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Diamond is the hardest material known. This hardness gives it superior properties for cutting any other material. Polycrystalline Diamond Compact (PDC) is extremely important to drilling, because it aggregates tiny, inexpensive, manmade diamonds into relatively large, intergrown masses of randomly oriented crystals that can be formed into useful shapes called diamond tables. Diamond tables are the part of a cutter that contacts a formation. Besides their hardness, PDC diamond tables have an essential characteristic for drill-bit cutters: They efficiently bond with tungsten carbide materials that can be brazed (attached) to bit bodies. Diamonds, by themselves, will not bond together, nor can they be attached by brazing.
Steel Body Advantage
Steel is capable of withstanding high impact loads, but is relatively soft and, without protective features, would quickly fail by abrasion and erosion. Quality steels are essentially homogeneous with structural limits that rarely surprise their users. This makes it possible for steel-body PDC bits to be relatively larger than their counterparts the matrix bits and to incorporate greater height into features such as blades.
The strength and ductility of steel give steel-bit bodies’ high resistance to impact loading. Steel bodies are considerably stronger than matrix bodies. Because of steel material capabilities, complex bit profiles and hydraulic designs are possible and relatively easy to construct on a multi-axis, computer-numerically-controlled milling machine. A beneficial feature of steel bits is that they can easily be rebuilt a number of times because worn or damaged cutters can be replaced rather easily. This is a particular advantage for operators in low-cost drilling environments.