How To Drill Into Concrete, Efficiently And Safely

Concrete is one of the most common and versatile construction materials in use today.

 

Modern concrete has roots that stretch back many thousands of years, but the concept remains the same – a mixture of sand, aggregates and water form a hardened material that can withstand the elements as well as physical force.

Although concrete is used for everything from foundations to walls and ceilings, one of the biggest challenges for construction professionals has been how to drill into concrete or how to screw into concrete.

Because concrete materials can be very hard and thick, drilling and screwing into concrete can be quite difficult and lead to the breakage of conventional drill bits. To solve this, the hammer drill was invented.

Hammer Drill Operation And Capabilities

A hammer drill, sometimes referred to as a concrete drill or a cement drill, is a tool that performs a rotary drilling motion while simultaneously exerting a low-pressure hammering action.

This is done through a series of interlocking gears that interact with a cam within the hammer drill. In some cases, the chuck moves up and down to perform the hammering action while the gears perform the drilling operation.

A concrete drill bit is typically used when operating a hammer drill. These drill bits, sometimes called masonry drill bits, are often made from very durable materials like tungsten carbide.

Unlike conventional drill bits which are made out of steel, tungsten carbide drill bits perform under severe stress and can stand up to a lot of abuse without chipping or fracturing.

These same drill bits are also typically used when drilling into tile surfaces and other hardened materials.

When using a hammer drill, the operator must still pay attention to the force being exerted on the concrete. One of the biggest drawbacks to concrete is that it has the potential to develop cracks.

Credit: PEO ACWA

When this happens, cracks can spread widely and destroy surface integrity. This is the reason why large slabs of concrete are often scored as in the case of sidewalks.

The score marks are intended to be stopping points if cracks develop so that the cracks do not spread across the entirety of the concrete surface.

Drilling Into Concrete With A Robot

The digital age has also brought about innovations in robotics that incorporate hammer drills. Because the process of drilling into concrete can be labor intensive and potentially dangerous, companies like nLink have created robotics systems that can drill into concrete ceilings.

The benefits of using robots to perform hammer drilling operations are plentiful and include less strain on human workers and fewer accidents and injuries on job sites.

Additionally, robots that can perform hammer drilling reduce the chances of workers developing lung diseases. Silicosis is a lung disease that can develop after many years of inhaling silica dust which often gets put into the air when drilling or screwing into concrete using a hammer drill.

Even when respiratory protection is used, there is still a threat to workers on construction sites of developing silicosis or other lung diseases that result from the inhalation of construction material particulates.

Credit: Oregon Department of Transportation

Robots remove human workers from hazard zones, lessening the potential for the inhalation of dangerous particles. Robotics that use hammer drills also have the benefit of being able to take advantage of precise guidance.

Even the most skilled human drill operator is prone to mistakes, but robots can use computer-assisted guidance to drill at the precise location a hole needs to be made and to the exact depth at which the operation requires.

This can be accomplished using a mixture of computer-assisted design software, artificial intelligence and imaging software onboard a robotic drill’s operating system.

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