Firestick® drill rod excels in demanding HDD applications

A critical part of successfully executing your bore plan is having confidence in your drill rod. Metal fatigue may lead to issues with your horizontal directional drill (HDD). Cyclic bending and stress induced by torque, thrust or pullback place high demands on drill rod. Knowing your options and selecting the ideal drill rod available gives you the confidence to complete the bore — not all drill rod is created equal.

Selecting the ideal drill rod for your work comes down to four key things:

  • The quality of the material the pipe is made from
  • How the rod is structured and designed
  • The threading
  • The service after the sale

Vermeer Firestick® drill rod has earned a reputation in the industry for strength and consistent quality. The innovation behind this drill rod allows it to stand up to high torque applications while maintaining a large inside diameter to maximize drilling fluid flow.

“Vermeer invented Firestick drill rod with a team of engineers and metallurgists in collaboration with threading industry experts,” said Randy Runquist, manager of cutting edge research and development at Vermeer. “Our process has not changed from the day we invented it.”

As the Firestick drill rod continues to grow in popularity, other suppliers claim to have compatible drill rod, leading to confusion. The best way to make sure that you are buying Vermeer Firestick drill rod is to locate the NIS number at the end of the thread.

“If it doesn’t have that NIS identifier, it is not a Firestick drill rod product,” explained Runquist.

Unique material to produce ideal drill rod for HDD applications

Drill rod for HDD is designed to endure a reasonable amount of flex before returning to its original straight form. Most drill rod for HDD applications is made from a standard steel alloy called S135, which means it has 135,000 lbs (61,235 kg) of tensile strength. Vermeer Firestick drill rod is built from a codified version of S135 called V145. It is rated at 145,000 lbs (65,770 kg) of tensile strength. Its additional chemical properties give it an extra edge in flexibility without sacrificing toughness.

“We use a proprietary V145 blend,” said Cody Mecham, cutting edge product manager at Vermeer. “The different ingredients help it come back straight more than standard off-the-shelf steel. Most competitors are using S135 at the greatest.  If you are steering aggressively, genuine Firestick drill rod will maximize the life of your drill rod.”

Another advantage of the V145 blend used in Firestick drill rod is the consistency of the heat treat.

“The reason we went with the chemistry was the heat treat consistency between the upset and the intersection,” said Mecham. “We wanted a very consistent transitional area from upset to tube body.”

The ideal rod uses forged drill pipe to withstand stress

The three common manufacturing methods used to construct drill pipe include integral forging, inertia welding and press fit and welding.

“Many aftermarket drill pipe options are of the three-piece weld variety,” explained Mecham. “The tube body is inertia-welded to every tool joint. These welds are susceptible to fatigue and ultimately failure, particularly in tougher drilling conditions.”

The ideal drill rod uses integrally forged pipe produced entirely from one piece of material. As a result, there are no welds that could fail under stress. The upset ends on the forged pipe are precision machined and threaded.

“Vermeer Firestick drill rod is constructed from a one-piece forged green tube. This construction makes for a smooth upset for optimal loading and minimizes the opportunities for issues down-hole due to fatigue or possible oversteering,” said Mecham.

Be aware that some companies offer forged drill pipe where the upsets have been welded on. This is not a true forged drill rod. For companies that do offer a one-piece forged drill pipe, you still need to consider the quality of the upsets, which can vary.

Threading determines drill rod joint strength

How the thread and the tool joint handle the rigors of down-hole torque and bending is crucial to the efficiency of the drilling process and the longevity of your drill rod. You want the strongest connection possible for the ideal drill rod.

The Firestick drill rod thread profile is designed to withstand the rigors of HDD. When the tool joint is threaded and brought to full torque, the internal and external shoulders mate up along with the load flank on the threads.

“This timing is essential and unique to the Firestick drill rod,” says Mecham. “The result is a strong connection for HDD applications.”

This type of precision is difficult for many manufacturers to achieve.

“There is a reason that we inspect the thread on every Firestick drill rod,” says Runquist. “It is a critical joint. Three things happen at exactly the same time when a Firestick drill rod joint comes up to torque — the nose seats, the shoulder seats and the thread flanks all engage at exactly the same time. So, cutting and having that timed right is critical. It is very hard to do on a large-scale manufacturing basis. That is why we inspect every rod.”

This can be tracked with the NIS code for each drill rod.

“If you look at the NIS code on the end of the Firestick drill rod, the information on that rod can be pulled up,” said Runquist. “The batch of steel can be tracked as well as the lathe operator who checked that the gauge went on and the gauge went off, and it was correct on every rod.”

Manufacturers that make compatible drill rod may not adhere to these rigorous inspection procedures. Because other drill rod may not adhere to these rigorous inspection procedures, it is not recommended to mix other drill rod with Firestick drill rod.

“If they get that timing off, it may cause galling and mushrooming of the shoulders,” said Mecham.

Quality built-in

Vermeer has invested in the materials, design and manufacturing process for Firestick drill rod quality. “Every piece of Firestick drill rod sold is made of U.S. or German steel,” said Mecham. “It is upset and threaded in the U.S., and there is a 100% thread inspection process for every piece. For every piece of Firestick drill rod manufactured, the pin and box end are inspected and checked with our hard cut gauges. There is only one Firestick drill rod.”

To learn more about the benefits of Firestick drill rod, contact your local Vermeer dealer.

Vermeer Corporation reserves the right to make changes in product engineering, design and specifications; add improvements; or discontinue manufacturing or distribution at any time without notice or obligation. Equipment shown is for illustrative purposes only and may display optional accessories or components specific to their global region. Please contact your local Vermeer dealer for more information on machine specifications.

Vermeer, the Vermeer logo and Firestick are trademarks of Vermeer Manufacturing Company in the U.S. and/or other countries. © 2023 Vermeer Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

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