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Publication numberUS20090301788 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 12/136,456
Publication dateDec 10, 2009
Filing dateJun 10, 2008
Priority dateJun 10, 2008
Also published asEP2307659A2, EP2307659A4, WO2009152194A2, WO2009152194A3, WO2009152194A4
Publication number12136456, 136456, US 2009/0301788 A1, US 2009/301788 A1, US 20090301788 A1, US 20090301788A1, US 2009301788 A1, US 2009301788A1, US-A1-20090301788, US-A1-2009301788, US2009/0301788A1, US2009/301788A1, US20090301788 A1, US20090301788A1, US2009301788 A1, US2009301788A1
InventorsJohn H. Stevens, James L. Christie
Original AssigneeStevens John H, Christie James L
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Composite metal, cemented carbide bit construction
US 20090301788 A1
Abstract
A manufacturing method and drill bit having either a preformed steel powder blank or machined steel core and abrasion and erosion resistant material components attached thereon.
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Claims(41)
1. A method of forming a bit body for an earth-boring rotary drill bit, the method comprising:
providing a rotary drill bit body;
providing a green powder component being configured to form a region of a bit body for attachment to the drill bit body;
at least partially sintering the green unitary structure; and
attaching the finally sintered structure to a portion of the rotary drill bit body.
2. The method of claim 1, wherein the component comprises a shell for the rotary drill bit.
3. The method of claim 1, wherein the component comprises a segment for attachment to a blade of the rotary drill bit.
4. The method of claim 1, wherein the drill bit body comprises a first material.
5. The method of claim 4, wherein the first material comprises one of steel or an alloy thereof.
6. The method of claim 4, wherein the green powder component comprises a second material.
7. The method of claim 6, wherein the first green powder component is configured to form a crown region of the bit body comprising:
a plurality of particles comprising a matrix material, the matrix material selected from the group consisting of cobalt-based alloys, iron-based alloys, nickel-based alloys, cobalt and nickel-based alloys, iron and nickel-based alloys, iron and cobalt-based alloys, aluminum-based alloys, copper-based alloys, magnesium-based alloys, and titanium-based alloys; and
a plurality of hard particles selected from the group consisting of diamond, boron carbide, boron nitride, aluminum nitride, and carbides or borides of the group consisting of W, Ti, Mo, Nb, V, Hf, Zr, and Cr.
8. The method of claim 1, wherein providing a plurality of green powder components comprises:
providing a powder mixture; and
isostatically pressing the powder mixture.
9. The method of claim 1, wherein at least partially sintering the green unitary structure comprises:
partially sintering the green unitary structure to form a brown unitary structure;
machining at least one feature in the brown unitary structure; and
sintering the brown unitary structure to a desired final density.
10. A method of forming a bit body for an earth-boring rotary drill bit, the method comprising:
providing a rotary drill bit body;
providing a green powder component configured to form one of a crown region of a rotary drill bit body or a segment for attachment to the rotary drill bit body;
at least partially sintering the green powder component to form a brown component;
assembling the brown component to form a brown unitary structure; and
sintering the brown unitary structure to a final density.
11. The method of claim 10, wherein providing a green powder component comprises:
providing a first green powder component having a first composition.
12. The method of claim 10, wherein sintering the brown unitary structure to a final density comprises subliquidus phase sintering.
13. The method of claim 10, wherein sintering the brown unitary structure to a final density comprises subjecting the brown unitary structure to elevated temperatures in a vacuum furnace.
14. A method of forming an earth-boring rotary drill bit, the method comprising:
providing a bit body substantially formed of a steel composite material having a shank configured for attachment to a drill string;
providing another portion for attachment to the bit body comprising:
providing a powder mixture comprising:
a plurality of hard particles selected from the group consisting of diamond, boron carbide, boron nitride, aluminum nitride, and carbides or borides of the group consisting of W, Ti, Mo, Nb, V, Hf, Zr, and Cr; and
a plurality of particles comprising a matrix material, the matrix material selected from the group consisting of cobalt-based alloys, iron-based alloys, nickel-based alloys, cobalt and nickel-based alloys, iron and nickel-based alloys, iron and cobalt-based alloys, aluminum-based alloys, copper-based alloys, magnesium-based alloys, and titanium-based alloys;
pressing the powder mixture to form a green another portion for attachment to the bit body; and
at least partially sintering the green another portion for attachment to the bit body; and attaching the another portion to the bit body.
15. The method of claim 14, wherein the matrix material is selected from the group consisting of cobalt-based alloys and cobalt and nickel-based alloys.
16. The method of claim 14, wherein providing another portion for attachment to the bit body further comprises:
machining at least one feature of the another portion.
17. The method of claim 16, wherein machining at least one feature in the another portion comprises machining at least one of a fluid passageway, a junk slot, and a cutter pocket in the another portion.
18. The method of claim 14, wherein at least partially sintering the green another portion for attachment to the bit body comprises:
partially sintering the green another portion to form a brown another portion;
machining at least one feature in the brown another portion; and
sintering the brown another portion to a final density.
19. The method of claim 18, wherein machining at least one feature in the brown another portion comprises machining at least one of a fluid passageway, a junk slot, and a cutter pocket in the brown another portion.
20. The method of claim 18, wherein sintering the brown another portion to a final density comprises subliquidus phase sintering.
21. The method of claim 18, wherein sintering the brown another portion to a final density comprises subjecting the brown another portion to elevated temperatures in a vacuum furnace.
22. The method of claim 21, wherein sintering the brown another portion to a final density further comprises subjecting the brown another portion to substantially isostatic pressure after subjecting the brown bit body to elevated temperatures in a vacuum furnace.
23. The method of claim 14, wherein pressing the powder mixture comprises pressing the powder mixture with substantially isostatic pressure.
24. The method of claim 23, wherein pressing the powder mixture with substantially isostatic pressure comprises pressing the powder mixture with a liquid.
25. The method of claim 23, wherein pressing the powder mixture with substantially isostatic pressure comprises pressing the powder mixture with substantially isostatic pressure greater than about 35 megapascals (about 5,000 pounds per square inch).
26. The method of claim 23, wherein pressing the powder mixture comprises:
providing the powder mixture in a bag comprising a polymer material; and
applying substantially isostatic pressure to exterior surfaces of the bag.
27. The method of claim 14, wherein providing a powder mixture comprises providing a plurality of −400 ASTM mesh tungsten carbide particles, the plurality of tungsten carbide particles comprising between about 60% and about 95% by weight of the powder mixture.
28. The method of claim 14, providing a powder mixture comprises
providing a plurality of tungsten carbide particles having an average diameter in a range extending from about 0.5 microns to about 20 microns, the plurality of tungsten carbide particles comprising between about 75% and about 85% by weight of the powder mixture; and
providing a plurality of particles comprising the matrix material.
29. The method of claim 28, wherein providing a mixture comprises:
providing a plurality of tungsten carbide particles having an average diameter in a range extending from about 0.5 microns to about 20 microns, the plurality of tungsten carbide particles comprising between about 65% and about 70% by weight of the powder mixture; and
providing a plurality of particles comprising the matrix material.
30. The method of claim 14, further comprising applying a hardfacing material to a surface of one of the bit body and the another portion.
31. The method of claim 30, wherein applying a hardfacing material comprises one of flame spraying the hardfacing material, cold spraying the hardfacing material, oxy-acetylene welding (OA) material, atomic hydrogen welding (AHW) material, and plasma transfer arc welding (PTAW) material onto the surface of one of the bit body and the another portion.
32. The method of claim 31, wherein applying a hardfacing material comprises:
applying a fabric comprising tungsten carbide to the surface of one of the bit body and the another portion; and
infusing molten matrix material into the fabric comprising tungsten carbide.
33. The method of claim 14, wherein the another portion comprises one of a shell for the bit body and a segment portion for the bit body.
34. A drill bit comprising:
a body having at least one blade comprising a first material; and
a shell formed of a second material different than the first material attached to the body.
35. The drill bit of claim 34, wherein the shell comprises:
a powder mixture comprising:
a plurality of hard particles selected from the group consisting of diamond, boron carbide, boron nitride, aluminum nitride, and carbides or borides of the group consisting of W, Ti, Mo, Nb, V, Hf, Zr, and Cr; and
a plurality of particles comprising a matrix material, the matrix material selected from the group consisting of cobalt-based alloys, iron-based alloys, nickel-based alloys, cobalt and nickel-based alloys, iron and nickel-based alloys, iron and cobalt-based alloys, aluminum-based alloys, copper-based alloys, magnesium-based alloys, and titanium-based alloys.
36. The drill bit of claim 35, wherein the matrix material is selected from the group consisting of cobalt-based alloys and cobalt and nickel-based alloys.
37. The drill bit of claim 36, wherein providing a powder mixture comprises providing a plurality of −400 ASTM mesh tungsten carbide particles, the plurality of tungsten carbide particles comprising between about 60% and about 95% by weight of the powder mixture.
38. The method of claim 36, wherein the powder mixture comprises:
a plurality of tungsten carbide particles having an average diameter in a range extending from about 0.5 microns to about 20 microns, the plurality of tungsten carbide particles comprising between about 75% and about 85% by weight of the powder mixture.
39. A drill bit comprising:
a body having at least one blade having a front face, an edge, and a rear face comprising a first material having at least one aperture formed in a portion thereof; and
a segment formed of a second material different than the first material attached to a portion of the blade of the body.
40. The drill bit of claim 39, wherein the segment includes a protrusion located in a portion of the at least one aperture of the blade.
41. The drill bit of claim 39, wherein the segment extends around a portion of the front face, a portion of the edge, and a portion of the rear face of the blade.
Description
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

