Ditch Witch goes to the max with latest drill

Earlier this year, the Ditch Witch organization brought out the big guns with the launch of what the company asserts is the world’s largest all-terrain directional drill and is certainly its largest AT model to date.

Ditch Witch AT120 directional drill

“Are there bigger drills out there that drill dirt and different things? Yes, there are. But there’s not any larger all terrains,” said Jeff Davis, product marketing manager HDD, Ditch Witch. “That’s the key to this. It’s an All Terrain, which gives you the ability to drill in virtually any soil.”

The 280-hp AT120 is capable of 120,000 lbs. of thrust and pullback, delivering the power to push fiber, pipeline and utility installations through rock and other tough ground conditions. Its power and stability enable it to tackle longer bores and larger diameter installations – an advantage the company said could allow maxi-rig drill operators to move down a class size without compromising project productivity.

Higher horsepower, increased torque

Ditch Witch founded the all-terrain concept several years ago, said Davis, and has continued down the path to make these models bigger, better, more productive and more intelligent. Its latest edition, the AT120, is a direct replacement for both the Ditch Witch AT100 and the DD110 sold by sister company American Augers.

The new, upgraded model is powered by a Tier 4 Final/Stage V-compliant, 6.7L Cummins QSB6.7 turbocharged, direct injection diesel engine rated 280 gross hp (209 kW) and with bore and stroke dimensions of 4.21 in. x 4.88 in. Its higher horsepower rating over its predecessors has allowed the company to substantially increase the specs on this latest HDD iteration.

“We jumped this from the AT100, which was at 70,000 lb. of push and 100,000 lb. of pull, up to 120,000 lb. of push and pull. So, we’ve increased that dramatically,” Davis said. “With the high-horsepower engine in there, rotational torque on the outer pipe jumped up to 15,500 ft.-lb. That takes us to the leading spec edge of that competitive piece, which is very important.”

Ditch Witch AT120 directional drill The Virtually Assisted Makeup and Breakout solution makes it easier for operators to make up and break out tool joints during bores. (Photo: Ditch Witch)

Inner (spindle) torque has also increased by 50% to 3,000 ft.-lb., a boost that enables larger pilot bore sizes and thus reduces the number of passes required. “Jumping right up into a [6.5-in. bore diameter], now they can skip a pass, and that saves them time and money, hourly people on the jobsite,” Davis said. “So, again, trying to be more efficient, trying to help that contractor put more money in his pocket in more efficient ways.”

Adding to efficiency gains is the shift from a 15-ft. drill stem up to 20 ft., as well as the addition of a 285-gpm, 1,100-psi Kerr plunger pump for drilling fluid.

“It is a large pump. It has larger displacement cylinders, so we can run this pump slower and still provide more than enough drilling fluid,” Davis said. “Running it slower gets longer life out of the system... Again, less cost for the customer, more money in his pocket.”

Cab and control enhancements

Technology enhancements with the AT120 include a Virtually Assisted Makeup and Breakout (VAM) solution, which is designed to ensure the drill pipe and tooling are at the correct levels observed by the torque gauge. Ditch Witch said this makes it easier for operators to make up and breakout tool joints during bores without the need for floats and sensors.

In addition to cab commonality and technology enhancements, the AT120 is the first in the lineup to include a multimode joystick. (Photo: Ditch Witch)

Another driving force behind the AT120’s design was commonality inside the cab. The climate-controlled, high-visibility cab now features the same operator platform as the company’s other drills, with the same operating controls and features.

“For customers that have multiple drills and multiple operators, they can move from machine to machine with less training and be able to jump right in and start running those controls,” said Davis.

The AT120 is also the first production unit in the Ditch Witch lineup to incorporate a multimode joystick, which allows the operator to switch functionality “on the fly.” Included as standard, the joystick lets operators set up the controls to their style of drilling, which the company said can improve operator confidence while running the machine and further reduce training time required.

The new drill is designed to provide greater access to critical components that need to be maintained, streamlining maintenance and serviceability. (Photo: KHL staff)

Easier access

To further maximize uptime, the AT120 offers a saver lock design, which provides a tight drill connection and protects the drill pipe and drive system against wear and tear.

There has also been what Davis describes as a “huge change” to the engine compartment and access panel design to provide greater accessibility to critical components that frequently need to be maintained. According to Ditch Witch, the change streamlines maintenance routines and the serviceability of the drill, meaning less downtime required.

“We pushed hard to make it very accessible,” Davis said. “Our dealer personnel are happy. Our customers, when I open it up, just look at me and smile… because if they’re running the equipment, they know it’s a big deal. So, that’s a real positive for all of us.”

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