Drilling to the MAX

After starting life nearly 40 years ago as a distributor, DRILLMAX has since 1994 been a drill rig manufacturer. GDI catches up with how the business has developed to meet the needs of today’s drillers.
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The DM450 truck-mounted, tophead drive rig is one of the latest developments by DRILLMAX

Duncan Moore


Duncan Moore

DRILLMAX began under the ownership of Ron Owens nearly 40 years ago as a distributor for third-party drill rigs for the water well industry but has changed and adapted over the years to meet its customers' needs.

After having formed many professional relationships with both manufactures and family drilling companies while working in the water well drilling industry, Owens made the decision to go it alone in 1980. Based in Ocala, Florida, he established a business to specifically support water well drillers in the southeast US.

Initially, the business acted as a distributor for a number of drill rig manufacturers, but Owens soon began to take standard water well rigs and modify them with special features required by his customers for particular types of drilling conditions.

Local market

That awareness of what his local market required soon became invaluable knowledge. During the early years of the business, some of the rig manufacturers Owens was working with were going through difficult times leading to regular company reorganisations, all of which was making it hard for him to support his growing customer base. In 1994, after serious consideration of the situation, Owen decided to start manufacturing entire water well rigs specifically for his clients. He honed his designs for the next nine years.

Following a refresh and redesign, DRILLMAX was established based upon feedback received from experienced drillers from many regions on how to make the job and their lives easier while on the job site. Ideas on how to develop a rig that was user-friendly, small but powerful, fast, reliable, easy to maintain and easy to troubleshoot were collected from not just the southeast, but the whole of the US.

The change in name and the launch of new designs not only saw increasing numbers of water well drillers utilising DRILLMAX rigs, it also saw the company become known for its rig service team. This is a tradition that continues today with water well drillers bringing equipment to DRILLMAX for routine maintenance as well as more in-depth rig remounting and refurbishment work.


The ongoing development of DRILLMAX's rig designs continues to be influenced by user feedback. "How to make the driller's job and life on the job site easier has been at the heart of any of the DRILLMAX rig developments," says Donnie Wood, general manager. "Listening for the common themes discussed by the people operating the machines on a daily basis drive the improvements."

Those improvements Wood talks about ensure the rigs are user-friendly, compact but powerful, quick and reliable, and easy to maintain and troubleshoot. This is particularly true of the two latest truck-mounted tophead drive rigs; the DM250 and DM450. With these two machines, the goals set for the engineers developing them was to enhance operator features, simplify manufacturing, and improve serviceability.

The durable DM250 features a compact size that makes it suitable for residential work where limited access is a priority. The larger DM450 has the power to tackle tough water well, geothermal, and cathodic protection drilling projects.

Keeps the money coming in rather than going out for repairs

Owners of the DM250 describe the rig as the most productive and versatile rig, praising its simple operation for making it easy to train new operators. The rig saves them money by mobilising 200ft of pipe while staying under class A/B CDL requirements, eliminating concerns over having enough 20ft pipe to finish the job or having to find a CDL driver.

The durable, mechanical controls of the DM250 stand the test of time, keeping them completing contracts rather than needing repair.

Access to job sites is expanded with the compact size, eliminating worries about tearing up driveways or yards, which makes the DM250 a smart choice for everyday use. And with centrifugal or piston mud pump and development air options, the rig can be configured to meet specific job requirements.

Many who use the DM250 focus on drilling shallower than 300ft, though the machine can exceed that depth. Key features on the rig make for quick, easy work of 2in to 8in water wells. The table assembly has clearance for 12in casing and the holding fork and hydraulically operated, adjustable breakout wrench make tripping out fast and safe.

Tackling tough holes

The DM450's engineered design and modern construction provides the power to tackle tough holes, quickly. "Observers," says Wood, "have remarked how the DM450 can make a well in one day compared to the five days it would normally take with another rig. That ability when combined with industry-leading support to keep the rig in the field running smoothly, means the DM450 keeps the money coming in rather than going out for repairs."

Multiple mud pump and air compressor options mean the rig can be configured for specific geographic areas. With 25,000lb of pullback and a 16in table opening along with the choice of a single rod loader and pipe rack or a carousel loading system, the DM450 has the capability to drill larger wells within a compact drilling machine that can manoeuvre on job sites.

 he compact sized 250 by  can be configured to meet specific job requirements The compact sized DM250 by DRILLMAX can be configured to meet specific job requirements

Features that are shared by the two rigs include an engineered design and modern construction that maximises power to quickly complete jobs while simplifying maintenance and troubleshooting. They are smaller sized and lighter weight to facilitate drilling in tight locations, while the simple operation corresponds to easier training of new operators. In addition, industry-leading service support keeps rigs in the field working and numerous features and options make them customisable to particular business models.

Geothermal drilling

While water well drilling is the sector where DRILLMAX has traditionally focused, the business is as adaptable as its machines and this attitude is reflected in its move into geothermal drilling. "DRILLMAX rigs already feature the tophead rotation speed, the head feed speed, and plenty of mud pump options whether they're used for water well or geothermal applications," says Wood. "Many owners do both with the same machine. Some options such as sandline winch or pipe spinner systems can be added to minimise equipment on the geothermal job site."

"In our experience, there is significant cross-over between the geothermal loop and water well markets with respect to rig design," Ryan Kejr, machine engineer, says.  "That said, the geothermal market tends to prioritise overall rig size and weight, drilling speed, and cost per foot. And while these are important for a water well driller, in addition, a water well rig needs to be able to drill larger diameter holes, set casing, develop the well… basically complete all the additional tasks needed to construct a good water well."

Examples of DRILLMAX rigs proving their worth include a Central Illinois customer that was under a time crunch to complete a geothermal job in one day. Using a DRILLMAX rig the business was able to drill 16, 150ft holes in a 10-hour time frame, including installing loops and grouting.

It is a similar story in the cathodic protection sector where a southern California customer which drills cathodic protection holes for power utility companies. Local drillers in the area were completing one, 500ft hole per week. Whereas upon purchasing a DRILLMAX machine and completing training the customer was then able to complete one, 500ft hole in an eight to 10-hour day, increasing production for the utility companies.

The good news is that when mounted on a truck chassis, DRILLMAX's newest product offerings are now being built for global use.

Got a story? Email: duncan.moore@aspermontmedia.com