This invention relates generally to a method of manufacturing drill bits and other drilling-related structures generally used for drilling subterranean formations, and more specifically to a method of manufacturing a drill bit or drilling-related structure having a porous sintered steel powder core and a powdered tungsten carbide (WC) shell commonly infiltrated with other metals binder having cutter segments thereon or a sintered powder tungsten carbide (WC) core with other metals having cutter segments thereon. In a preferred embodiment, a sintered, preformed blank is formed and placed in a mold configured as a bit or other drilling-related structure, the preformed blank being sized to provide space between the blank and the mold wall to accommodate a layer of WC powder therebetween. Separately, cutter segments are formed having cutters thereon which are attached to the tungsten carbide shell or to the tungsten carbide bit body.

2. State of the Art

A typical rotary drill bit includes a bit body secured to a steel shank having a threaded pin connection for attaching the bit body to a drill string, and a crown comprising that part of the bit fitted with cutting structures for cutting into an earth formation. Generally, if the bit is a fixed-cutter or so-called “drag” bit, the cutting structures include a series of cutting elements formed at least in part of a super-abrasive material, such as polycrystalline diamond. The bit body is generally formed of steel, or a matrix of hard particulate material such as tungsten carbide (WC) infiltrated with a binder, generally of copper alloy.

In the case of steel body bits, the bit body is typically machined from round stock to the desired shape. Internal watercourses for delivery of drilling fluid to the bit face and topographical features defined at precise locations on the bit face may be machined into the bit body using a computer-controlled five-axis machine tool. Hardfacing for resisting abrasion during drilling is usually applied to the bit face and to other critical areas of the bit exterior, and cutting elements are secured to the bit face, generally by inserting the proximal ends of studs, on which the cutting elements are mounted, into apertures bored in the bit face. The end of the bit body opposite the face is then threaded, made up and welded to the bit shank.

In the case of a matrix-type bit body, it is conventional to employ a preformed, so-called bit “blank” of steel or other suitable material for later attachment to the shank, or threaded end of the bit body matrix. The blank may be merely cylindrically tubular, or may be fairly complex in configuration and include protrusions corresponding to blades, wings or other features on and extending from the bit face. Other preformed elements or displacements comprised of cast resin-coated sand, or in some instances graphite may be employed to define watercourses and passages for delivery of drilling fluid to and away from the bit face, well as cutting element sockets, ridges, lands, nozzle displacements, junk slots and other external topographic features of the bit. The blank and other displacements are placed at appropriate locations and orientations in the mold used to cast the bit body. The blank is bonded to the matrix upon cooling of the bit body after infiltration of the tungsten carbide with the matrix alloy in a furnace. The other displacements are removed once the matrix has cooled. The upper end of the blank is then threaded, made up with a matingly threaded shank, and the two are welded together. The cutting elements (typically diamond, and most often a synthetic polycrystalline diamond compact or PDC) may be bonded to the bit face during furnacing of the bit body if thermally stable PDC's, commonly termed TSP's (Thermally Stable Products) are employed, or may be subsequently bonded thereto, usually by brazing or mechanical affixation.

