License to drill

Posted: October 19, 2011 in Industrial, Mining

Cummins QSB engine is at the heart of the latest McCulloch drill rigs.

The resources boom is creating demand in many sectors of industry. McCullochs Manufacturing is competing very successfully in one sector – exploration drill rigs.

McCullochs has no shortage of manufacturing expertise behind it as it ramps up production of its exploration drill rigs.

Based in Bendigo, Victoria, the time-honoured family company has achieved some notable milestones since setting up business in 1945.

Originally based in Leeton, NSW, McCullochs started manufacturing agricultural machinery in 1956 under the ‘Golden’ label.

These were productive times with the company going on to build 545 Golden Land Graders and 240 Golden Scoops – both machines designed to be towed by tractors.

 Over the years various other specialised industrial and agricultural machines have been designed and manufactured by the company, the latest project – exploration drill rigs – gaining momentum in 2007.

McCullochs Manufacturing is today is headed up by brothers Ron Jnr and Ken McCulloch. Their grandfather Bill McCulloch and father Ron Snr started the business in 1945. Ken’s sons Jeff, Andrew and Rod are also involved in the business today.

“We’re basically a custom engineering company… we’ve made all sorts of stuff over the years… a customer comes in with a problem, we nut it out,” says Jeff McCulloch with a definite tone of pride.

He points out the company had “room to move” in 2005 so decided to look for a new design and manufacturing project.

“We actually built our first exploration drill rig in 1994 but it was a one-off unit that went to work in Cobar (NSW) and we then shelved the drawings,” he says.

“By 2007 we were ready to move with our new generation drill rig, the DR800, and that was recently superseded by the DR950.”

The McCulloch drill rigs are noted for their robust design and all 23 units built to date are equipped with Cummins B-series engines. A further 10 rigs are scheduled for production over the next 12 months.

The first 16 rigs have the mechanically injected 5.9-litre 6BTA engine, while the later units are powered by the electronic QSB displacing 6.7 litres.

“Cummins has a very good reputation in the drilling industry so we decided to partner with Cummins and don’t have any regrets,” says Ken McCulloch. “Cummins’ after-sales support is very good.”

Reliability and durability of the Cummins B-series engines have also been strong selling points.

“We’ve never had an engine failure with a B-series Cummins,” says Jeff McCulloch, pointing out that one customer’s three-year-old drill rig is “knocking on the door” of 20,000 hours.

“Reliability is obviously critical because our rigs operate in some very remote places in very harsh conditions.”

Ken McCulloch with sons Jeff, Andrew and Rod.

The electronic Cummins QSB engine, which is Tier 3 emissions compliant, offers a number of benefits over the mechanical 6BTA used in the earlier McCulloch rigs.

The QSB punches out higher power and torque, the torque benefit being particularly useful – 687 lb ft at 1400 rpm versus the mechanical engine’s 455 lb ft at 1500 rpm.

This performance advantage has allowed McCullochs to tune the hydraulic system to operate at lower engine rpm.

In fact, the QSB operates at 1200 to 1700 rpm versus the mechanical engine’s 1600 to 2200 rpm while maintaining hydraulic system performance.

The result is fuel savings of up to 2 litres/hour – significant savings for drill rigs operating 6,000 to 7,000 hours a year.

The lower revs also translate to much quieter engine/hydraulic noise and also longer engine life.

McCullochs has a further 10 drill rigs scheduled for production over the next 12 months, underpinning yet another milestone in the company’s long line of manufacturing credits.

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