HistoryA wooden drill handle and other carpentry tools found on board the 16th century carrack Mary Rose.The earliest drills were bow drills which date back to the ancient Harappans and Egyptians. The drill press as a machine tool evolved from the bow drill and is many centuries old. It was powered by various power sources over the centuries, such as human effort, water wheels, and windmills, often with the use of belts. With the coming of the electric motor in the late 19th century, there was a great rush to power machine tools with such motors, and drills were among them. The invention of the first electric drill is credited to Arthur James Arnot and William Blanch Brain , in 1889, at Melbourne, Australia. Wilhelm Fein invented the portable electric drill in 1895, at Stuttgart, Germany. In 1917, Black & Decker patented a trigger-like switch mounted on a pistol-grip handle.
The inside of an electric drill
There are many types of drills: some powered manually, others using electricity or compressed air as the motive power, and a minority driven by an internal combustion engine (for example, earth drilling augers). Drills with a percussive action (such as hammer drills, jackhammers or pneumatic drills) are usually used in hard materials such as masonry (brick, concrete and stone) or rock. Drilling rigs are used to bore holes in the earth to obtain water or oil. An oil well, water well, or holes for geothermal heating are created with large drill rigs up to a hundred feet high. Some types of hand-held drills are also used to drive screws. Some small appliances may be drill-powered, such as small pumps, grinders, etc.
Carpenter using a crank-powered brace to drill a hole
A variety of hand-powered drills have been employed over the centuries. Here are a few, starting with approximately the oldest:
Brace and bit
Breast drill, also known as “eggbeater” drill
Push drill, a tool using a spiral ratchet mechanism
Pin chuck, a small hand-held jewellers drill
An old hand drill or “eggbeater” drill. The hollow wooden handle, with screw-on cap, is used to store drill bits
Pistol-grip (corded) drill
Drills with pistol grips are the most common type in use today, and are available in a huge variety of subtypes. A less common type is the right-angle drill, a special tool used by tradesmen such as plumbers and electricians.
For much of the 20th century, many attachments could commonly be purchased to convert corded electric hand drills into a range of other power tools, such as orbital sanders and power saws, more cheaply than purchasing conventional, self-contained versions of those tools (the greatest saving being the lack of an additional electric motor for each device). As the prices of power tools and suitable electric motors have fallen, however, such attachments have become much less common. A similar practice is currently employed for cordless tools where the battery, the most expensive component, is shared between various motorised devices, as opposed to a single electric motor being shared between mechanical attachments.
Main article: Hammer drill
The hammer drill is similar to a standard electric drill, with the exception that it is provided with a hammer action for drilling masonry. The hammer action may be engaged or disengaged as required. Most electric hammer drills are rated (input power) at between 600 and 1100 watts. The efficiency is usually 50-60% ie. 1000 watts of input is converted into 500-600 watts of output (rotation of the drill and hammering action).
The hammer action is provided by two cam plates that make the chuck rapidly pulse forward and backward as the drill spins on its axis. This pulsing (hammering) action is measured in Blows Per Minute (BPM) with 10,000 or more BPMs being common. Because the combined mass of the chuck and bit is comparable to that of the body of the drill, the energy transfer is inefficient and can sometimes make it difficult for larger bits to penetrate harder materials such as poured concrete. The operator experiences considerable vibration, and the cams are generally made from hardened steel to avoid them wearing out quickly. In practice, drills are restricted to standard masonry bits up to 13 mm (1/2 inch) in diameter. A typical application for a hammer drill is installing electrical boxes, conduit straps or shelves in concrete.
In contrast to the cam-type hammer drill, a rotary/pneumatic hammer drill accelerates only the bit. This is accomplished through a piston design, rather than a spinning cam. Rotary hammers have much less vibration and penetrate most building materials. They can also be used as “drill only” or as “hammer only” which extends their usefulness for tasks such as chipping brick or concrete. Hole drilling progress is greatly superior to cam-type hammer drills, and these drills are generally used for holes of 19 mm (3/4 inch) or greater in size. A typical application for a rotary hammer drill is boring large holes for lag bolts in foundations, or installing large lead anchors in concrete for handrails or benches.
A standard hammer drill accepts 6 mm (1/4 inch) and 13 mm (1/2 inch) drill bits, while a rotary hammer uses SDS or Spline Shank bits. These heavy bits are adept at pulverising the masonry and drill into this hard material with relative ease.
