Breaking News: StraightLine HDD Expands Hole Opener Line

StraightLine HDD, Inc. recently expanded its hole opener offering with the introduction of the XL-I Series. Designed from the ground up for the horizontal directional drilling market, the XL-I Series is positioned as a cost-effective alternative to “split-bit” hole openers.

“With the XT-I Series, every element is optimized to give the user a powerful new tool that is purpose-built to deliver consistent results in harsh horizontal direction drilling conditions,” says StraightLine HDD president, Joe Phillips.

XL-I Hole Openers

The XL-I Series incorporates state-of-the-science sealed bearing design.

Built specifically to handle the rigors of horizontal directional drilling in extreme ground conditions.

At the core of the design are proprietary cones—available in either Tungsten Carbide or Mill Tooth configurations—mounted to a purpose-built platform. Cones are precision-mounted to cut independent paths. Known as cutting “on-guide,” the result is a dramatic improvement in both production and service life. Users will also see a marked improvement in consistency, bore after bore.

XL-I Series

The XL-I Series is designed as a platform. That means the tool is designed to ensure the tool’s original geometry is maintained—even after rebuild.

Next, designers set out to solve the problem of excessive wear on the cone’s outer surfaces—or “shirt tail.” This was accommplished by addressing the interplay between cone diameter, height and carbide placement.  Cones are welded to the baseplate at an angle optimized to protect the shirt tail. Shortened cone height reduces surface areas subjected to wear. Finally, protective carbides are placed exactly where they are most needed. 

“We altered cone diameter and height to optimize them for HDD performance. This, combined with computer-assisted carbide placement, protects the cone’s vulnerable shirt tail areas,” says Phillips.

Internally, the cone’s proprietary sealed bearing system mitigates fluid intrusion, yielding a myriad of user benefits, from reduced torque and fuel consumption to extended tool life.

As a platform, the XL-I Series incorporates design characteristics that ensure the tool’s original geometry is maintained—even after rebuild. This approach yields consistent and repeatable performance year after year.

The XL-I Series includes 12 models, from 12.75-inch to 24-inches with IF Box x Box shafts.

Job Site Stories: CMP Technologies, Inc.

Location: Charlotte, North Carolina

Equipment: RockEye 4.0 Hammer System, Vermeer 23x30 with Atlas Copco 1000x350 compressor

The Challenge:

North Carolina-based, the CMP Technologies was tasked with a 400-foot bore to install 8-inch poly pipe. The site, located in the Charlotte, North Carolina, Center City neighborhood, required a 20-foot depth, an aggressive 12 degree left turn to follow the easement and a fairly rapid 12-15 foot ascent to reach the road cut.

Part of the state’s Charlotte Belt formation, lurking 10 feet below a mix of course gravel and loam was very old igneous—mostly limestone—rock.

Conventional Methods Attempted First

Conventional rock methods & tools were initially specified. Hitting the ground hard on the first day, the CMP crew easily punched through the first 80 feet of soft soil. Hopes of a short work day ran high.

CMP Technology Charlotte bore path traveled through a varied mix of soils.

The hard limestone conditions in the Charlotte, North Carolina Center City neighborhood stymied initial drilling attempts using conventional rock tools.

The 400-foot bore was located in the shadows of Bank of America Stadium, home of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers football team.

The enthusiasm ended quickly as the bore transitioned from soft soil into limestone. The three-tooth rock bit simply deflected off the rock. Changing the attack angle partially solved the deflection issue, but exposed a bigger problem: the rock bit simply would not cut the rock.

With production stalling, a crew member suggested contacting StraightLine HDD®. Having witnessed a RockEye® Hammer System in action with a previous employer, the crew member recalled the RockEye’s ability to steer and produce in similar conditions. A demo was scheduled.    


StraightLine field engineer, Ron Becker, arrived at the job site armed with a 4.0 RockEye. Following a quick bore review, set-up and operational briefing, the hammer hit the ground around mid-morning.  

Immediately, Becker realized the soft soil provided inadequate support to the bent sub (giving way rather than allowing the bent sub to push off). “We run into this frequently,” says Becker. “We adjusted technique by increasing forward pressure, which allowed us to push and steer the assembly through soft stuff.”

CMP Technologies working in Charlotte, North Carolina

Operating the RockEye, production rates clocked an impressive 15 feet/10-foot rod. Equally impressive was the flawless execution of a 12 degree turn.

Pushing through the soil layer, Becker recounted the moment the RockEye handled the transition between soft and hard conditions. “You know exactly when the hammer moves into rock—because you can hear it.”

“Once we had established a foothold in the rock—at the correct trajectory—then it was a matter of establishing a rhythm using the hammer’s carving technique” noted Becker.

As the sun set on the first day, the bore neared the halfway point. Production rates averaged 15 minutes/10-foot rod.  The following morning, production continued to impress. Even on the 12 degree turn, production consistently clocked 30 minutes/10-foot rod production rates. Just ten hours after the RockEye arrived on-site, the CMP Technologies crew completed the 400-foot pilot shot.

“A lot of times, we come in after the contractor has spent days—even weeks—trying to get product in,” says Becker. “So when we get 40 plus feet production per hour, and knock a bore out in a couple of days, there’s usually a mixture of shock and amazement on the job site. That’s what we had here.”

Training: Part 2 of the RockEye Hammer Series

Since introducing the RockEye Hammer System 10 years ago, StraightLine field engineers have logged hundreds of thousands of miles travelling to job sites across the country - and the world - to to demonstrate the RockEye's capabilities. Today, we remain committed to training the next generation of RockEye operators, including set up, a maintenance and troubleshooting overview and, of course, up to five days working side-by-side teaching the finer point of drilling in rock. 

To read stories of recent RockEye victories click here.

Facing a tough rock bore? Contact us to set up your own RockEye demo. 

StraightLine HDD Now Offers 1.66″ FS1 x 6 Drill Pipe

As one of the biggest expense line items, drill pipe plays a big part in the efficiency equation. A fact that’s amplified by drill pipe’s position as a “consumable” tool.  The combination has left operators with few options beyond standard pipe maintenance as a means to control drill pipe expenses. 

Read about some good advise on pipe maintenance here and also here.  

Ask any drill operator what their biggest tooling "consumable" line item is, and most will reply will be "drill pipe." By introducing its own drill pipe solution, StraightLine HDD brings a tough and dependable solution for Vermeer rig operators hoping to reduce drill pipe expenditures.

Introduced just over a year ago, StraightLine HDD’s Vermeer-compatible drill pipe is engineered to improve efficiency by drilling more feet, at an industry-leading price point. Read the press release here

And with the recent addition of 1.66-inch pipe, StraightLine HDD now offers pipe for Vermeer’s three most popular thread profiles, ranging from 7x11 and 16x20 to 24x40 Series II.

All StraightLine HDD pipe feature:

  • Pro-rated warranty
  • One piece forged upsets are designed to yield the strongest connection possible by maximizing the thickness at the upset and strengthen the area at the tube intersection
  • Manufactured from 4145 alloy
  • Heat-treated to a minimum 135,000lbf
  • Media-blasted connections insure superior lubrication surfaces

Steering: Part 1 of the RockEye Hammer Series

The RockEye Hammer System gives you the power to pound through rock. The advanced geometry of the 2-point steering system also gives you total control to place the bit exactly where you want it. 

Read how the RockEye has become the "go to" choice for difficult rock bores.