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Climbing Mount Everest with 3D Printed Parts

It’s safe to say that Björn Lindwall has led an interesting life. Björn grew up in Sweden, but then moved to Czechoslovakia with his parents during the Soviet invasion. The family then moved to Tanzania for four years while they were at war with Uganda. “You kind of get used to it,” Björn says, “you learn to live with risk always present in your environment. That's why after 25 years of building a company, career, and family I needed a change.”

As the CEO and founder of SolidEngineer in Sweden, one would think Björn’s day-to-day life is far from adventurous. But the Swedish native decided ten years ago that he needed something new in his life. “I just wanted to pop outside the comfort zone,” says Björn. He started high altitude mountaineering — something he had enjoyed so much as a young adult — and completed expeditions in the Himalayan mountains in Nepal, Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, and Aconcagua in Argentina. To document these climbs, he created bjornadventure, a project and website set up by Björn that now also investigates how technology can be used in mountaineering and other adventure activities. After climbing some of the highest peaks in the world, he knew he needed to face the highest one in existence: Mount Everest.

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The arduous climb up Mount Everest was difficult, but was aided by the addition of custom 3D printed parts
The arduous climb up Mount Everest

Mount Everest Climbing Gear

Ahead of the climb, Björn sat down with some of his team members to look at the equipment he would need. Satellite communication was key for the expedition, so Björn set to work with one of his engineers to design a housing for the satellite communication equipment, along with updated crampons for lighter weight. As a Markforged partner, SolidEngineer had access to several Markforged printers, making the task of designing, prototyping, and fabricating the end-use parts far more simple. For the satellite communication boxes, the team had to create a housing that could withstand the freezing -40 C temperatures and high altitudes of Mount Everest, as well as the multiple hits it would take while being pulled up the mountain. The box was fabricated out of Onyx, a carbon fiber filled nylon material that can retain a decent amount of strength at low temperatures.

The team then cut into the crampons, replaced the steel parts with Onyx, and began testing them in South America. “Yes, steel will last longer,” says Björn, “but the steel equipment on the crampons weigh 50 grams, and the Onyx parts weigh 15 grams.” It was a no-brainer. The Onyx parts hit against rocks and stone and gravel — extremely different from the snowy environment on Mount Everest, but survived all the impacts.

When the eight-week expedition to Mount Everest began, Björn was ready to climb the 29,029 ft (8,848 m) to the peak. During the climb, Björn saw those who were left at Everest forever. “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. Between the night climbs and freezing temperatures, it was truly the hardest expedition he had ever experienced. When he reached the peak, the Onyx parts were still intact. By the time he made it down to base camp at the end of the eight weeks, the parts had a little wear and tear but no significant damage.

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The custom 3D printed parts included a 3D printed satellite equipment housing and crampon components
The satellite communication equipment box was 3D printed using Markforged's Onyx material

Next Steps

SolidEngineer use their experience from many special projects such as these to sell Markforged printers to companies in Sweden. Having climbed Mount Everest with the help of Markforged technology, it’s a pretty easy task for Björn to pitch Markforged printers.

Following on from his successful expedition, Björn has started a health program at SolidEngineer. “The aim is to do a mountaineering expedition in August with the entire team in north Sweden,” says Björn. Björn also has plans to paraglide off of Mount Everest — something only a handful of people have ever done. We wish him all the best in his adventures!

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