As may be readily appreciated from the foregoing description, the process of fabricating a matrix-type drill bit is a somewhat costly, complex multi-step process requiring separate fabrication of an intermediate product (the mold) before the end product (the bit) can be cast. Moreover, the blanks and preforms employed must be individually designed and fabricated.

The mold used to cast a matrix body is typically machined from a cylindrical graphite element. For many years, bit molds were machined to a general bit profile, and the individual bit face topography defined in reverse in the mold by skilled technicians employing the aforementioned preforms and wielding dental-type drills and other fine sculpting tools. In more recent years, many details may be machined in a mold using a computer controlled five-axis machine tool.

Both batch and conveyor-type continuous furnaces, induction heating coils, and other heating methods known in the art may be used to supply the heat necessary for sintering and or infiltrating to occur. It is well recognized in the art to use sintering techniques to sinter and forge mixtures of cobalt powder and tungsten carbide to form inserts for rock-cutting bits, such as the method disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 4,484,644 to Cook et al. It has also been recognized in the art to replace at least a portion of the hard metal material (WC) of a typical bit with a tougher, more ductile displacement material, such as iron, steel, or alloys thereof. As described in U.S. Pat. No. 5,090,491 to Tibbitts et al., it is desirable to substitute a less expensive displacement material (such as steel at about 50 cents per pound) for the more expensive hard metals like tungsten carbide (at about ten dollars per pound) to provide a finished bit with improved toughness and ductility as well as impact strength. However, this reference provides that the displacement material should preferably be a mesh size of at least 400 mesh (approximately 0.001 inches) and also states that very fine powdered materials (i.e., less than 0.001 inches in diameter) such as iron may sinter and shrink during fabrication; it being undesirable for the powder to shrink substantially during the heating process. Likewise, in GB 1,572,543 to Holden, the use of relatively inexpensive materials to provide the metal matrix of a bit, such as iron powder bonded with a copper-based alloy, is disclosed. Nowhere, however, do any of these references suggest that a powdered steel blank be sintered or otherwise preformed, then subsequently infiltrated along with a layer of tungsten carbide powder to form a bit or drilling-related structure.

It is known in the art that although hard, the ductility of cemented hard-carbide articles are almost always inferior to those obtained by casting or forging steel. Thus, it would be advantageous to provide a method of manufacturing a bit or other drilling-related structure that is a relatively simple process and that reduces the cost of producing the structure by replacing a significant amount of the bit matrix material of a typical drilling structure with a sintered steel powder blank without sacrificing the bit's resistance to erosion and abrasion. Moreover, it would be advantageous to provide such a drilling structure that has improved toughness and impact strength over similar structures manufactured by prior art methods.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

A manufacturing method and drill bit having either a preformed steel powder blank or machined steel core and abrasion and erosion resistant material components attached thereon.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The features and advantages of the present invention can be more readily understood with reference to the following detailed description of the preferred embodiments, taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings wherein:

FIG. 1A is a partially cross-sectioned schematic view of a first embodiment of a drill bit manufactured in accordance with the present invention;

FIG. 1B is a partially cross-sectioned schematic view of a second embodiment of a drill bit manufactured in accordance with the present invention;

FIGS. 2A-2E illustrate a method of forming a shell for the bit body of the earth-boring rotary drill bit shown in FIG. 1A or 1B;

FIG. 3A is a partially cross-sectioned schematic view of another embodiment of a drill bit manufactured in accordance with the present invention having segments on the blades;

FIG. 3B is a partially cross-sectioned schematic view of another embodiment of a drill bit manufactured in accordance with the present invention having segments on the blades;

FIG. 4 is a portion of a segment on a blade of the drill bit;

FIG. 5 is a portion of a segment on a blade of the drill bit; and

FIG. 6 is a partially cross-sections schematic view of another embodiment of a drill bit manufactured in accordance with the present invention having segments and or a shell on the blades.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

A drill bit 10 manufactured in accordance with the present invention is illustrated in FIG. 1A. The drill bit 10 has a typical rotary drag bit configuration and is generally comprised of a bit body 12 including a plurality of longitudinally extending blades 14 defining junk slots 16 between the blades 14. Each blade 14 defines a leading or cutting face 18 that extends from proximate the center of the bit face around the distal end 15 of the drill bit 10, and includes a plurality of cutting elements 20 oriented to cut into a subterranean formation upon rotation of the drill bit 10. The cutting elements 20 are secured to and supported by the blades 14. Between the uppermost of the cutting elements 20 and the top edge 21 of the blade 14, each blade 14 defines a longitudinally and radially extending gage portion 22 that corresponds to approximately the largest-diameter-portion of the drill bit 10 and, thus is typically only slightly smaller than the diameter of the hole to be drilled by cutting elements 20 of the bit 10. The proximal end 23 of the bit 10 includes a threaded portion or pin 25 to threadedly attach the drill bit 10 to a drill collar or downhole motor, as is known in the art. Preferably, the threaded pin portion 25 may be machined directly into the proximal end 23 of the combination shank and blank 34 that is attached and formed into the body 12 of the drill bit 10.

As further illustrated by the cut-away portion of FIG. 1A, the bit 10 is further comprised of either a machine steel core or a porous sintered blank or core 26 comprised of steel or other metal interlocked with the blank 34, formed of any suitable material, such as steel, titanium, tungsten carbide (WC), etc., and a shell of abrasion-resistant material 28, such as tungsten carbide (WC), infiltrated with a common metal to form a matrix of tungsten carbide and the metal. In addition, the plenum 29 longitudinally extend from the proximal end 23 to the distal end 15 or crown end 15, substantially through the blank 34 and core 26, terminating at shell 28. As illustrated in FIG. 1B, the core 26′ may have a topographical exterior surface configuration 30 substantially similar to the topography 32 of a completed bit 10′, but smaller in size, or be different such that the shell 28 occupies a larger volume of the bit 10 (see FIG. 1A). Thus, except for the detailed topography of and surrounding the cutting elements 20, the core 26′ generally may follow the contour of the drill bit 10′ defined by its surface topography 32. This similarity in shape between the core 26′ and the topography 32 is a result of a preferred bit manufacturing method of the present invention. Moreover, the plenum 29′ may only extend partially through the core 26′ such that any waterways connecting the plenum 29′ to the nozzle ports 62 and 64 must extend through material of both the core 26′ and shell 28′.