However, there is a big difference in cost. In the UK a cam hammer typically costs 12 or more, while a rotary/pneumatic costs 35 or more. In the US a typical hammer drill costs between $70 and $120, and a rotary hammer between $150 and $500 (depending on bit size). For DIY use or to drill holes less than 13 mm (1/2 inch) in size, the hammer drill is most commonly used.
Rotary hammer drill
A rotary hammer drill used in construction
The rotary hammer drill (also known as a rotary hammer, roto hammer drill or masonry drill) combines a primary dedicated hammer mechanism with a separate rotation mechanism, and is used for more substantial material such as masonry or concrete. Generally, standard chucks and drills are inadequate and chucks such as SDS and carbide drills that have been designed to withstand the percussive forces are used. Some styles of this tool are intended for masonry drilling only and the hammer action cannot be disengaged. Other styles allow the drill to be used without the hammer action for normal drilling, or hammering to be used without rotation for chiselling.
A cordless drill with clutch
A cordless drill is a type of electric drill which uses rechargeable batteries. These drills are available with similar features to an AC mains-powered drill. They are available in the hammer drill configuration and most also have a clutch setting which allows them to be used for driving screws. Also available now are Right Angle Drills, which allow a worker to drive screws in a tight space. While recent battery innovation allows significantly more drilling, the large diameter holes required (typically 12 – 25 mm (1/2″-1″) or larger) drain current cordless drills quickly.
For continuous use, a worker will have one or more spare battery packs charging while drilling, so that he or she can quickly swap them, instead of having to wait an hour or more for recharging, although there are now Rapid Charge Batteries that can charge in 1015 minutes.
Early cordless drills started with interchangeable 7.2 V battery packs, and over the years available battery voltages have increased, with 18 V drills being most common, and higher voltage drills, such as 24V, 28V, and 36V, are made also. This allows these tools to produce as much torque as some mains-powered drills. The drawback of most current models is the use of nickel-cadmium (NiCd) batteries, which have limited life, self-discharging and eventually internally short circuiting due to dendrite growth. This severely limits battery life, and poses a hazardous materials disposal problem. A lot of drill manufacturers, including Milwaukee, Makita, DeWalt, Ryobi, and RIDGID, are now using lithium ion batteries. The main advantages are very short charging time, longer life, and lighter battery weights. Instead of charging a tool for an hour to get 20 minutes of use, 20 minutes of charge can run the tool for an hour. Lithium-ion batteries also have a constant discharge rate. The power output remains constant until the battery is depleted, something that nickel-cadmium batteries also lack, and which makes the tool much more versatile. Lithium-ion batteries also hold a charge for a significantly longer time than nickel-cadmium batteries, about two years if not used, vs. 1 to 4 months for a nickel-cadmium battery. There are three major drawbacks to Lithium Ion batterys. 1. They do not perform well in cold temperatures 2. The batteries are very expensive to replace. 3. The overall batteries can only handle about 1/3 of the recharges over a lifetime than a NiCad or NiMH battery. You can also have a NiCad battery rebuilt for much cheaper or even upgraded so that is comparable to a Li-ion battery.
A cordless drill with a high torque (in excess of 30 Nm) works well as a screw driver even if working on a hardwood. In drilling the high torque is needed when the diameter of the drill is large.
The handles of cordless drills are usually made from polymorph[clarification needed] which is easy and quick to mold to a comfortable shape for holding. The main body of the drill is usually made from polythene as it is able to withstand the high temperatures which the drill reaches.
A drill press
A drill press (also known as pedestal drill, pillar drill, or bench drill) is a fixed style of drill that may be mounted on a stand or bolted to the floor or workbench. A drill press consists of a base, column (or pillar), table, spindle (or quill), and drill head, usually driven by an induction motor. The head has a set of handles (usually 3) radiating from a central hub that, when turned, move the spindle and chuck vertically, parallel to the axis of the column. The table can be adjusted vertically and is generally moved by a rack and pinion; however, some older models rely on the operator to lift and reclamp the table in position. The table may also be offset from the spindle’s axis and in some cases rotated to a position perpendicular to the column. The size of a drill press is typically measured in terms of swing. Swing is defined as twice the throat distance, which is the distance from the center of the spindle to the closest edge of the pillar. For example, a 16-inch (410 mm) drill press will have an 8-inch (200 mm) throat distance.
