Directional oil well drilling sends one shop’s production of mud motors upward – due to the more than 20 components required – so utilization of the right multi-task machine tools help keep up with the demand.
The surge in oil and gas directional drilling has business booming at Taylor Oilfield Manufacturing Inc. The Broussard, LA, shop manufactures key components for mud motors, which have revolutionized directional well drilling. These devices, powered by liquid force pumped down to them in a well, turn well-drilling bits and make long-distance angled and even horizontal well drilling possible.
One mud motor requires about 20 separate components, and there are about 15 different sizes of motors produced. Critical to controlling a mud motor's direction are its bent components that require a lot of complex off set/off center and angled turning, milling, drilling, threading, and boring operations.
Adding to the challenge is the fact that many of these shaft-type components must match up perfectly with mating components, so part sizes and feature locations in relation to one another must be held to within thousandths of an inch. Plus, the components are big, long, and heavy – some as large as 36" in diameter and up to 240" in length – and made from tough materials such as 4140 or 4330 steel at hardnesses of 30Rc to 38Rc.
For quite some time, manufacturing mud motor components and other down-hole parts for the oil and gas industry involved long processing times and multiple machines at Taylor Oilfield. Parts had to move, for instance, from one machine for turning operations to another for angled hole drilling and to yet another for boring, all of which created risk of human error and stacked tolerances. Moreover, as customer demand for mud motors continues to climb, the shop's manufacturing capacity continues to reach new limits.
Taylor Oilfield had to step up production, but did not want to do so by adding more standard, single-operation machines. So instead, the shop incorporated advanced multi-tasking machine tool technology from Mazak Corp. Multi-tasking capability has boosted Taylor Oilfield's machining speed and accuracy, allowing the shop to perform multiple complex, heavy-duty machining operations on parts in single setups.
Growth, Booms Taylor Oilfield has two manufacturing facilities – the Broussard location, started in 1990, that has grown from six to 80 employees and a Houston facility that opened in 1995 and now employs 48 people. The company purchased its first Mazak machine in 1996 and now has 15 in Broussard and 2 in Houston.
The latest Mazak multi-tasking equipment at Taylor Oilfield, Broussard, includes the INTEGREX e-650H-II and two INTEGREX e-500H-II Multi-Tasking Machine models. All three machines provide turning, milling, drilling, and optional long boring bar capabilities, as well as feature B-axis high-torque milling spindles, rigid heavy-duty C-axis turning spindles, long bed lengths, and re-threading functions.
"Once parts are set up and programmed, they basically come off the Mazak machines complete," says Marc Breaux, manufacturing manager, Taylor Oilfield. "For our mud motor components in particular, we especially benefit from the machines' high torque milling spindles, long boring bars, and strong C-axis turning spindles. We looked at other machines, but none compared to the power and strength of the Mazaks."
To illustrate, he cites one particular mud motor part that starts out at 26" in diameter, then has 90% of its original material removed. As cutting of one end of the part occurs on the machine's milling spindle, the remaining material hanging off the opposite end creates a tremendous imbalance.
"There is so much weight hanging off one side opposite the chuck that there is no way a standard machine could hold it, let alone accurately index the part when needed," Breaux explains.
The shop's INTEGREX e-500H-IIs feature 1,600rpm, 45hp turning spindles with 3,374ft/lb of torque, and both machines provide a 7.28" C-axis spindle bore. On the INTEGREX e-650H-II, the C-axis spindle has a bore size of 10.2" as well as 1,000rpm, 50hp and 4,647ft/lb of torque.
Another feature that convinced Breaux to choose the Mazak machines was their deep boring abilities. For example, the shop often bores holes as deep as 46" on its INTEGREX e-650H-II and uses boring bars made in-house that are 7" or 8" longer than what came with the machine.
Standard long boring bars on the machines are 3.14" in diameter for the INTEGREX e-500H-IIs and 3.94" in diameter on the INTEGREX e-650H-II, and the INTEGREX e-650H-II accommodates three of them in its bar stocker, while the INTEGREX e-500H-IIs hold two in their stockers. Ample machine bed lengths are a must for not only Taylor Oilfield's deep boring operations, but also because the majority of its workpieces are long, which is why the shop opted for the 120" bed lengths on its INTEGREX e-500H-IIs and the 160" length for its INTEGREX e-650H-II.
A lot of the mud motor parts and other workpieces done at Taylor Oilfield require angled holes, an operation the shop previously performed using separate manual machines. With the Mazaks, these angled holes are now machined faster using the high-torque B-axis milling spindle on one of the shop's INTEGREX e-500H-IIs that provides 5,000rpm and 368ft/lb of torque, as well as 240° of B-axis positioning in increments of 0.0001° and Y-axis travels of 19.69" for C-axis contouring.
For oil and gas industry threading, Taylor Oilfield relies on the INTEGREX e-650H-II for generating HI Standard threads, among other types, and for re-threading work as part of the oil field repair services the shop offers. The machine is equipped with Mazak's re-threading software that allows for easy re-chasing of threads. Without such a function, Taylor Oilfield would have to offset the machine and carefully move it into the thread in tiny increments.
The Mazak machines in Taylor Oilfield's Broussard machine shop department, for the most part, run 24/7. The manufacturing shop works two 12-hour shifts, Monday through Friday, with half the employees working eight hours every Saturday.
Job lot sizes are typically between five and 600 pieces, but the same components often requires production in different sizes according to the different diameters of well holes.
"Our jobs do not involve thousands of parts, but they do change from day to day, which is typical for most shops serving the oil and gas industry. The Mazaks are easy and fast to set up," Breaux comments.
As the shop's business continues to grow, and demand skyrockets for components for directional oil well drilling, Taylor Oilfield foresees having to again, increase its machining capacity. In fact, that machining technology has recently allowed the shop to begin producing oil well hole reamers. Demand for those parts alone is already approaching mud motor levels, and the shop is currently preparing for delivery of another Mazak INTEGREX e-650H-II.