The first successful rolling cutter rock bit was introduced into the oil field by Howard Hughes Sr. in 1909. Over the next fifteen years, the rolling cutter bit was used primarily in hard formation areas. This rolling cutter bit was a two-cone bit with cones that did not mesh, consequently, the bit had a tendency to “balled-up” in soft shales. The bit was redesigned with meshing teeth (self-cleaning) in the 1920s and in the early 1930’s, the tricone bit was introduced with cutters designed for hard and soft formations.
The primary drilling mechanism of the rolling cutter bits is intrusion, which means that the teeth are forced into the rock by the weight-on-bit, and pulled through the rock by the rotary action. For this reason, the cones and teeth of rolling cuttings rock bits are made from specially, case hardened steel.
One advantage of a rolling cutter bits is the three bearing design located around the journal of the bit. Heel bearings are roller bearings, which carry most of the load and receive most of the wear. Middle bearings are ball bearings, which hold the cone on the journal and resist thrust in either direction. The nose bearing consists of a special case hardened bushing pressed into the nose of the cone and a male piece, hard faced with a special material, to resist seizure and wear.
Although rock bits have been continually improved upon over the years, three developments remains outstanding:
(1) the change in water course design and the development of the “jet” bit,
(2) the introduction of the tungsten carbide insert cutting structure, and
(3) the development of sealed journal bearings.