The cutters 20 may be bonded to the blades 14 by brazing, mechanical affixation, or adhesive affixation. Alternatively, the cutters 20 may be provided within the mold and bonded to the blades 14 of the shell 28 during infiltration or furnacing of the shell 28 if thermally stable synthetic diamonds, or natural diamonds, are employed.

The illustrations presented herein are not meant to be actual views of any particular material, apparatus, system, or method, but are merely idealized representations which are employed to describe the present invention. Additionally, elements common between figures may retain the same numerical designation.

The term “green” as used herein means unsintered.

The term “green bit shell” or “green segment” as used herein means an unsintered structure comprising a plurality of discrete particles held together by a binder material, the structure having a size and shape allowing the formation of a shell body suitable for use in an earth-boring drill bit from the structure by subsequent manufacturing processes including, but not limited to, machining and densification.

The term “brown” as used herein means partially sintered.

The term “brown shell body” or “brown segment” as used herein means a partially sintered structure comprising a plurality of particles, at least some of which have partially grown together to provide at least partial bonding between adjacent particles, the structure having a size and shape allowing the formation of a bit body suitable for use in an earth-boring drill bit from the structure by subsequent manufacturing processes including, but not limited to, machining and further densification. Brown shell bodies may be formed by, for example, partially sintering a green shell body.

The term “sintering” as used herein means densification of a particulate component involving removal of at least a portion of the pores between the starting particles (accompanied by shrinkage) combined with coalescence and bonding between adjacent particles.

As used herein, the term “[metal]-based alloy” (where [metal] is any metal) means commercially pure [metal] in addition to metal alloys wherein the weight percentage of [metal] in the alloy is greater than the weight percentage of any other component of the alloy.

As used herein, the term “material composition” means the chemical composition and microstructure of a material. In other words, materials having the same chemical composition but a different microstructure are considered to having different material compositions.

As used herein, the term “tungsten carbide” means any material composition that contains chemical compounds of tungsten and carbon, such as, for example, WC, W2C, and combinations of WC and W2C. Tungsten carbide includes, for example, cast tungsten carbide, sintered tungsten carbide, and macrocrystalline tungsten carbide.

The particle-matrix composite material of the shell 28 may include a plurality of hard particles randomly dispersed throughout a matrix material. The hard particles may comprise diamond or ceramic materials such as carbides, nitrides, oxides, and borides (including boron carbide (B4C)). More specifically, the hard particles may comprise carbides and borides made from elements such as W, Ti, Mo, Nb, V, Hf, Ta, Cr, Zr, Al, and Si. By way of example and not limitation, materials that may be used to form hard particles include tungsten carbide, titanium carbide (TiC), tantalum carbide (TaC), titanium diboride (TiB2), chromium carbides, titanium nitride (TiN), aluminium oxide (Al2O3), aluminium nitride (AlN), and silicon carbide (SiC). Furthermore, combinations of different hard particles may be used to tailor the physical properties and characteristics of the particle-matrix composite material. The hard particles may be formed using techniques known to those of ordinary skill in the art. Most suitable materials for hard particles are commercially available and the formation of the remainder is within the ability of one of ordinary skill in the art.

The matrix material of the particle-matrix composite material may include, for example, cobalt-based, iron-based, nickel-based, iron and nickel-based, cobalt and nickel-based, iron and cobalt-based, aluminum-based, copper-based, magnesium-based, and titanium-based alloys. The matrix material may also be selected from commercially pure elements such as cobalt, aluminum, copper, magnesium, titanium, iron, and nickel. By way of example and not limitation, the matrix material may include carbon steel, alloy steel, stainless steel, tool steel, Hadfield manganese steel, nickel or cobalt superalloy material, and low thermal expansion iron or nickel based alloys such as INVAR®. As used herein, the term “superalloy” refers to an iron, nickel, and cobalt based-alloys having at least 12% chromium by weight. Additional exemplary alloys that may be used as matrix material include austenitic steels, nickel based superalloys such as INCONEL® 625M or Rene 95, and INVAR® type alloys having a coefficient of thermal expansion that closely matches that of the hard particles used in the particular particle-matrix composite material. More closely matching the coefficient of thermal expansion of matrix material with that of the hard particles offers advantages such as reducing problems associated with residual stresses and thermal fatigue. Another exemplary matrix material is a Hadfield austenitic manganese steel (Fe with approximately 12% Mn by weight and 1.1% C by weight).

In the present invention, the particle-matrix composite material may include a plurality of −400 ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) mesh tungsten carbide particles as the hard particle component of the particle-matrix composite material. For example, the tungsten carbide particles may be substantially composed of WC. As used herein, the phrase “−400 ASTM mesh particles” means particles that pass through an ASTM No. 400 mesh screen as defined in ASTM specification E11-04 entitled Standard Specification for Wire Cloth and Sieves for Testing Purposes. Such tungsten carbide particles may have a diameter of less than about 38 microns. The matrix material forming another component of the particle-matrix composite material may include a metal alloy comprising about 50% cobalt by weight and about 50% nickel by weight. The tungsten carbide particles may comprise between about 60% and about 95% by weight of the particle-matrix composite material, and the matrix material may comprise between about 5% and about 40% by weight of the particle-matrix composite material. More particularly, the tungsten carbide particles may comprise between about 70% and about 80% by weight of the particle-matrix composite material, and the matrix material may comprise between about 20% and about 30% by weight of the particle-matrix composite material.

In another embodiment of the present invention, the particle-matrix composite material may include a plurality of −635 ASTM mesh tungsten carbide particles as the hard particle component of the particle-matrix composite material. As used herein, the phrase “−635 ASTM mesh particles” means particles that pass through an ASTM No. 635 mesh screen as defined in ASTM specification E11-04 entitled Standard Specification for Wire Cloth and Sieves for Testing Purposes. Such tungsten carbide particles may have a diameter of less than about 20 microns. The matrix material may include a cobalt-based metal alloy comprising substantially commercially pure cobalt. For example, the matrix material forming another component of the particle-matrix composite material may include greater than about 98% cobalt by weight. The tungsten carbide particles may comprise between about 60% and about 95% by weight of the particle-matrix composite material, and the matrix material may comprise between about 5% and about 40% by weight of the particle-matrix composite material.

