Thermal Lance Project

Here are a few images and links related to a project the “Fuckin Jerks” put together for Burning Man 2006: the Thermic Zombie Lance of Power. We showed it off at the 2006 Decompression in San Francisco as well.

All photos are taken from other peoples photosets: beckiesworld, planet wally

A brief explanation: a thermal lance is a cutting tool that utilizes ignited iron fed with a stream of pressurized oxygen. A steel tube packed with steel rod (and aluminum or magnesium) is connected to a valved handle assembly fed by an oxygen line and tank. Wikipedia link, an MSDS sheet pdf.

An intensely hot (6k – 10 k degrees Fahrenheit) oxy/steel fueled jet is created at the tip. Lances and lance setups are available commercially but we made our own from scratch. We have bored and cut through a variety of stuff including granite, concrete, steel I beams, quartz heavy sandstone, a cast iron fire hydrant, etc.

Making lava from atop a ladder

Making Lava

lance aftermath
Glowing aftermath

Dr. Bastard hard at work

Dr Bastard making sweet havoc

 

 

 

Some guy torching a fire hydrant
Some guy
Oh the irony
hydrant on fiyaah!


14 Responses to “Thermal Lance Project”

  1. hey there..
    found your website by looking for a fellow named Phil Jacobson..he was in Anartica last year and i read over some of his entry’s..im curious on iffin you know how i may get a hold of him..his e-mail link is no longer alive.
    thanks in advance for any info. you may be privy too.
    p.s.
    you look like you hava good time also.
    me 2.
    best,
    rose csorba

  2. Hi guys nice pics, always lookin for pics of lances in action, the one used here was it packed with steel and aluminium? cause I made a few small ones 1/4″dia X 20″ using both mild steel and al, the one with steel was nice but the one with al and Fe crapped out ,too unstable unless I keep it aimed at the material and form a puddle but if I move it to cut elsewhere, it extiguishes? too much poping,,so what am I doing wrong? should I be using more than 40 psi?

    Another question I have is about the temps reached, I hear anywhere from 3000 to 4000 deg C and even a company that claims 10 000 deg F? well how can you have all these diffrent temps from a rod of simmilar design and fuel wires? I mean lets just say its all iron well some say that it makes between 2200 to 3000 deg C ?? well is the temp jumping around or is it a specific number between the 2000 and 3000? if its one number than why diffrent claims from a simillar design? if it is jumping then it must be the oxy pressure that is playing a role right??..please explain.

    I love trying to see if there is anything I cant cut with them,,my most impressive was brick, rock although it didint go through just made a small crater with one rod too bad,,and finally tungsten,,is there a special way to maneuver the rod for boring rocks?.

    My finall question is about other materials used to increase heat with better stability than aluminium,,have you ever heard of titanium or tungsten used as fuel wires? or anything else that may have a high adiabatic temperature? do you guys know what special wire alloy they use in BROCO rods?

    well thanks for your time hope to hear from you and please make more pics.

    ziad

  3. There is a company called Broco, it and many others claim that the lance reaches temp of 10,000 deg F now this may be possible if there are certain alloys used in the lance other than just steel rods, such alloys may be aluminium or magnesium, yet non of the rods used in Broco have these???? also aluminium is unstable i tried making a small lance using 4 steel wires and one aluminium, the damn thing just kept on popping and would extinguish if i didint keep the buisness end in the molten metal work. So is it true that i can reach 10000 deg F if i use this combination? and if so should i increase the steel wires or at least put the aluminium wire in the center surrounded by the steel wires in order to stabilise the reaction? perhaps this pattern is better? Thanks I hope to hear from you guys because no one seems to know or they want to keep there recipie a secret.

    • Hey Ziad,

      Yes. Put the aluminum in the center. It’s a central combustion locus that we’re after to achieve higher heats.

      Remember: there are a thousand recipes of aluminum out there as well as thousands of steels. Here is an msds with some alloy and ratio specs:

      http://www.krl.com.au/lancemsds.pdf

      Remember that everything internal has to be completely greaseless and perfectly clean. Oils and greases tend to detonate in an environment of pure pressurized oxygen.

