Make the Right Choice: Tricone Bits vs. PDC Bits

tricone-bit-sales-kbs-tricone-vs-pdcIn the oil and gas industry, it’s vital to have the right equipment for every single one of your projects. Using the wrong tools can lead to all kinds of disasters, so it’s important to be sure to have the right information before you start. When it comes to drill bits, two of the most common selections are Tricones and PDC. They have two very different purposes, and should be purchased and used accordingly.

Tricone Bits

The tricone bit was invented by Hughes engineer, Ralph Neuhaus, and was an adaption of Baker Hughes original two-cone drill bit. Tricone bits consist of three roller cones (moving parts), and they require lubricated bearings and a grease reservoir. When tricone bits are used in larger projects, it’s necessary to also have a bearing seal so that drillers can keep debris from causing any stoppage in the rotation.

The roller-cone bits are used to drill all kinds of formations, from soft to hard. The softer formations use steel-tooth bits, and the harder use tungsten carbide.

The biggest advantage the tricone bits have over any other drill bit is the test of time. They have been proven time and time again, and they’re the best at controlling the trickier situations. Tricones’ ability to handle both soft and hard formations gives them the flexibility that other drill bits do not have.


The PDC drill bit, also known as the Polycrystalline Diamond Compact, was developed in the 1970s, and has become one of the most widely used drill bits in the world. The design features fixed heads that do not move, and are made through combining artificial diamonds and tungsten carbide with heat and pressure. PDC bits drill faster than tricone bits, and are very good at shearing rock, though both the tricone bits and PDC bits each have their separate place in the drilling industry. The latest PDC designs include spiraled or asymmetric cutter layouts, gauge rings and hybrid cutter designs.

There are two different designs for the PDC: matric-body and steel-body. Both of these designs have a big advantage – their lifespan. Both drill bits can be used for much longer without the need to replace them. That, along with their higher rate of penetration over tricones, gives them a lower cost per foot.

Althouh PDC bits are becoming increasingly more popular, the tricone bits still hold sway over many different drilling projects. These include gravel, dolomite, and hard limestone. Since the changes to PDC don’t reflect any interest in those areas, tricone bits will be holding those domains for a long time.

Both of the tricone and PDC drill bits have advanced well beyond their original designs; as the industry has moved forward, the tricone and PDC drill bits have had to change. The new designs offer improved durability, and ROP (rate of penetration) of the rock.

Click for a list of available Tricone Bits and PDC Bits.