FIGS. 2A-2E illustrate a method of fonning the shell 28, which is substantially formed from and composed of a particle-matrix composite material. The method generally includes providing a powder mixture, pressing the powder mixture to form a green body, and at least partially sintering the powder mixture.

Referring to FIG. 2A, a powder mixture 78, which forms the particle-matrix composite material that includes a hard particle component and a matrix material component, may be pressed with substantially isostatic pressure within a mold or container 80. The powder mixture 78 may include a plurality of the previously described hard particles and a plurality of particles comprising a matrix material, as also previously described herein. Optionally, the powder mixture 78 may further include additives commonly used when pressing powder mixtures such as, for example, binders for providing lubrication during pressing and for providing structural strength to the pressed powder component, plasticizers for making the binder more pliable, and lubricants or compaction aids for reducing inter-particle friction.

The container 80 may include a fluid-tight deformable member 82. For example, the fluid-tight deformable member 82 may be a substantially cylindrical bag comprising a deformable polymer material. The container 80 may further include a sealing plate 84, which may be substantially rigid. The deformable member 82 may be formed from, for example, an elastomer such as rubber, neoprene, silicone, or polyurethane. The deformable member 82 may be filled with the powder mixture 78 and vibrated to provide a uniform distribution of the powder mixture 78 within the deformable member 82. At least one displacement or insert 86 may be provided within the deformable member 82 for defining features of the bit body 52 such as, for example, the longitudinal bore 40 (FIG. 2). Alternatively, the insert 86 may not be used and the longitudinal bore 40 may be formed using a conventional machining process during subsequent processes. The sealing plate 84 then may be attached or bonded to the deformable member 82 providing a fluid-tight seal therebetween.

The container 80 (with the powder mixture 78 and any desired inserts 86 contained therein) may be provided within a pressure chamber 90. A removable cover 91 may be used to provide access to the interior of the pressure chamber 90. A fluid (which may be substantially incompressible) such as, for example, water, oil, or gas (such as, for example, air or nitrogen) is pumped into the pressure chamber 90 through an opening 92 at high pressures using a pump (not shown). The high pressure of the fluid causes the walls of the deformable member 82 to deform. The fluid pressure may be transmitted substantially uniformly to the powder mixture 78. The pressure within the pressure chamber 90 during isostatic pressing may be greater than about 35 megapascals (about 5,000 pounds per square inch). More particularly, the pressure within the pressure chamber 90 during isostatic pressing may be greater than about 138 megapascals (20,000 pounds per square inch). In alternative methods, a vacuum may be provided within the container 80 and a pressure greater than about 0.1 megapascals (about 15 pounds per square inch) may be applied to the exterior surfaces of the container (by, for example, the atmosphere) to compact the powder mixture 78. Isostatic pressing of the powder mixture 78 may form a green powder component or green shell body 94 shown in FIG. 3B, which can be removed from the pressure chamber 90 and container 80 after pressing.

In an alternative method of pressing the powder mixture 78 to form the green shell body 94 shown in FIG. 2B, the powder mixture 78 may be uniaxially pressed in a mold or die (not shown) using a mechanically or hydraulically actuated plunger by methods that are known to those of ordinary skill in the art of powder processing.

The green shell body 94 shown in FIG. 2B may include a plurality of particles (hard particles and particles of matrix material forming the particle-matrix composite material) held together by a binder material provided in the powder mixture 78 (FIG. 2A), as previously described. Certain structural features may be machined in the green bit body 94 using conventional machining techniques including, for example, turning techniques, milling techniques, and drilling techniques. Hand held tools also may be used to manually form or shape features in or on the green shell body 94. By way of example and not limitation, blades 14, junk slots 16 (FIGS. 1A, 1B), and any surfaces may be machined or otherwise formed in the green shell body 94 to form a shaped green shell body 98 shown in FIG. 2C.

The shaped green shell body 98 shown in FIG. 2C may be at least partially sintered to provide a brown bit body 102 shown in FIG. 2D, which has less than a desired final density. Prior to partially sintering the shaped green bit body 98, the shaped green bit body 98 may be subjected to moderately elevated temperatures and pressures to burn off or remove any fugitive additives of any binder used that were included in the powder mixture 78 (FIG. 2A), as previously described. Furthermore, the shaped green bit body 98 may be subjected to a suitable atmosphere tailored to aid in the removal of such additives. Such atmospheres may include, for example, hydrogen gas at temperatures of about 500° C.

The brown shell body 102 may be substantially machinable due to the remaining porosity therein. Certain structural features may be machined in the brown shell body 102 using conventional machining techniques including, for example, turning techniques, milling techniques, and drilling techniques. Hand held tools also may be used to manually form or shape features in or on the brown shell body 102. Tools that include superhard coatings or inserts may be used to facilitate machining of the brown shell body 102. Additionally, material coatings may be applied to surfaces of the brown shell body 102 that are to be machined to reduce chipping of the brown bit body 102. Such coatings may include a suitable fixative material or other suitable polymer materials or their like.

By way of example and not limitation, internal fluid passageways 29, cutter pockets 36 and blades 14 (FIGS. 1A, 1B) may be machined or otherwise formed in the brown bit body 102 to form a shaped brown shell body 106 shown in FIG. 2E. Furthermore, if the drill bit 10 is to include a plurality of cutters integrally formed with the shell 28, the cutters may be positioned within the cutter pockets 36 formed in the brown shell body 102. Upon subsequent sintering of the brown bit body 102, the cutters may become bonded to and integrally formed with the shell body 52.

The shaped brown bit body 106 shown in FIG. 2E then may be fully sintered to a desired final density to provide the previously described shell 28 shown in FIG. 1A or FIG. 1B. As any sintering involves densification and removal of porosity within a structure, the structure being sintered will shrink during the sintering process. In an un-infiltrated structure, a structure may experience linear shrinkage of between 10% and 20% during sintering from a green state to a desired final density. As a result, dimensional shrinkage must be considered and accounted for when designing tooling (molds, dies, etc.) or machining features in structures that are less than fully sintered.