      There are a lot of different factors affecting the viability of the combustion, the temp, andthe effectiveness of a lance; O2 flow, pattern of flow, temp of flow, maintaining optimal ratios of all the agents and conditions in an incredibly energetic and wild little environment up there in the tip … — So you have to play around a bit to hit that optimum window (as well as prep well and start with clean, correct, quality materials.)

      And here’s a scientific paper with some experimenting with lances to help you get a handle on what is going on:

      http://files.aws.org/wj/supplement/10-2004-WANG-s.pdf

  4. Hi

    Thank you for the reply, yes it seems logical for me to make a pattern where the Al would be at the center thanks for confirming it, I have already seen the sites of the MSDS as well as the scientific paper long ago as you can tell I am a thermic lance research junky lol. I also think that what you said about diffrent factors affecting lance performance is true heck even better oxygen purities may be of influence as well hmmm I wonder if I used ozone or O3 what would happen? perhaps a more fierce reaction, also its probably these factors that leaves companies to state diffrent temperatures reached, I wonder if oxygen pressure plays any role into the temperature as well?. But can you guys confirm the 10,000 deg F that some companies state? are they using something other that Al maybe a special steel or iron alloy? because they told me they dont use Al anymore only steel?.I have also made a discovery of my own that I am very proud of guys, as you know a lance needs to be started with either an oxyfuel outfit or electrical resisitance say from a 12V car battery and leads all very heavy and costly equipment to invest in or have to carry arround, now I have tried lighting my mini lances with your store bought propane torch wich only uses a flame tip that mixes propane and air, now you think that should work and if it does it would be easy to have to carry that with you since its quite light but it doesint work, it is not hot enough even after the tip of the lance turns red hot once you open the oxy it simply cools of and turns black due to oxydation, so far to contrary belief you can not light a lance with a small propane torch, would be very handy if you could right,,,well thats where my invention or discovery comes in, I use a special element that is enbeded in the tip of the lance that can easly be lit even by a small mini butane torch , and once its lit you simply turn on the O2 and it readly oxidizes the element and initiates the reaction, now this element is easy to get and very cost effective, I even had the owner of The Australian Thermic lance company intrested you know the same company where you got that MSDS from. I can probably light larger lances with it too although I never tried. One last thing, I know the mini lances were invented in 1978(my birth year)for underwater work of oil rigs, but the large lances existed long before that in fact I believe it was discovered in the 1930’s in france and was largely used after the war for cutting down concrete bunkers and submarine dens but who actually invented it? I just cant seem to find a name of anyone that the idea was attributed to?

    Thanks again for allowing me to post such a long letter lol

    Ziad

  5. Hi

    Thank you for the reply I have posted a new reply on the site but I wana make this a short letter since I have a few questions for you, hope you can anser em for me by email here goes,,,

    1 Does oxygen pressure play any role in increasing temperature? I know it plays a role in work productivity.

    2 do you think 10,000 deg F is posssible and if so what would you think the recipie is?.

    3 Iron and oxygen reaction was discovered I think by some swedish scientits called L’Avoisier, and then I think someone realised that they can use a hollow iron pipe with a combination of oxyaccetelyn set, they heat up the work with the set then another guy comes in with pipe and makes the cut by blowing oxygen from the lance onto the work, this process is called oxygen lance cutting ( LOC by AWS abbreveation) now I think someone else may have realised the packed lance wich sustains its own reaction because the pipe is packed with steel rods and this is the true EXOTHERMIC LANCE but do you guys know the actual historical events or who discovered it? it seems like no matter how I reaserch on the net, there is nothing out there about it also the AWS never gave a standard abbreveation for the thermic lance process.

    thank you I hope you guys dont mind if I have any further questions for you down the road.

