The Varel nozzle
Varel high-precision nozzles are used to inject fluid across fixed cutter bits. These small products are subject to harsh underground hard-rock drilling and extreme hydraulic conditions – calling for hard materials and excellent wear resistance. Cue 3D printed cemented carbide.
The nozzle’s sophisticated design optimizes fluid flow, resulting in more efficient cooling and cleaning. This enables faster cutting, swifter evacuation of drill cuttings, and optimized hydraulic energy usage. Stability, efficiency, durability and steerability are essential for these components and the hydraulic capabilities is an enabler to achieve that. Nozzles might be small in size, but when it all comes down to the details – materials truly matter.
Hard materials tend to be brittle, but cemented carbide combines hardness and toughness, which makes for a product that is both wear resistant and long lasting
“3D printed cemented carbide, or tungsten carbide, is an excellent choice for applications such as nozzles. Hard materials tend to be brittle, but cemented carbide combines hardness and toughness, which makes for a product that is both wear resistant and long lasting”, says Anders Ohlsson, Lead Product Manager at Sandvik Additive Manufacturing. “With additive manufacturing comes freedom of design, meaning you can have all the material benefits in virtually any shape or form. The sky is really the limit.”
Advantages in abundance
With freedom of design comes flexibility and optimization – an opportunity to make the most out of each part. However, that is just one of the countless advantages that additive manufacturing has to offer. Additive manufacturing also allows for on-demand production, meaning spare parts can be delivered just on time – saving up to 70% in lead times.
With additive manufacturing we can receive parts faster and thereby significantly reduce our inventory
“Today the nozzles are manufactured with traditional, machining methods, which is a long process with long lead times. For Varel it means that we need to keep a large inventory to be able to serve our customers. With additive manufacturing we can receive parts faster and thereby significantly reduce our inventory,” says Bruno Cuillier, Global Product Engineering Director at Varel.
Printable precision threads – a key challenge
Having been one of the early pioneers in cemented carbide back in the 1930s, Sandvik has spent decades gaining profound experience and expertise in the field – essential to the development of our patented process for 3D printing cemented carbide.
"Binder jetting is the additive manufacturing technology of choice when it comes to cemented carbide because the process – after the printing – is analogous to the traditional manufacturing of cemented carbide, which we have nearly 100 years’ experience of at Sandvik”, says Magnus Boström, Senior R&D Engineer Binder Jetting. “Our patented process allows us to optimize the powder for additive manufacturing, while maintaining packing rates largely equivalent to those seen in traditional cemented carbide production”, he continues.
Our patented process allows us to optimize the powder for additive manufacturing, while maintaining packing rates largely equivalent to those seen in traditional cemented carbide production
But printing is just one of the seven steps you need to master in order to succeed in industrializing additive manufacturing – as stated in Sandvik’s Plan it, Print it, Perfect it approach. One of the key challenges in this development project was to build parts that meet the precision requirements, since deformations tend to occur in the subsequent sintering process of cemented carbide components. By optimizing the powder through a carefully engineered process, Sandvik’s team of material- and AM experts managed to overcome this challenge – and are now ready to leverage this success.
“I am really thrilled about the new possibilities for innovation that 3D printing in cemented carbide enables”, says Anders Ohlsson. “Problems that you’ve been trying to solve within the industries for decades we can all of a sudden solve within a matter of weeks, producing these parts. It’s truly an exciting future for an engineer to work within this field.”