Utility Contractor

MAR-APR 2018

As the official magazine of NUCA, Utility Contractor presents the latest information affecting every aspect of the utility construction industry, including technological advancements, safety issues, legislative developments and instructional advice.

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26 Utility Contractor | March/April 2018 T he genesis of horizontal directional drilling (HDD) dates backs to the early 1960s where the new methodology was used for small road crossings for gas main installations in California. In 1971, when Titan Contractors Inc. completed a 500-ft river crossing using HDD that people began to really take notice. From its basic beginnings HDD rigs have evolved with compact and large rigs allow- ing a broad range of installations, both in terms of diameter and distance. As the ac- curacy, reliability and availability of HDD has improved, its application has spread well beyond gas line installation – tele- phone, fiber, cable, electric, water, sewer. Ditch Witch has been there for much of that history. The company saw HDD as an opportunity for its underground construc- tion equipment line and has played a prom- inent role in HDD ever since. To discuss the impact of HDD, its future and its role in utility construction, Utility Contractor contacted Seth Matthesen, Ditch Witch HDD Category Manager. How long has Ditch Witch been involved in the drilling market? How did it get started? What are some of the company's major developments in the field? The Ditch Witch organization has been involved in the HDD market for many, many years, beginning with the purchase of intellectual property for what is now known in the HDD industry as the slant-faced method of boring. This technology was the first used to effectively install pipe and cable by a small-scale, fluid-assisted boring unit. This launched the birth of the first Jet Trac, a utility class HDD rig from the Ditch Witch organization. The unit was sold worldwide through the Ditch Witch family of dealer- ships, beginning in the early 1990s. By today's standards the drill unit was crude, but it functioned similarly to HDD boring systems that are still being used currently. The Ditch Witch organization was orig- inally – and still is – the only equipment manufacturer in the underground construc- tion industry that designed and produced its own brand of tracking and locating electronics. In 1988, Subsite Electronics branched off as its own brand – under The Charles Machine Works entity – with a full line of locating products. The products pro- vide the flexibility and reliability needed to locate and identify buried services, tracking of directional boring tools, map and plan- ning directional boring jobs, and location of power and communication cable faults. How would you rate the strength of the HDD market? Why? The market is very strong today. Un- derground telecommunications projects to increase bandwidth continue to drive de- mand for HDD advancements, specifically in the compact HDD market. We anticipate growth in the compact HDD market for at least three to five more years as the fiber buildout continues. The growth has also led to a stream of HDD advances within the Ditch Witch organization. For instance, our customer feedback and market growth drove us to develop our newest HDD mod- els, the innovative AT40 and JT20XP direc- tion drills. They are designed specifically to help equip utility contractors with the latest technology for optimal drilling productivity in a range of challenging conditions. The diversity and variety of drill technol- ogy also makes the HDD market strong. To- day, there are varying sizes of drills to meet the needs of many different jobsites global- ly. The advancement of supplemental tech- nologies has also helped the market. For example, mud mixing, electronics/tracking units and downhole tools help assist drills on various HDD jobsites. Contractors are now able to bore longer distances, through larger diameters and varying soil conditions more efficiently and productively than they could in the past. What are the primary drivers impact- ing the HDD market? How is this evolving? Technology that boosts the productivity of HDD equipment continues to be popu- lar in the market. To decrease the potential for downtime and to reduce costs, many customers have taken interest in equip- ment for mud management and obstacle avoidance with reliable locators and other electronics. In previous years, contractors gained a smaller footprint with compact HDD rigs, but lost much of the power needed for dif - ficult ground conditions. In preparation for growth in the mid-size drill market, Ditch Witch continues to design horizontal di - rectional drills that provide the necessary power while emphasizing operator comfort and a reduced overall footprint. What do you see as the major issues facing the HDD market? We continue to hear about the need for trained HDD operators. A consistent need for operators in the underground construc- tion market has helped the current work- force become more familiar with HDD equipment, improving how efficiently they work. Since that market is showing no signs of slowing, there is constant demand for novice operators, and they need to get up to speed quickly. Training methods that ap- peal to the next generation of operators are helping fill that need – such as the Ditch Witch virtual reality (VR) HDD simulator and online training courses. The simulator offers trainees a virtual drilling environment to replicate a real jobsite, from urban to ru- ral settings. The simulator allows the user HDD in Utility Construction A Look at the Evolution of Horizontal Drilling with a Market Pioneer

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