Sonic Drilling

How does Sonic Drilling work

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Main information

Sonic drilling is a soil penetration technique that strongly reduces friction on the drill string and drill bit due to liquefaction, inertia effects and a temporary reduction of porosity of the soil. The combination makes penetrating a large range of soils easy for our Sonic rigs and tooling.

Like to discuss how the sonic can accalerate your project? Don't hesitate to get in touch.


When you use a sonic drill head, the entire drill string is brought to a vibration frequency of up to 150 Hz. This causes a very thin layer of soil particles directly surrounding the drill string and bit to lose structure. Instead of a stiff mass, the soil behaves like a fluid powder or paste. This fluidization, or liquefaction, dramatically reduces friction.


In addition to the liquefaction the soil simply is not able to stick to the drill string, because it is moving up and down some 150 times per second.


The vibrations of the drill bit cause the soil to lose structure, changing it to a higher density with a lower porosity. This way the soil opens up for the drill string to advance. When you retrieve the drill string after drilling, the suction and some vibration will cause the soil to regain much of its old lower density, and water will be able to flow freely again.

The effect

The liquefaction and inertia effects enable you to collect very long and continuous samples. Due to the vertical high-frequency movement the drill string stays extremely straight, with a diversion of no more than a few centimetres over the full length of the bore hole. In alluvial material vertical vibrations are generally enough to drive down a drill string for many meters without the injection of any water or air.

When you are drilling in hard formations, liquefaction cannot take place. In such cases you can combine vibration with rotation, and use rock drill bits to cut the material. In order to keep the temperature of the drill bit down and lift the cuttings foam injection is the best solution, but you can use water or air as well.

The Sonic Rig & tooling diversity 

SmallRotoSonic    CompactRotoSonic     MidRotoSonic    LargeRotoSonic   Used Sonic Drilling Rigs     Sonic tooling



Overview Sonic
Typical depth 
m / ft


Torque clockwise
/counter clockwise


Torque clockwise
/counter clockwise


SmallRotoSonic (SRS)
type 22 K

50/116 m/ft

10 ton / 22 K lb 150Hz


R 1,7 kNm
L 2,0 kNm


R 1,2 kNm
L 1,4 kNm


CompactRotoSonic (CRS)
type 31 K

100/330 m/ft

10 ton / 22 K lb 150Hz


R 2,5 kNm
L 2,8 kNm


R 1,7 kNm
L 2,0 kNm


MidRotoSonic (MRS)
type 50 K

225/740 m/ft 23 ton / 50 K lb 150 Hz

180 / 190

R 3,9/1,8 kNm
L 4,6/2,3 kNm


R 3,9/1,8 kNm
L 4,6/2,3bkNm


LargeRotoSonic (LRS)
type 50 K

400/1300 m/ft 23 ton / 50 K lb 150 Hz


R 7,1 kNm
L 9,5 kNm

R 7,1 kNm
L 9,5 kNm



What makes Sonic so valuable?

  • It is highly efficient with, in alluvial material, extremely fast penetration speeds
  • AquaLock sampler for either continuous or discrete sampling
  • Numerous types of CoreBarrel samplers can be applied
  • In RotoSonic versions also for rock fracturing, concrete penetration and high density layers
  • Exceptional power output and tooling penetration in a small, light-weight rig
  • Can be used at severely polluted sites; very limited smearing
  • Takes high quality samples in dry and saturated soil layers
  • Lost cones / bits for well installations, cold-heat exchange systems or seismic explorations
  • Pre-pack monitoring wells with pre-shaped bentonite collars or BentoBlocks; no grouting
  • Sonic vibrations can be used for casing retrieval too; no stuck casing
  • Low noise compared to hammering with probe rigs
  • Less wear and tear of casing threads compared to hammering
  • Tiltable drill head for easy handling of samplers


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