fracking Metals

MAG Productivity Solutions (Erlanger, KY) has formulated its Cyclo Cool 4000 and 4100 metalworking fluids for machining proprietary stainless and heat-treated steels used in forgings for fracking pumps for the oil and gas industry.

The stainless and heat-treated steels used in hydraulic fracking pumps are among the toughest to machine, because the alloys have been developed to withstand extreme pressures and operating environments. Industry growth is driving demand for these parts. To achieve the necessary production rates and increase tool life, development of premium, high-pressure, low-foaming metalworking fluids is critical to meet customers’ manufacturing requirements. Cyclo Cool 4000 and 4100 metalworking fluids are formulated for machining fracking pumps from heavy blocks of difficult-to-machine stainless and alloy steels. They are specifically formulated for extreme high-heat applications, such as deep-hole drilling, tapping and hogging of these tough-to-cut metals.

To handle intense pressures of 10,000–30,000 psi (689–2068 bar), fracking pumps are machined from heavy blocks of stainless and alloy steels. Cyclo Cool 4000 and 4100 metalworking fluids are specifically formulated for extreme high-heat applications, such as deep-hole drilling, tapping and hogging of these tough-to-cut metals. These multipurpose fluids can also be used on aluminum, bronze, brass, and copper making them well-suited for shop-wide applications in individual machines and central systems.

Extreme-pressure additives in Cyclo Cool fluids increase tool life and provide superior surface finish for turning, drilling, reaming, or grinding metals, including high-speed steel, stainless, and alloys. Cyclo Cool 4000 is a heavy-duty cutting fluid containing a combination of extreme pressure additives, esters, and mineral oil for physical lubricity for machining fracking pumps and other severe-duty applications. Cyclo Cool 4100 is a low-foaming ultra-high-performance coolant formulated with a blend of sulfurized and chlorinated extreme-pressure additives for heavy machining and grinding of ferrous and nonferrous material, including titanium. It has high stability for applications where hard water build-up presents a problem.

In addition, Cyclo Cool 2000LF is a semisynthetic coolant designed for medium to light-duty finish machining on parts headed to the oil patch or fracking operations. It is a high-pressure, low-foam semisynthetic with performance similar to most soluble oils. This general-purpose fluid concentrate is recommended for high-volume coolant flows at pressures exceeding 1000 psi (69 bar), and it can be used for turning, drilling, tapping, milling and reaming ferrous or nonferrous material. ME

For information about Cyclo Cool fluids from MAG Productivity Solutions, go to or email

This article was first published in the October 2012 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine.  Click here for PDF.

Published Date : 10/1/2012

Editor's Picks

Advanced Manufacturing Media - SME
U.S. Office  |  One SME Drive, Dearborn, MI 48128  |  Customer Care: 800.733.4763  |  313.425.3000
Canadian Office  |  7100 Woodbine Avenue, Suite 312, Markham, ON, L3R 5J2  888.322.7333
Tooling U  |   3615 Superior Avenue East, Building 44, 6th Floor, Cleveland, OH 44114  |  866.706.8665