Climbing Mount Everest is a Holy Grail for many an explorer and traveller. Many have tried, fewer have succeeded. Some have sadly lost their life chasing the summit.
For Björn Lindwall, the challenge of climbing Mount Everest was too good to pass up on. As the CEO and founder of SolidEngineer in Sweden, his day job has its own challenges, but none so as big as high-altitude mountaineering.
Björn got into high altitude mountaineering a few years ago after deciding he needed change – and a new challenge – in his life. “I just wanted to pop outside the comfort zone,” says Björn. After completing expeditions in the Himalayan mountains in Nepal and Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Björn was ready to tackle the big daddy: Mount Everest.
3D printing a satellite communication box
Every kilogram of weight makes mountaineering harder, and more dangerous. The lighter equipment is, the better. One of the toughest things the haul around is the satellite communication equipment, which is traditionally housed in a stainless-steel box. But the box weighs 50 grams. So Björn and his team decided to make their own box with a Markforged 3D printer using Onyx, a carbon fibre filled nylon material.
The criteria for the box was simple: it had to be able to withstand and function at temperatures down to -40 C and be as durable as a metal box. In other words, the box had to be nigh on impossible to crack, break or dent.
Onyx filament is a nylon and chopped carbon fibre hybrid; it is exceptionally tough and durable with outstanding thermal properties, making it the ideal choice for the expedition.
As a Markforged partner, SolidEngineer had access to several Markforged printers so got to work creating the parts they needed. The box was fabricated out of Onyx with brilliant results. “Yes, steel will last longer,” says Björn, “but the steel equipment on the crampons weigh 50 grams, and the Onyx parts weigh 15 grams.”
With his gear ready and his body and mind prepared for the gruelling 29,029 ft (8,848 m) climb, Björn set off with his satellite comms in tow. Björn followed the same route many a climber took before him and saw for himself the bodies of those will never return to the surface. “You can see them, and it’s a situation that has an impact on your mental thinking, but you have to stay focused,” says Björn.
Over the next eight-weeks, Björn fought against freezing temperatures, low energy, low mood, and the swings and roundabouts high altitude mountaineering brings.
Make no mistake, a mistake here can cost you your life. Between night climbs and start and stop treks due to changing weather patterns, Björn finally peaked. It was one of the greatest moments of his life – a truly astonishing achievement, and the Onyx 3D printed comms box looked as good as new at the summit.
Of course, what goes up must come down. By the time he made it to base camp, eight weeks had passed, and the Onyx box was in decent shape – it had a little wear and tear here and there, but it was fully functional and ready to go again.
Following his successful expedition, Björn started a health program at SolidEngineer to bring employees up to shape so that in the future, they too can share his passion. “The aim is to do a mountaineering expedition in August with the entire team in north Sweden,” says Björn. As for Björn, his next great adventure will involve Mount Everest again – only this time with a paraglider. That’s right, he’s going to paraglide off it!
Good luck, Björn. May the weather conditions be with you.
3D Printer: Mark Two (Enterprise).
Material used: Onyx. The Markforged Mark Two Enterprise Edition can also 3D print Carbon Fibre, Fibreglass, HSHT fibreglass and Kevlar.
This information was first published on the Markforged website.