Notable Drilling Industry Inventor Carl Back Dies at 91
“He just had a mind that would never quit when it came to the design of drilling rigs,” says Mark Laibe, chairman of Laibe Corporation, remembering Carl Back, who passed away on June 9 at age 91. “He was brilliant and nobody will dispute that. The leaders in the drilling industry all recognize Carl Back as the best, really.”
Back was a design engineer whose name holds more than 20 patents for equipment related to the drilling industry.
His work as an engineer started in the military, when he was placed in a drafting program through the GI Bill following WWII. During that time, he quickly expanded his skillset from drafting to mechanical engineering work.
After serving, he worked as a well driller for his family’s business and eventually accepted a position with Cyclone Drill Company in Ohio as an engineer. After joining the drilling rig manufacturer’s team, his concepts, including pump hoists, water well drilling rigs, blasthole drills and exploration drilling rigs, were included in the product lineup. One of his many notable creations was the Cyclone TH60, which became the Ingersoll Rand TH60 when Cyclone was acquired and is now the Atlas Copco TH60.
After Back retired from Ingersoll Rand, Laibe says he was determined to make him a part of the Laibe Corp. team. Laibe had come to know Back because Back was good friends with his late father. “He and my father encouraged me that I should be building drilling rigs,” Laibe says. “He was just a terrific man and meant the world to me, kind of like a second father.”
Laibe convinced Back to do design work for Laibe Corporation. At the time, in the ’80s, Laibe says he wasn’t sure how he was going to start Versa-Drill, but with Back’s brain power behind the business, things took off. Laibe says Back came up with Versa-Drill features including the hydraulic drilling rig feed system that does not include chains, cables or sprockets.
“He was just that good and so creative and inventive that he just is the one that helped me so much to build Versa-Drill. He designed our first original rig and then the V-2000, which is called the 2080 today, and all along the way came up with wonderful inventions that we could add to our drilling rigs to enhance our equipment,” Laibe says.
Back was more than just an engineer, he was a terrific salesman. That’s what Laibe’s father used to say and Laibe says he couldn’t agree more. Because of Back’s ability to explain how equipment worked, he made it easy to complete sales.
“[My father] would go out to visit a customer and, say, they’d go to have dinner or go to the bar. All of a sudden, Carl’s pulling out a napkin and he’s designing a rig for them. … He’d just be able to win them over,” Laibe says.
Back’s inventions serve as great contributions to the wider drilling industry, Laibe says, and he really seemed to enjoy coming up with them. “He was the type to get up in the middle of the night and sit at his drafting table and spend two days there, literally.”
Design was not work to him, according to his daughter, Jennifer Lehman; it was something he loved to do and kept doing right until the end.
“I was there two weeks before he died and he was still creating and inventing,” Laibe says. In addition to his inventions, Back was involved in advising organizations such as the World Council of Churches, UNICEF and the World Bank on water well drilling in developing countries. Memorials may be made to Bridge Home Health and Hospice in his memory. Online condolences may be shared with his family via www.coldrencrates.com.