During all sintering and partial sintering processes, refractory structures or displacements (not shown) may be used to support at least portions of the bit body during the sintering process to maintain desired shapes and dimensions during the densification process. Such displacements may be used, for example, to maintain consistency in the size and geometry of the cutter pockets 36 and the internal fluid passageways 42 during the sintering process. Such refractory structures may be formed from, for example, graphite, silica, or alumina. The use of alumina displacements instead of graphite displacements may be desirable as alumina may be relatively less reactive than graphite, thereby minimizing atomic diffusion during sintering. Additionally, coatings such as alumina, boron nitride, aluminum nitride, or other commercially available materials may be applied to the refractory structures to prevent carbon or other atoms in the refractory structures from diffusing into the bit body during densification.

In alternative methods, the green shell body 94 shown in FIG. 2B may be partially sintered to form a brown bit body without prior machining, and all necessary machining may be performed on the brown shell body prior to infiltrating the brown shell body and fully sintering the brown bit body to a desired final density. Alternatively, all necessary machining may be performed on the green bit body 94 shown in FIG. 2B, which then may be infiltrated and fully sintered to a desired final density.

The sintering processes described herein may include conventional sintering in a vacuum furnace, sintering in a vacuum furnace followed by a conventional hot isostatic pressing process, and sintering immediately followed by isostatic pressing at temperatures near the sintering temperature (often referred to as sinter-HIP). Furthermore, the sintering processes described herein may include subliquidus phase sintering. In other words, the sintering processes may be conducted at temperatures proximate to but below the liquidus line of the phase diagram for the matrix material forming a portion of the particle-matrix composite material. For example, the sintering processes described herein may be conducted using a number of different methods known to one of ordinary skill in the art such as the Rapid Omnidirectional Compaction (ROC) process, the Ceracon™ process, hot isostatic pressing (HIP), or adaptations of such processes.

Broadly, and by way of example only, sintering a green powder compact using the ROC process involves presintering the green powder compact at a relatively low temperature to only a sufficient degree to develop sufficient strength to permit handling of the powder compact. The resulting brown structure is wrapped in a material such as graphite foil to seal the brown structure. The wrapped brown structure is placed in a container, which is filled with particles of a ceramic, polymer, or glass material having a substantially lower melting point than that of the matrix material in the brown structure. The container is heated to the desired sintering temperature, which is above the melting temperature of the particles of a ceramic, polymer, or glass material, but below the liquidus temperature of the matrix material in the brown structure. The heated container with the molten ceramic, polymer, or glass material (and the brown structure immersed therein) is placed in a mechanical or hydraulic press, such as a forging press, that is used to apply pressure to the molten ceramic or polymer material. Isostatic pressures within the molten ceramic, polymer, or glass material facilitate consolidation and sintering of the brown structure at the elevated temperatures within the container. The molten ceramic, polymer, or glass material acts to transmit the pressure and heat to the brown structure. In this manner, the molten ceramic, polymer, or glass acts as a pressure transmission medium through which pressure is applied to the structure during sintering. Subsequent to the release of pressure and cooling, the sintered structure is then removed from the ceramic, polymer, or glass material. A more detailed explanation of the ROC process and suitable equipment for the practice thereof is provided by U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,094,709, 4,233,720, 4,341,557, 4,526,748, 4,547,337, 4,562,990, 4,596,694, 4,597,730, 4,656,002 4,744,943 and 5,232,522, the disclosure of each of which patents is incorporated herein by reference.

The Ceracon™ process, which is similar to the aforementioned ROC process, may also be adapted for use in the present invention to fully sinter brown structures to a final density. In the Ceracon™ process, the brown structure is coated with a ceramic coating such as alumina, zirconium oxide, or chrome oxide. Other similar, hard, generally inert, protective, removable coatings may also be used. The coated brown structure is fully consolidated by transmitting at least substantially isostatic pressure to the coated brown structure using ceramic particles instead of a fluid media as in the ROC process. A more detailed explanation of the Ceracon™ process is provided by U.S. Pat. No. 4,499,048, the disclosure of which patent is incorporated herein by reference.

Furthermore, in embodiments of the invention in which tungsten carbide is used in a particle-matrix composite bit body, the sintering processes described herein also may include a carbon control cycle tailored to improve the stoichiometry of the tungsten carbide material. By way of example and not limitation, if the tungsten carbide material includes WC, the sintering processes described herein may include subjecting the tungsten carbide material to a gaseous mixture including hydrogen and methane at elevated temperatures. For example, the tungsten carbide material may be subjected to a flow of gases including hydrogen and methane at a temperature of about 1,000° C.

After final sintering of the shell 28, the shell 28 is attached to the core 26 using any suitable bonding process, such as brazing, individual fasteners, etc.

As illustrated in FIGS. 3A and 3B, the drill bit 10 includes the cutters 20 mounted on segments 14′ which are attached to the blades 14. The segments 14′ are formed in the same manner as the shell 28 described hereinbefore. The segments 14′ may be formed of any desired length for attachment to a blade 14, such as from the gage of the drill bit through any length of a blade 14. The segments 14′ are formed of particle-matrix composite material which may include a plurality of hard particles randomly dispersed throughout a matrix material. The hard particles may comprise diamond or ceramic materials such as carbides, nitrides, oxides, and borides (including boron carbide (B4C)). More specifically, the hard particles may comprise carbides and borides made from elements such as W, Ti, Mo, Nb, V, Hf, Ta, Cr, Zr, Al, and Si. By way of example and not limitation, materials that may be used to form hard particles include tungsten carbide, titanium carbide (TiC), tantalum carbide (TaC), titanium diboride (TiB2), chromium carbides, titanium nitride (TiN), aluminium oxide (Al2O3), aluminium nitride (AIN), and silicon carbide (SiC). Furthermore, combinations of different bard particles may be used to tailor the physical properties and characteristics of the particle-matrix composite material. The hard particles may be formed using techniques known to those of ordinary skill in the art. Most suitable materials for hard particles are commercially available and the formation of the remainder is within the ability of one of ordinary skill in the art.