Old industrial drill press designed to be driven from the power source by a flat belt
A drill press has a number of advantages over a hand-held drill:
Less effort is required to apply the drill to the workpiece. The movement of the chuck and spindle is by a lever working on a rack and pinion, which gives the operator considerable mechanical advantage
The table allows a vise or clamp to be used to position and restrain the work, making the operation much more secure
The angle of the spindle is fixed relative to the table, allowing holes to be drilled accurately and repetitively
Speed change is achieved by manually moving a belt across a stepped pulley arrangement. Some drill presses add a third stepped pulley to increase the speed range. Modern drill presses can, however, use a variable-speed motor in conjunction with the stepped-pulley system. Some machine shop (tool room) drill presses are equipped with a continuously variable transmission, giving a wide speed range, as well as the ability to change speed while the machine is running.
Drill presses are often used for miscellaneous workshop tasks such as sanding, honing or polishing, by mounting sanding drums, honing wheels and various other rotating accessories in the chuck. This can be unsafe in some cases, as the chuck arbor, which may be retained in the spindle solely by the friction of a taper fit, may dislodge during operation.
Geared head drill press
Geared head drill press. Shift levers on the head and a two speed motor control immediately in front of the quill handle select one of eight possible speeds
A geared head drill press is a drill press in which power transmission from the motor to the spindle is achieved solely through spur gearing inside the machine’s head. No friction elements (e.g., belts) of any kind are used, which assures a positive drive at all times and minimizes maintenance requirements.
Levers attached to one side of the head are used to select different gear ratios to change the spindle speed, usually in conjunction with a two- or three-speed motor. Most machines of this type are designed to be operated on three phase power and are generally of more rugged construction than equivalent sized belt-driven units. Virtually all examples have geared racks for adjusting the table and head position on the column.
Geared head drill presses are commonly found in tool rooms and other commercial environments where a heavy duty machine capable of production drilling and quick setup changes is required. In most cases, the spindle is machined to accept Morse taper tooling for greater flexibility. Larger geared head drill presses are frequently fitted with power feed on the quill mechanism, with an arrangement to disengage the feed when a certain drill depth has been achieved or in the event of excessive travel. Coolant systems are also common on these machines to prolong tool life under production conditions.
Radial arm drill press.
Radial arm drill press
Radial arm drill press controls
A radial arm drill press is a large geared head drill press in which the head can be moved along an arm that radiates from the machine’s column. As it is possible to swing the arm relative to the machine’s base, a radial arm drill press is able to operate over a large area without having to reposition the workpiece. The size of work that can be handled may be considerable, as the arm can swing out of the way of the table, allowing an overhead crane or derrick to place a bulky piece on the table or base. A vise may be used with a radial arm drill press, but more often the workpiece is secured directly to the table or base, or is held in a fixture. Power spindle feed is nearly universal with these machines and coolant systems are common. The biggest radial arm drill presses are able to drill holes as large as four inches (101.6 millimeters) in diameter.
Mill drills are a lighter alternative to a milling machine. They combine a drill press (belt driven) with the X/Y coordinate abilities of the milling machine’s table and a locking collet that ensures that the cutting tool will not fall from the spindle when lateral forces are experienced against the bit. Although they are light in construction, they have the advantages of being space-saving and versatile as well as inexpensive, being suitable for light machining that may otherwise not be affordable.
A household drill was used to save a boy’s life in Australia. The boy suffered from potentially fatal bleeding within the brain after a fall from his bike. Having no proper medical tools, the attending doctor decided to use a household drill stored in the hospital maintenance room to remove a clot. This was done in order to relieve the blood pressure in the boy’s brain. If this had not been done, the boy would have died in minutes. The doctor performed the procedure and was guided by a neurosergeon over the phone. The boy was later airlifted to a larger hospital and recovered within days. Paul Gilbert and Billy Sheehan of Mr. Big use a cordless drill for the solo of Daddy, Brother, Lover, Little Boy commonly known as “The Electric Drill Song”. This was done by using 3.3mm plectrums on a wooden dowel.
Other perforation tools
Milling machines, metal lathes and routers are also often used for drilling.
^ “Specifications for registration of patent by William Blanch Brain and Arthur James Arnot titled – Improvements in electrical rock drills coal diggers and earth cutters”. National Archives of Australia. 1889. http://naa12.naa.gov.au/scripts/ItemDetail.asp?M=0&B=9047342. Retrieved 31 March 2008.
^ “C.& E. Fein GmbH company history”. http://www.fein.de/corp/de/en/company/history.html. Retrieved 7 December 2006.
^ US1,245,860 (PDF version) (1917-11-06) S. D. Black & A. G. Decker, Electrically driven tool.
^ Stewart, Cameron (20 May 2009). “Maryborough GP saves boy Nicholas Rossi with a home drill”. The Australian. http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25509892-601,00.html.
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