Ultrasonic Drill Tool (05-07)

The Ultrasonic Drill Tool (UDT) had to develop a device for ultrasonically-assisted drilling and sampling of planetary rocks and regolith.

The tool transforms low displacement, high frequency oscillations in a transducer into higher displacement vibration at the tip, which effectively cuts into material.

Benefits of the UDT compared to conventional rock percussion drills:

  • Low axial (thrust) force required
  • Lower power consumption than conventional percussion drilling
  • The possibility of operation from lightweight drill platforms and arms
  • Low drill bit wear
  • Good material removal rates
  • Potentially higher efficiency
  • Smaller envelope
  • Low sensitivity to axial (thrust) force variations, which is very significant when considering an autonomous, relatively flexible drilling platform
  • Lower parts count – no mechanism is required for cutting

The UDT is designed so that a single tool can be used for:

  • Drilling through regolith and rock
  • Extracting cores from rock, both above and below the surface
  • Extracting unconsolidated samples from above and below the surface
Ultrasonic Drill Tool & plunger positions in corer

As well as creating the tuned mechanical design, the project team has developed a novel ‘auto resonant’ control system, which keeps the resonance of the UDT in tune and working at optimum efficiency, independent of the loading conditions.

The tool was tested in a variety of materials, and the results of these tests are being used to make improvements to the design. Typical UDT performances in a relatively hard material such as granite are:

  • Required thrust force 8-10N
  • 23mm diameter core
  • 12mm deep core cut in ~140 min.
  • Uses less than 40 W power
  • Cut is clean and does not fracture core

This development study was carried out for ESA by a team of Magna Parva (UK) - which has close links with former team members from universities of Leicester and Aberdeen through past Beagle 2 development activities.

Ultrasonic Drill Tool coring test results

Last update: 7 May 2014

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