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HDD Advancements Help Bore Through Solid Rock

Rock ToolingBy Jeff Davis, Ditch Witch product manager, HDD tooling


Rock is one of the most abundant geological matters covering the Earth’s surface and the most challenging ground condition facing underground construction operators.

In the past, the presence of rock formations prevented the use of horizontal directional drilling (HDD) for most underground utility construction. Drilling in rock required large drill rigs with mud motors, and the support equipment necessary to run them was too costly and impractical for use in urban areas. One of the most significant milestones in the evolution of HDD, however, was the development of the technology. As technology has advanced, midsize drilling equipment now has the capability of effectively drilling and steering in rock.

The introduction of the Ditch Witch dual-pipe All Terrain (AT) drilling system helped advance HDD. Jobs that were once considered impossible due to the presence of rock were now possible with the AT system. This greatly expanded opportunities to utilize HDD and opened multiple new markets for directional drilling, as contractors could now drill in rock with smaller and less costly equipment.

Today, there are four Ditch Witch AT models ranging in pullback from 30,000 to 100,000 pounds, including the new, next-generation JT40 All Terrain directional drill.

In addition to the full system, AT drills utilize other tooling—drill pipe, bits, housings, and backreamers—designed specifically for rock applications. HDD tooling has also evolved over the years to provide better performance and functionality. For example, our rock bits are made with high-performance components to help extend bit life in hard rock conditions. The new Ditch Witch Rock Monster™ HD backreamer is designed for solid rock drilling. It is equipped with patent-pending EdgeGuard™ protection on the shirttail and premium bearing technology that improves cutting structure and wear resistance.

Contractors must remember, however, drilling in rock is not just switching to rock tooling and proceeding routinely. Drilling in rock requires experience, planning, the right equipment and tooling, patience, and persistence.

For more information on the Ditch Witch All Terrain system, visit

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