Research and Development

Research and Development


Research and Development at US Synthetic

A dedicated group of experienced scientists, engineers, and technicians drives US Synthetic’s efforts to perfect and enhance our existing diamond solutions—and develop innovative new technology and designs for the future.

Three accomplished scientists with more than 50 years of combined diamond research experience lead the US Synthetic research and development efforts. A separate team of application engineers works directly with customers to develop custom diamond solutions that make the best possible use of the latest technology. These engineers have years of experience with PDC design and working with bit companies. A staff of experienced technicians constantly evaluates and tests new products in the laboratory, so the product is tested and ready for application in the field.

All of these experienced professionals work in state-of-the-art research and testing facilities. This includes a full metallurgical lab, an advanced computer-aided design center, and a sophisticated testing lab. These facilities allow our scientists and engineers to:

  • Create and optimize new cutter designs using the latest solid modeling software.
  • Model and analyze the thermal and mechanical performance of PDC cutters under simulated drilling conditions using finite element analysis tools.
  • Quickly build prototype cutters in a dedicated R&D environment.
  • Evaluate cutters using scanning acoustic microscopy (C-SAM), optical and scanning electron microscopy, and metallurgical analysis.
  • Monitor and improve cutter performance with abrasion, impact resistance, and vertical turret lathe (VTL) testing.

At US Synthetic, all of these advanced research, development, and testing capabilities come together to produce the most advanced, innovative, and effective PDCs in the world.

High-Pressure High-Temperature Technology

Diamond sintering requires the application of extreme heat and pressure. Typically, diamond is sintered at a temperature of around 1400°C (2550°F). At room pressure, these extreme temperatures would cause the diamond to revert to graphite. Maintaining extremely high pressure during the sintering process allows the diamond to remain in its natural form (see figure). This typically requires pressures of around 60 kbar (nearly 1,000,000 psi)—the equivalent of a 240 km (160 mile) high column of granite.

To achieve these extremely high temperatures and pressures simultaneously, US Synthetic uses proprietary cubic press technology. The cubic press consists of six large pistons, each of which is capable of supplying several thousand tons of force. Each piston pushes on a small tungsten carbide anvil, which in turn compresses a cubic pressure cell that contains the raw materials (carbide and diamond crystals). As soon as the cubic press reaches the desired pressure, electric current flows through a resistance heater embedded in the pressure cell to generate the required high temperatures. These conditions are maintained long enough to ensure complete diamond-to-diamond bonding of the individual crystals.

PDC Drilling Applications

PDCs were first introduced decades ago as a replacement for natural diamonds. These early cutters lacked toughness, were generally limited to the softest drilling applications, and required very specialized bit designs and carefully controlled drilling parameters. Over the years, aggressive innovation and improvements to the process have steadily increased the durability, impact resistance and abrasion resistance of PDCs.

Today’s PDCs are effective in shale, limestone, and sandstone formations. Over time, the PDC-drillable zone will continue to grow and expand (see figure). For example, US Synthetic frequently cuts crystalline rocks for extended periods in a laboratory environment—and is working hard to extend these capabilities to an operating environment.

Today, PDC enhanced bits provide the fastest, most durable and most cost-effective drilling.

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Technical papers

Seven Steps to Reducing Failure and Cycle Time

The manufacturing team was looking for a way to reduce the time required to make the cutters. The reason for the cutter failures needed to be determined of frequency and manufacturing time were to be reduced.

The Role of Diamond Surface and Intrinsic Contaminates on Sintering of Polycrystalline Diamond Compacts (PDC)

High pressure/high-temperature sintering of polycrystalline diamond compacts (PDC) is sensitive to impurities in the diamond feedstock, both surface and intrinsic.

Effects of Design and Processing Parameters on Performance of PDC Drag Cutters for Hard-Rock Drilling

Sandia National Laboratories and U S Synthetic Corporation have jointly conducted a multifaceted, baseline experimental study to support the development of improved drag cutters for advanced drill bits.

Polycrystalline Diamond Compact (PDC) Design Methodology Utilizing Strain Energy Capacity

PDC bits have had limited success at drilling high compressive strength and abrasive rock formations. One of the limitations to hard rock drilling is the propensity of the cutters to fracture.