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Explorations in Data Destruction 6: Oil Well Perforators

Courtesy of a neighboring bomb squad, Zoz gets the chance to play around with oil well perforators by utilizing them in his staged data demolition experiments.

Another tool to try

Another tool to try

Alright, moving on, the bomb squad said to us “Oh, by the way, we have hundreds of these oil well perforators that we want to get rid of. Would you like a few?” These are, like, downhole perforators (see right-hand image). So, you know, they drill the well and they stick a pipe down it, and then when it’s all done they put a pipe with these things on it to basically punch little holes through that pipe and through the concrete surrounding the pipe, and let the oil in so that they can suck it up, right? So they are designed to go through steel and a foot or so of concrete. To paraphrase Ghostbusters, if the bomb squad asks you if you want to be friends and share their stuff, you say yes.

These are set off with det cords. They are full of a very fast high explosive, maybe HMX, and there’s just a little bit of foil at the top to let the shockwave through. And then you can see here the classic shaped charge. So you got your conical cavity lined with copper, and this particular one that I’m pointing to there has a standoff, so everything is right for it to cut through things.

Two oil well perforators pointing up

The amazing still frame

The amazing still frame

Here’s the shot we did with two perforators pointing up (watch video above), just to get rid of them at the end of the day actually. But I want to draw your attention to a still frame from that (see right-hand image). You could never get this shot if you tried, like, a thousand times, at 30 frames per second, right? These are the jets from the perforators. That’s the blasting cap. The shockwave has gone through the det cord, set off the shaped charges, and it hasn’t had time yet to break through just the plastic shell of that det cord. This is a miracle still frame.

Perforator on the edge of HDD

The new setup

The new setup

Here’s how we set it up on the edge of the drive (see right-hand image) to see how much we can cut through. Here’s the shot (watch video above). There’s also a B camera shot. You can see a chunk of the drive go flying off top left.
Damage to the casing

Damage to the casing

There you can see how it just, basically, cut straight through the cast aluminum casing (see left-hand image). Here are the platters (see right-hand image below). There’s all the bits we could find.
The platters

The platters

Some of it went in the water. But wait a second, down the bottom right – what is that?!

Side effect of the explosion

Side effect of the explosion

That is where the drive was sitting (see left-hand image). That’s a hole through the quarter-inch steel plate underneath the drive (see right-hand image).
Hole in the steel plate

Hole in the steel plate

That’s the exit hole on the other side (see left-hand image below).
Exit hole

Exit hole

That’s the hole it dug in the ground (see right-hand image below). And that’s the piece of wire we used to measure the hole: 15 inches after going through the
Hole in the ground

Hole in the ground

drive and steel plate. Yikes!

Another idea

Another idea

So the bomb squad was interested in that. The next time they brought the smaller version of the oil well perforators (see left-hand image). Once again, a Seagate drive. You will remember these 1.5 terabyte Seagates if you do anything with disk drives, because this is when the Asian tsunami happened and quality control went through the floor because all the facilities weren’t working.
Two perforators at 90 degrees

Two perforators at 90 degrees

And so every single one of these Seagate drives failed, if you look at the statistics.

This time we are going to do two perforators coming in at 90 degree angles (see right-hand image) and see what kind of results we get there. And this time we’re lying the drive down. This time we brought the FS700 so that we could shoot at 960 fps (watch video below). You see a bunch of drive exiting to the top of the screen. You get more of an impression of that on the wide shot from the GoPro. So they’re out of the ballpark.

A shot with two perforators at 90 degrees

Not too many pieces found

Not too many pieces found

We actually didn’t find enough pieces of that drive to really draw too many conclusions about it. We found this much (see right-hand image), and you can see that the drive case just very nicely quartered like that.
A different guinea pig

A different guinea pig

But we didn’t find the platters, so we had to do the shot again.

We were all out of 1.5 terabyte Seagates, so we used this one (see left-hand image). I’m not removing a label from this drive, but I think I’m going to void its warranty anyway. And this time we put the steel plate on top to just try and keep the fragments to where we could find them (watch video below). The GoPro shot is nice of this one. Just a little graceful leisurely arc.

Trying to keep HDD fragments from flying away

Remainder of the case

Remainder of the case

So there’s what we found of that drive in terms of the case (see left-hand image).
Platters after the fact

Platters after the fact

It also did a really nice job going through to the center spindle. And there are the platters (see right-hand image). So we cut through the platters but not through the spindle itself. I feel like we could probably tune these shaped charges to go just through the hard disk and no further.
 

Read previous: Explorations in Data Destruction 5: The Munroe Effect

Read next: Explorations in Data Destruction 7: Diamond Charge and Blast Suppression

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