The matrix material of the particle-matrix composite material may include, for example, cobalt-based, iron-based, nickel-based, iron and nickel-based, cobalt and nickel-based, iron and cobalt-based, aluminum-based, copper-based, magnesium-based, and titanium-based alloys. The matrix material may also be selected from commercially pure elements such as cobalt, aluminum, copper, magnesium, titanium, iron, and nickel. By way of example and not limitation, the matrix material may include carbon steel, alloy steel, stainless steel, tool steel, Hadfield manganese steel, nickel or cobalt superalloy material, and low thermal expansion iron or nickel based alloys such as INVAR®. As used herein, the term “superalloy” refers to iron, nickel, and cobalt based-alloys having at least 12% chromium by weight. Additional exemplary alloys that may be used as matrix material include austenitic steels, nickel based superalloys such as INCONEL® 625M or Rene 95, and INVAR® type alloys having a coefficient of thermal expansion that closely matches that of the hard particles used in the particular particle-matrix composite material. More closely matching the coefficient of thermal expansion of matrix material with that of the hard particles offers advantages such as reducing problems associated with residual stresses and thermal fatigue. Another exemplary matrix material is a Hadfield austenitic manganese steel (Fe with approximately 12% Mn by weight and 1.1% C by weight).

In the present invention, the particle-matrix composite material may include a plurality of −400 ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) mesh tungsten carbide particles as the hard particle component of the particle-matrix composite material. For example, the tungsten carbide particles may be substantially composed of WC. As used herein, the phrase “−400 ASTM mesh particles” means particles that pass through an ASTM No. 400 mesh screen as defined in ASTM specification E11-04 entitled Standard Specification for Wire Cloth and Sieves for Testing Purposes. Such tungsten carbide particles may have a diameter of less than about 38 microns. The matrix material forming another component of the particle-matrix composite material may include a metal alloy comprising about 50% cobalt by weight and about 50% nickel by weight. The tungsten carbide particles may comprise between about 60% and about 95% by weight of the particle-matrix composite material, and the matrix material may comprise between about 5% and about 40% by weight of the particle-matrix composite material. More particularly, the tungsten carbide particles may comprise between about 70% and about 80% by weight of the particle-matrix composite material, and the matrix material may comprise between about 20% and about 30% by weight of the particle-matrix composite material.

Alternately, the particle-matrix composite material may include a plurality of −635 ASTM mesh tungsten carbide particles as the hard particle component of the particle-matrix composite material. As used herein, the phrase “−635 ASTM mesh particles” means particles that pass through an ASTM No. 635 mesh screen as defined in ASTM specification E11-04 entitled Standard Specification for Wire Cloth and Sieves for Testing Purposes. Such tungsten carbide particles may have a diameter of less than about 20 microns. The matrix material may include a cobalt-based metal alloy comprising substantially commercially pure cobalt. For example, the matrix material forming another component of the particle-matrix composite material may include greater than about 98% cobalt by weight. The tungsten carbide particles may comprise between about 60% and about 95% by weight of the particle-matrix composite material, and the matrix material may comprise between about 5% and about 40% by weight of the particle-matrix composite material.

The segments 14′ are formed in the same manner as the process for forming the shell hereinbefore and illustrated in FIGS. 2A-2E. Similarly, the cutters 20 are attached to the segments 14′ as described hereinbefore with respect to the shell 28.

In FIG. 4, the segments 14′ include one or more protrusions 14″ extending therefrom to mate with recesses formed in the blades 14 to provide an accurate location of the segment on the blade 14. The protrusions 14″ may extend from a side and the back of a segment to provide any desired number of locations for the segment 14″ on a blade 14. The segment 14′ is attached to a blade 14 in any suitable manner, such as brazing, fasteners, etc. In addition to providing a structure to locate the segment 14′ on a blade 14, the protrusions 14″ provide additional surface area to secure the segment 14′ to a blade 14 when the segment 14′ is attached to the blade 14 by brazing a similar attachment process. The protrusions 14″ may be of any desired suitable geometric shape and dimension.

As illustrated in FIG. 5, the segment 14′ may extend around the front face, outer edge, and back face of a portion of a blade 14 of the drill bit 10. In this manner, the blade 14 of the drill bit 10 is protected on all three sides thereof by the segment 14′ which is constructed of material having a higher abrasion resistance than that of the blade 14. The segment 14′ may be attached to the blade 14 by any suitable attachment process, such as brazing, fasteners, etc.

Illustrated in drawing FIG. 6, the segments 14′, although the segments 14′ can be formed as a shell such as shell 106 described herein, and blank 34 are illustrated in a in a pressure chamber 90 such as described hereinbefore. The blank 34 and segments 14′ are supported on suitable inserts 86 with a particle-matrix material powder mixture 78, such as described herein, filling the space in the mold or container 80, such as described herein, between the mold 80 and segments 14′ and blank 34. A fluid (which may be substantially incompressible) such as, for example, water, oil, or gas (such as, for example, air or nitrogen) is pumped into the pressure chamber 90 through an opening 92 at high pressures using a pump (not shown). The high pressure of the fluid causes the walls of the deformable member 82 to deform. The fluid pressure may be transmitted substantially uniformly to the powder mixture 78. The pressure within the pressure chamber 90 during isostatic pressing may be greater than about 35 megapascals (about 5,000 pounds per square inch). More particularly, the pressure within the pressure chamber 90 during isostatic pressing may be greater than about 138 megapascals (20,000 pounds per square inch). In alternative methods, a vacuum may be provided within the container 80 and a pressure greater than about 0.1 megapascals (about 15 pounds per square inch) may be applied to the exterior surfaces of the container (by, for example, the atmosphere) to compact the powder mixture 78. Isostatic pressing of the powder mixture 78 may form a green powder component or green shell body, such as green shell body 94 described herein, shown in FIG. 3B, which can be removed from the pressure chamber 90 and container 80 after pressing.

The green bit body formed into a green bit blank 34, such as generally like green shell body 94 shown in FIG. 2B and FIG. 1B, may include a plurality of particles (hard particles and particles of matrix material forming the particle-matrix composite material) held together by a binder material provided in the powder mixture 78 (FIG. 2A), as previously described. Certain structural features may be machined in the green bit body 94 using conventional machining techniques including, for example, turning techniques, milling techniques, and drilling techniques. Hand held tools also may be used to manually form or shape features in or on the green shell body. By way of example and not limitation, blades 14, junk slots 16 (FIGS. 1A, 1B), and any surfaces may be machined or otherwise formed in the green shell body to form a shaped green shell body, generally such as green shell body 98 shown in FIG. 2C.

