Purdue Calumet – key connection to Chilean mine rescue

There is a strong Purdue University Calumet connection to the recent rescue of 33 Chilean miners trapped underground for more than two months.

Chicago resident Krasimir Zahariev, who earned a master’s degree in engineering at Purdue Calumet in 2005, is a research engineer for the Drilling Technology Center (DTC) of Layne Christensen Company.

Drillers from the Mission Woods, Kansas-based company, which specializes in water, mineral exploration, geo-construction and environmental drilling, and its Latin American affiliate, Geotec Boyles Bros., successfully reached the miners Oct. 9, more than two months after they had been trapped nearly 2,300 feet underground.

Zahariev specializes in fatigue, stress and wear analysis, specifically relating to materials and parts, including those used in the rescue drilling process. Zahariev’s supervisor, Vice President of Drilling Technologies Brian Smith, also is a Purdue Calumet engineering graduate, Class of 1995, and a La Porte native. They are part of a team responsible for modernizing the directional drilling system used to drill some of the holes at the rescue site.

Zahariev, who also teaches a class in Engineering Drawing each Tuesday at Purdue Calumet, described his role as “maintaining and modernizing some of the drawings of the directional drilling system” and monitoring fatigue and wear of drilling parts.

“Our team is responsible for estimating the fatigue life of drilling equipment components,” he said. “Our job is to make sure well-engineered, high-quality parts are used during drilling to minimize underground failure. I maintain documentation of drawings, and sometimes I am asked to modify or redesign parts for specific needs. Currently, the Drilling Technology Center is developing the next generation of the directional drilling system used at the Chilean miner rescue.”

Smith described Zahariev’s work as that of modernizing “the legacy drawing package for the directional drill system used in the drilling effort. He has converted the 2D drawings to our Pro-E solid model platform and made numerous improvements to the detail drawings…”

Also contributing indirectly to the rescue efforts were six Purdue Calumet mechanical engineering students. Rachel Mok of Madison, Ala.; John Tessling of Glenwood, Ill.; Philip Mann of Burr Ridge, Ill.; and Yang Wang of China have been engaged in a research project for Layne Christensen in which they have performed stress analysis on critical components of the newly developed sonic drilling system.

The project includes physical testing of scaled models of system components and a virtual reality simulation of the stress analysis. Mechanical engineering undergraduate student Nick Walla of Portage and graduate student Peter Piao of China have provided visualization assistance through the university’s Center for Innovation through Visualization and Simulation (CIVS).

The research is being conducted to identify mechanical properties and failure prediction of the components, ultimately, to improve the safety and reliability of future designs.

Serving as faculty advisor and principal investigator of the project is Purdue Calumet Professor of Mechanical Engineering Yulian Kin, a 27-year faculty member and fatigue analysis expert, who previously taught Zahariev and Smith as students.

“Professor Kin has been a valuable mentor to me, both during my studies at PUC and in my professional career,” Smith said. “I learned early on that Professor Kin had worked as an engineer in the oil field drilling industry. Because I was involved in a related industry, the insight, knowledge and direction that he has given me have been invaluable. Specifically, Professor Kin’s expert advice in the areas of fatigue failure and reliability has been instrumental in helping me develop safe and reliable equipment for the drilling industry.”

Additionally, Chenn Zhou, professor, head of Purdue Calumet’s Dept. of Mechanical Engineering and director of the university’s Center for Innovation through Visualization and Simulation, has assisted the students’ research efforts, as has Mechanical Engineering Laboratory Technical Supervisor Bernard Parsons.

“Over a period of nearly two decades, Purdue Calumet has been the nucleus for an ever expanding team of individuals who have made valuable contributions to drilling technology, such as what was used in the Chilean mine rescue,” Smith said.