Featured In: Dig Different
Understanding the effect of job site conditions is key to keeping screens in good working order
A mud recycler can be a beneficial asset to the job site. Reusing drilling fluids means hauling in less water and producing fewer spoils, and that translates into a better bottom line. But, as is the case with any machine, those benefits only come when there’s proper equipment maintenance. For mud recyclers, at the top of that maintenance list are the screens, says Seth Matthesen, senior product manager for Ditch Witch.
“The screens do most of the work, so that’s where you’re going to see the majority of any type of wear,” he says.
They’re manufactured to be tough because contractors can’t afford to constantly be changing out screens on the job site, says Matthesen. Still, proper care is needed to ensure screens don’t wear out prematurely.
It begins with matching the right screen to the job site conditions.
“If you’re working with a very abrasive material, you may want to use a more expensive, higher-quality screen. That way you’re not having to stop work on the job site and change out screens as often,” Matthesen says. “And there might be other times where you’re not in as abrasive of a soil and you can get by with a less-expensive screen. It’s all about job management.”
Because how a screen wears is so dependent on job site conditions, Matthesen says there is no hard timetable on when screens should be replaced. Operators just need to monitor them regularly. Before a job, make sure there are no holes in the screens. Even a small hole will let in solids that could damage other machine components. Patches are available to repair holes, and Matthesen says he’s seen contractors solder over holes, as well. However, then you’re reducing the square footage on the screen and the ability for it to do its job. Outside of an obvious hole, Matthesen says there are other signs that can indicate it’s time to consider replacement.
“The screens we use at Ditch Witch are in a mesh pattern. If those mesh pieces start to get misshapen that can cause the screen to allow more material through than it’s supposed to,” he says.
To limit premature wear, Matthesen says operators should watch the angle they set the screens at. A higher angle will keep material on the screen longer and produce drier cuttings, but that increased time on the screen will also cause more wear.
“Watch the way the material is coming off the end of the screen,” he says. “You want the material to stay on there long enough to take as much moisture out of it as possible. If the material is in a dry condition — or at least not really wet — coming off the screen, then you probably have the correct angle.”
That ideal angle will vary depending on the material. For example, in clay it’s more difficult to remove the moisture and a higher screen angle may be necessary.
“In some material you may just keep the screens perfectly level,” Matthesen says.
Read more maintenance tips about mud recyclers in the July/August issue of Dig Different.