The shaped green bit body, generally such as green shell body 98 shown in FIG. 2C may be at least partially sintered to provide a brown bit body, generally such as brown bit body 102 shown in FIG. 2D, which has less than a desired final density. Prior to partially sintering the shaped green bit body, the shaped green bit body may be subjected to moderately elevated temperatures and pressures to burn off or remove any fugitive additives of any binder used that were included in the powder mixture 78 (FIG. 2A), as previously described. Furthermore, the shaped green bit body may be subjected to a suitable atmosphere tailored to aid in the removal of such additives. Such atmospheres may include, for example, hydrogen gas at temperatures of about 500° C.

The brown shell body, such as brown body 102 described herein, may be substantially machinable due to the remaining porosity therein. Certain structural features may be machined in the brown shell body using conventional machining techniques including, for example, turning techniques, milling techniques, and drilling techniques. Hand held tools also may be used to manually form or shape features in or on the brown shell body. Tools that include superhard coatings or inserts may be used to facilitate machining of the brown shell body. Additionally, material coatings may be applied to surfaces of the brown shell body that are to be machined to reduce chipping of the brown bit body. Such coatings may include a suitable fixative material or other suitable polymer materials or their like.

By way of example and not limitation, internal fluid passageways 29 and cutter pockets 36 (FIGS. 1A, 1B) may be machined or otherwise formed in the brown bit body to form a shaped brown bit body. If the drill bit 10 is to include additional cutters or wear knots, the cutters and wear knots may be positioned within the cutter pockets formed in the brown bit body. Upon subsequent sintering of the brown bit body, the cutters may become bonded to and integrally formed with the bit body.

The shaped brown bit body then may be fully sintered to a desired final density. As any sintering involves densification and removal of porosity within a structure, the structure being sintered will shrink during the sintering process. In an un-infiltrated structure, a structure may experience linear shrinkage of between 10% and 20% during sintering from a green state to a desired final density. As a result, dimensional shrinkage must be considered and accounted for when designing tooling (molds, dies, etc.) or machining features in structures that are less than fully sintered.

During all sintering and partial sintering processes, refractory structures or displacements (not shown) may be used to support at least portions of the bit body during the sintering process to maintain desired shapes and dimensions during the densification process. Such displacements may be used, for example, to maintain consistency in the size and geometry of the cutter pockets 36 and the internal fluid passageways 42 during the sintering process. Such refractory structures may be formed from, for example, graphite, silica, or alumina. The use of alumina displacements instead of graphite displacements may be desirable as alumina may be relatively less reactive than graphite, thereby minimizing atomic diffusion during sintering. Additionally, coatings such as alumina, boron nitride, aluminum nitride, or other commercially available materials may be applied to the refractory structures to prevent carbon or other atoms in the refractory structures from diffusing into the bit body during densification.

In alternative methods, the green bit body may be partially sintered to form a brown bit body without prior machining, and all necessary machining may be performed on the brown shell body prior to infiltrating the brown bit body and fully sintering the brown bit body to a desired final density. Alternatively, all necessary machining may be performed on the green bit body 94 shown in FIG. 2B, which then may be infiltrated and fully sintered to a desired final density.

The sintering processes described herein may include conventional sintering in a vacuum furnace, sintering in a vacuum furnace followed by a conventional hot isostatic pressing process, and sintering immediately followed by isostatic pressing at temperatures near the sintering temperature (often referred to as sinter-HIP). Furthermore, the sintering processes described herein may include subliquidus phase sintering. In other words, the sintering processes may be conducted at temperatures proximate to but below the liquidus line of the phase diagram for the matrix material forming a portion of the particle-matrix composite material. For example, the sintering processes described herein may be conducted using a number of different methods known to one of ordinary skill in the art such as the Rapid Omnidirectional Compaction (ROC) process, the Ceracon™ process, hot isostatic pressing (HIP), or adaptations of such processes.

While teachings of the present invention are described herein in relation to embodiments of earth-boring rotary drill bits that include fixed cutters, other types of earth-boring drilling tools such as, for example, core bits, eccentric bits, bicenter bits, reamers, mills, drag bits, roller cone bits, and other such structures known in the art may embody teachings of the present invention and may be formed by methods that embody teachings of the present invention.

While the present invention has been described herein with respect to certain preferred embodiments, those of ordinary skill in the art will recognize and appreciate that it is not so limited. Rather, many additions, deletions and modifications to the preferred embodiments may be made without departing from the scope of the invention as hereinafter claimed. In addition, features from one embodiment may be combined with features of another embodiment while still being encompassed within the scope of the invention as contemplated by the inventors. Further, the invention has utility in drill bits and core bits having different and various bit profiles as well as cutter types.

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Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US8261632 *Jul 9, 2008Sep 11, 2012Baker Hughes IncorporatedMethods of forming earth-boring drill bits
US20100192475 *Aug 3, 2009Aug 5, 2010Stevens John HMethod of making an earth-boring metal matrix rotary drill bit
WO2011139519A2 *Apr 14, 2011Nov 10, 2011Baker Hughes IncorporatedEarth-boring tools and methods of forming earth-boring tools
WO2011146743A2 *May 19, 2011Nov 24, 2011Baker Hughes IncorporatedMethods of forming at least a portion of earth-boring tools
Classifications
U.S. Classification175/374, 76/108.2
International ClassificationE21B10/08
Cooperative ClassificationB22F3/15, C22C29/10, B22F2005/002, B22F7/062, E21B10/55, C22C1/051, C22C26/00, C22C29/16, C22C29/14, C22C29/06, B22F7/08, C22C2204/00, B22F3/172
European ClassificationB22F7/08, C22C26/00, C22C1/05B, C22C29/14, C22C29/16, B22F7/06C, C22C29/06, E21B10/55
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Aug 22, 2008ASAssignment
Owner name: BAKER HUGHES INCORPORATED, TEXAS
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:STEVENS, JOHN H.;CHRISTIE, JAMES L.;REEL/FRAME:021430/0858
Effective date: 20080819