MK-2 Rod Feeder (patent pending): The independent rod handling system that eliminates all hands-on steel operations for diamond drilling

January 23, 2022

by Quentin Dulake, Global Sales Executive at Exploration Drill Masters Chile S.A.

MK-2 Rod Feeder

Exploration Drill Masters (EDM) MK-2 Rod Feeder is the latest release in rod handling technology for surface diamond drilling. The MK-2 follows on from the original MK-1 Rod Feeder, which has been immensely popular with well over 120 units sold since its release five years ago. 

While the MK-1 unit greatly reduced manual handling, the MK-2 Rod Feeder eliminates it completely and provides other crucial benefits for the overall management of the drill string, productivity and safety, including a new five-axis gripper system that allows rods to be added while drilling, hands-free. 

The unit, which is designed to work with all top drive rigs with a main haul winch and a wide range of chuck drive rigs, underwent extensive field testing on various rigs prior to its release in April 2021. These included UDR1200/DE880, DE710, LF90, LF230 and of course EDM’s own rigs. 

Nigel Smith, EDM’s General Manager, comments on the design ethos behind the MK-2: ‘As a manufacturer, we feel a huge responsibility to continue to develop innovative solutions that keep drill crews safe, but it is important to make sure this technology is accessible to everyone, regardless of their machines. The MK-2 Rod Feeder is a “plug and play” instant safety solution. It’s compatible with multiple drill rigs meaning that drilling contractors can bring their existing fleet up to the highest standards of safety very quickly, keeping their drill crews safe and offering their clients a safer service without having to invest in new machines.’ 

The MK-2 Rod Feeder has been designed with a user-friendly control system and in a way that is simple to service and maintain in the field, allowing all drilling contractors to transition to hands-free diamond drilling as seamlessly as possible. 


  • Automated Plug Spinner removing all hands-on-steel intervention when coupling/uncoupling drill rods.
  • Five-axis Rod Gripper for feeding rods into the mast while drilling.
  • Can work with all top drive rigs with a main winch and selected chuck drive machines.
  • Compatible with most machines with little or no modification required.
  • Will safely pull/run rods in both 6 m (20 ft) and 9 m (30 ft) lengths.
  • Works on all mast angles from 45ᵒ-90ᵒ.
  • Removes manual handling of rods, barrel assemblies and core tubes.
  • Onboard storage of up to 2000 m (6000 ft) N+ pipe or equivalent in other sizes.
  • Positioning tracks for easy setup behind the rig on drill pads with limited space.
  • Rod shuffler with magnetic jaws for rod shuffling/loading/unloading rods, barrels and core tubes.
  • Ability to load rods from either side of Rod Feeder with the skewing rod shuffler for when extra rods are required.
  • Fits into a 40 ft (≈ 12.2 m) high cube container for international shipping.
  • Double Center Smart Tray Assembly with 3 m (10 ft) telescopic action making it compatible to any mast geometry. Works in unison with roller, spinner jaws and shuffler to manage overall rod and tube storage.
  • Tethered Control console allowing the operator to work from a safe zone clear of the line of fire.
  • Multiple cameras allowing safe and seamless remote operation.
  • Optional Safety Lockouts with unique and integrated key codes that are nearly impossible to circumvent.

Control Console 

MK-2 Rod Feeder's Control Console
MK-2 Rod Feeder’s Control Console

All functions/operations for the MK-2 Rod Feeder are carried out from the control console at a safe distance. Here, simple joystick commands are used to carry out the long and tedious series of consecutive maneuvers, eliminating any hands-on intervention in the rod handling process. The Feeder Arm, Plug Spinner, Dual Center Smart Tray, Rod Shuffler, and five-axis Rod Gripper are all managed from this console allowing the user to store, organize, load, unload and feed drill pipe and casing in 3 m (10 ft), 6 m (20 ft) and 9 m (30 ft) lengths. This completely removes any requirement for a person in the danger zone/ line of fire. 

The control system interface includes a large display screen that allows the user to switch between multiple screens to control each function with ease. It features multiple camera views of the Rod Shuffler magnets to aid with aligning the rods, and another of the Center Smart Tray. There is also a System Diagnostics Screen for troubleshooting and checking various parameters of the unit from the safety of the console. 

Automated Plug Spinner 

The Plug Spinner receives, presents, connects and disconnects the haul plug. After receiving the haul plug in a vertical position, the spinner clamps it, rotates 180°, flips it up into a horizontal position and then moves the pulling plug bull nose into the rod waiting in the Center Smart Tray. It then spins the pulling plug and feeds the pulling plug adaptor, and then releases the alignment rollers. This complete series of maneuvers is split into two, one with the joystick and the other with the push of a button, making it a very simple sequence for running in and out with rods all day. The Plug Spinner has been carefully designed so that there is no cross-threading or damage to the threads. 

Rod Shuffler 

The onboard Rod Shuffler is mounted on a gantry system at the rear of the Rod Feeder and has multiple functions including handling the rods/core tube to/from the center smart tray and loading/unloading of the rods from any side of the sloop. With a reach of 1.6 m (≈ 5.25 ft) from either side of the Rod Feeder and 1.5 m (≈ 4.9 ft) of vertical travel, it allows the user to fine tune the positioning of the rods, move the core tube from the center tray to the core station, and to continue to stack rods to the side of the Rod Feeder when the sloop is full. 

MK-2 Rod Feeder configurations 

The MK-2 can be supplied in two different configurations. One has low-profile positioning tracks to aid the positioning of the unit behind the rig on the drill site. This is primarily for drill sites where access to the drill pad is limited. The other has no tracks, which is ideal for larger sites with good access where the Rod Feeder can be positioned behind the drill with the support vehicle. Both configurations have been designed to fit inside a 40 ft (≈ 12.2 m) shipping container and have jack legs that extend up and out allowing them to be easily loaded onto a flatbed truck/trailer for transportation. 

The future
EDM has always strived to deliver innovative safety solutions for the exploration drilling industry and the MK-2 Rod Feeder ticks a lot of the boxes for drilling contractors who are looking for a safe diamond rod handling system that can be integrated into their current fleet anywhere in the world. With multiple units out working already and over 20 more currently in production for Latin America, Australia, and West Africa, EDM have set up a new manufacturing facility solely to produce the MK-2 Rod Feeders in anticipation of the increased demand. 

MK-2 Features Graph

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Issue 18 / 2022