    Sincerely

    Ziad

  6. Enjoy…, knowing we’ve been right all along!
    djRN

    http://www.mediafuturist.com/2009/11/brilliant-video-douglas-rushkoff.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Mediafuturist+%28MediaFuturist+Gerd+Leonhard%27s+Blog+on+The+Future+of+Media%29#googtrans/fr/en

  7. If untrained and not properly ventilated how dangerous can this be to your health?

  8. HI THANKS FOR THAT ADVICE BUT I AM QUITE DISAPPOINTED LATELY AS YOU KNOW I HAVE BEEN EXPERIMENTING WITH MY OWN LANCE DESIGNS AND I AM HAVING PROBLEMS KEEPING THEM LIT AND FROM BLOWING OUT,,

    I HAVE TRIED WITH A LANCE 1/4” OD X 24” WITH 5 X 1/16” RG 45 OR 60 STEEL WIRES IN A RADIAL PATTERN USING 20 TO 30 PSI O2, THIS DESIGN AND PROCESS SOMETIMES WORKS BUT MOSTLY GIVES ME A HARD TIME STAYING LIT, ITS JUST BLOWS OUT WHILE IM CUTTING IT ALSO DONT LAST LONG ENOUGH TO CUT TROUGH 1′ X 1.75” BAR,,

    ANOTHER DESIGN I TRIED LATELY IS A 1/8 STEEL PIPE 2.5′ LONG WITH 5 3/32” RG45 WIRES IN A RADIAL PATTERN WITH A CENTRAL 1/16” ALUMINUM 5356 WIRE,,WITH 30 PSI I TOUGHT SINCE THE RATIO OF IRON IS MUCH GREATER THAN ALUMINUM IT WOULD WORK NICELY BUT AGAIN IT KEPT MAKING POPPING NOISES AND AFTER TRYING TO CUT IT JUST BLEW OUT????

    I HAVE TRIED WITH SAME DESIGN ONLY STEEL WIRES AND FINALLY AFTER SEVERAL TRIES GOT IT WORKING LONG ENOUGH TO MAKE AN UNFINISHED CUT,,ALSO I TRIED WITH SEVERAL 1/16 STEEL WIRES IN THE 1/8 PIPE AND SAME RESULTS.

    GUYS WHAT AM I DOING WRONG HERE? HOW COME OTHER COMPANIES OR PPL DONT SEEM TO HAVE SUCH PROBLEMS? ALSO I AM NOT ABLE TO LIGHT A LANCE USING A AIR PROPANE MIX OR AIR BUTANE MIX TYPE TORCH ,,ITS JUST NOT HOT ENOUGH TO GET TIP TO IGNITION TEMP, AND I DONT HAVE A BATTERY FOR SCRATCH STARTING, INSTEAD I FIGURED OUT A SPECIAL ELEMENT THAT I INSERT IN THE TIP OF THE LANCE WHICH ONCE HEATED WITH THE TORCH READILY OXIDIZES AND STARTS THE REACTION BUT THIS METHOD MAY BE THE PROBLEM CAUSE I AM THINKING THAT MAYBE THE TIP IS NOT EQUALLY HEATED WHEN THE REACTION STARTS ,,PERHAPS I NEED TO MAKE SURE THERE IS AT LEAST A GOOD 1 TO 2 INCH OF THE TIP STUB BE RED HOT WHILE THE LANCE IS OPERATING.

    IS THIS CORRECT? COULD IT BE WHY THE LANCE IS EXTINGUISHING CAUSE THE TIP IS NOT EQUALLY HEATED OR IS NOT BURNING EVENLY? BUT THEN I SEE PPL ABLE TO GET IT GOING FROM SIMPLE SPARKS FROM A 12V BATTERY? ALSO I NOTICED THE LANCES USED IN COMMERCIAL PRODUCTS HAVE A THINNER TUBE WALL VERSUS THE DIAMETER OF INTERNAL WIRES,,IN ALL MY DESIGNS THE TUBE OR PIPE WALL THICKNESS IS EQUAL TO OR GREATER THAN THE WIRES DIAMETER.

    GUYS PLEASE HELP ME OUT WITH THIS WHAT AM I DOING WRONG WHY CANT I GET ANY OF THESE LANCES TO WORK CONTINUALLY LIKE MOST LANCES I SEE?. EVERY TIME I TRY I AM PISSED OFF OF THE RESULTS.

