When business opportunities present themselves, successful companies are those which are equipped to take on new challenges at a moment’s notice. Being dynamic – preparing for the clients of tomorrow and not just catering to those of today – is what makes growth happen.
Master Drilling is a global leader in providing drilling services to the mining, civil engineering and building construction sectors. With the rapidly moving market of commodities, infrastructure and general urbanization, this company knows that to sustain its growth, it must be ready to provide clients with specialized, adaptive, one-stop solutions.
To be able to do this, Master Drilling makes use of the best technology on the market to support its high-power portfolio of services, where failing machinery is not an option. For 15 years, the company has used Control Techniques drives, soft starters and programmers in their drill rigs – maintaining their competitive edge and growing their reach to become market leaders with a global footprint.
A tough task
Drilling is no easy operation. Drill rigs must be ready to tackle a variety of materials as they burrow deep underground – up to 1.5 kilometers. Master Drilling often undertakes projects requiring a continuous operations cycle which means their rigs are working non-stop, often in difficult conditions.
“We work in a high-power, high-precision industry where mistakes are worth millions. A faulty part, breakdown or system failure would have dire consequences,” explains Gerhard Pretorius, Mechanical Engineer for Master Drilling. But with more than 35 years of experience in the industry, this company knows what it takes to see projects to success.
Having worked on sites all over the globe, Master Drilling specializes in raised bore drilling, tunneling, blast hole drilling, shaft boring and a range of other rock boring and slim drilling activities. From their operational base in South Africa, they have worked on a range of projects in Botswana, the DRC, Ghana, Mali, Namibia, Sierra Leone and Zambia. In South America, they operate in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. In Central and North America, they operate in Canada, Mexico and the USA and have mobilized rigs in other countries such as India and Australia. A recent acquisition extended their operations into North, Central and Eastern Europe and Asia. They also maintain an office and warehouse facility in China which services several international clients.
This is a company that knows its industry in and out. While their team focuses on working with customers, managing projects, and providing operational support on complex projects, they leave the detailed engineering to the experts in the field.
A fully engineered solution
Master Drilling assembles and maintains a diverse portfolio of custom-made drill rigs. When it comes to the drives, Control Techniques provides the full panel – a fully engineered solution inclusive of metalwork, drives, engineering, soft starters, safety circuits and auxiliary equipment needed to keep things running smoothly.
Control Techniques is the exclusive provider of variable speed drives (VSDs) for all of the equipment across all the rigs. The Nidec M700 drive is the perfect solution for high power, and high-performance applications and is used across the board – giving maximum motor output. Unidrive supports high output switching frequencies throughout the power range, making it the drive of choice for drilling, which demands uncompromised performance control at high powers. “We also love the Unidrive’s programming power and onboard PLC which controls all our DC drives and soft starters,” Pretorius says. These drives are used in conjunction with Nidec’s Digistart range of soft starters which improve energy efficiency and reduce machine wear.
By leveraging the full power of the Control Techniques Unidrive M700, Master Drilling is now able to take advantage of new opportunities for remote drilling, data logging, and fault finding, which they were previously unable to do. Now, with cutting edge capabilities and an onboard PLC, the M700 enables remote access to equipment, providing a preview of the equipment status and assisting in overall maintenance, operating ease, and efficiency improvement. This autonomous solution is vital for Master Drilling, considering the equipment is being used globally.
This fully engineered solution allows for the automated regulation of torque requirements and optimization of drilling speed and cutting pressure which results in reduced maintenance costs and reduced downtime. Without this optimization, hitting hard rock at a constant raised bore pressure would result in premature failure of cutting bits.
All field inputs and outputs are monitored via Beckhoff I/O and controlled by the Unidrive M700 second onboard processor, which eliminates the requirements of third-party equipment. This results in a massive cost-saving while, at the same time, the compact solution reduces the footprint – which is paramount in raised bore applications.
And to pull everything together, Control Techniques’ proprietary software has been customized according to the process requirements, which ensures Master Drilling has the flexibility to adapt to changing environments
“We trust Control Techniques to deliver a fully engineered solution for us to implement in our rigs. Sure, we have plenty of technical professionals in-house. But by leaving this work to the Control Techniques team, our own team is freed up to focus on solving customers’ challenges,” adds Pretorius.
No time to waste
Pretorius explains that the technical support from Control Techniques is equally important as the products themselves. “Control Techniques offers us unparalleled flexibility suited to the needs of our rigs and wider applications. The product design is top shelf and addresses many of our needs simultaneously.” He adds that high reliability and easy access to stock on hand means that Master Drilling is never down for long.
Bruce Grobler, EMEA regional manager for Nidec Control Techniques, believes that availability of spares is crucial for any business which relies on drives and motors. “Machines can’t run forever. At some point, repairs, maintenance, or swap-outs need to take place. But it is not always possible to plan for these things – as much as we try to with predictive maintenance. But the reality is, when our clients need a part, they need it now. We are proud to have local stock for any occasion, which means customers aren’t left waiting for a part to be shipped,” says Grobler.
Control Techniques provides approximately three panels a year to Master Drilling, backed by a strong, 15-year working relationship. These two companies have no doubt innovated together over the years, remaining leaders in their fields and building a reputation for high performance.