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Seeking Ways to Make Better Diamonds by Tending to the Tiniest Details

Topics: R&D
Photo courtesy of National Oilwell Varco.
The small cube in the middle is filled with tungsten carbide topped with diamond powder that are fused using intense pressure and heat generated by the arms of a tungsten carbide anvil to form a cylindrical cutter topped by a thin layer of polycrystalline diamond compact.

Competition among drill-bit makers can be measured by the performance of a thin layer of industrial diamond. It is both the cutting edge of the tools, as well as the technology race among competitors seeking a competitive edge. The thumb-size cylinders made of tungsten carbide topped with a thin layer of industrial diamond are mounted in pockets in the heavy metal heads of fixed cutter bits, which have become a key product line.

The ability of these fixed cutters to efficiently grind through rock has quickly made diamond drill bits the dominant bit design, representing 80% of the footage drilled worldwide last year. That represents a rapid shift in buyer preferences in a market where bits using roller cones were once as dominant. That allowed Schlumberger’s Smith Bits to grab the largest share of a dynamic market where rivals such as Baker Hughes, National Oilwell Varco (NOV), and Halliburton see opportunities to move ahead if they can find new ways to significantly increase cutter performance.

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Seeking Ways to Make Better Diamonds by Tending to the Tiniest Details

Stephen Rassenfoss, JPT Emerging Technology Senior Editor

01 June 2014

Volume: 66 | Issue: 6

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