    PS: I WANT TO RIG UP SOMETHING THAT WILL ALLOW ME TO GET 12V FROM MY WALL POWER ,SO BASICALLY SOME SORT OF TRANSFORMER AND RECTIFIER SO I CAN PLUG IT IN MY WALL AND GET THE NEEDED 12V TO MAKE MY LIFE EASIER IS THIS POSSIBLE? CAN U ADVISE ME WHAT I NEED TO GET FOR SUCH RIGUP? CAUSE ITS EASIER THAN HAVING TO GET THOSE ELEMENTS EVERY TIME AND HAVING TO CLEAN OR CUT OFF THE TIP OF THE LANCE IN ORDER TO INSERT AND CRIMP ONE OF THE ELEMENTS EVERY FUCKING TIME MY LANCE GOES OUT.

    THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME GUYS

    ZIAD

    • Short of having my hands on your setup in front of me, I can only give you notes on what stood out to me the most in your descriptions. Sooo….

      1. Your pipe diameters are quite small.
      Even the small off-the-shelf portable thermal lance setup made by Borco uses a 1/2″ nominal dia. pip that is 36 to 48″ long. Beef it up to a 1/2″ black gas pipe (scrubberd and stripped inside and out of absolutely ALL coatings, dirt and grease!). it has a good wall thickness as well to contribute and to contain the thermal locus.

      2. Don’t mess with aluminum yet.
      Get a feefor a working, basic steel setup first. Plus, when you say “aluminum” you realize there are literally hundreds of different alloy combinations or “families” of different aluminums, right?

      3. The tip is likely extinguishing due to the comressed O2 blowing out the ignition locus and also quite possibly driving down the temperature generally as well (the gas is quite cold as you let it out under pressure).

      4. When you say “30 psi” is that the outlet pressure at the regulator or a reading taken from a gauge just behind the valve/trigger?

      – Also, FLOW as opppsed to just psi is quite important.

      – The ratio of thecumulative cross sectional area of the O2 passages to the cross sectional area of the fuel (rod + wall) solids is important. We found that from between a 1:7 to a 1:12 ratio works well with our setup.
      YMMV.

      5.
      – Try mild A35 steel rod at 1/8″ or 5/32″ da. with 5′ of 1/2″ gas pipe.

      -Try using an oxy-acetylene torch rig to cherry up the end esp. the center nicely then let her rip.

      – Let someone else adjust the gas for you (you can just flash a thumb up or down to them as needed to adjust the psi ) while you play with the valve trigger and concentrate on modulating the flow and babysitting the tip’s ignition.

      good luck!
      And Safety Safety Safety!!!!

  9. I’m looking to to cut granite rock in a trench…… im doing storm sewer instalation. The excavation is almost 20 ft deep and I have 700 linear feet to go the trench is 12 ft wide. It is a whole lot of rock

    I see that the product you use burns metal in a bar and forced air to remove metled debris. i have seen a couple of pics where a torch was being used in a mining application to cut through granite rock (in place) for removal…… in the picI saw the torch didnt use a metal loaded rod……it looked as if the heated fuel was concentrated at the end of a torch head and held over the rock to cut it…… the torch was very long 8-10 ft so that it could cut down into the rock. Has anyone seen this particular tool or heard of this being done…. If so where can i purchase something like that or build it….what materials would be recommended….fuel type rate of oxygen???
    please help….

    i want to cut the rock in rows from above and use my excavator to beat it it and snap it for removal… currently im renting a well drilling machine to honeycomb the rock then a 12000 lb jack hammer on the end of another excavator to hammer it away…… its quite expensive…. if cutting the rock will be cheaper/ faster and or require less equipment then thats the route i want to take. at this rate I am only installing 3 pieces of pipe every 5 working days.

    any giudance? suggestions?

  10. I have made a 3/8 ID bore lance with 5 x 1/8 steel wires internally in a radial pattern as well as a 1/16 Al wire placed in the centre of this pattern , you would think the ratio of iron to aluminium would be perfect but the flame kept popping out of control thanks to the Al wire, the only way to keep it working was to keep it aimed in the works . So I ask you guys how is it possible to design any lances that use Al or other wires in order to increase heat output without having these problems? seems like I need to use maybe a 1/5″ tube now? I think the pro’s don’t make them like this rather they have special alloyed wires that may contain MAG or Al.

  11. sorry i made a few mistakes in the dimensions i gave you, its actually a 3/8″OD with 5×3/32″ steel wires and one 1/16″ Al central wire.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: