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11 Advantages of the Electron-Beam Welding Process

29 October 2020 /

On the quest to produce higher quality welded products and increase efficiency, manufacturers around the world are waking up to the advantages of electron-beam (EB) technology. 

EB technology is used for a wide range of welding, hardening, drilling and surface coating applications where high quality, productivity and complexity are important. As such, almost every industry with welding requirements can stand to benefit from it.

But what are these benefits and how are they enabling engineering teams to meet today’s manufacturing demands by delivering higher quality welded products more efficiently?

 

The electron-beam welding process explained

Key to many of the benefits unlocked through electron beam welding is the EB welding process itself.

In most cases, electron beams are produced within an EB welding machine using a thermionic generator. Similar to how a light bulb produces incandescent light, as a current is applied to the tungsten filament, the filament heats up until the electrons have enough energy to escape the surface.

The beam direction and focus are altered using a magnetic stigmator. A focus lens then assists with the transport of the electrons to the product.

Did you know… The shape and focus of the electron beam depend on the quality of the vacuum environment. Typically, a medium vacuum (10-2mbar) will be suitable for welding materials such as steel, aluminium and copper, and a high vacuum (10-4mbar) would be more applicable to reactive materials such as titanium, niobium and zirconium.

The electron-beam welding magic happens at the centre of the beam. Here, with a power density above 10-5 W/cm², the material is vaporised, allowing the beam to propagate further into the workpiece for practical applications up to more than 100mm.

This offers manufacturers a range of advantages over traditional laser and arc welding. Read on to discover how your production could benefit.

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11 advantages of electron-beam welding 

1. High efficiency and repeatability 

Electron-beam welding is a very stable, repeatable process. Due to the minimal heat input combined with low distortion, finely machined and hardened workpieces can be welded as the last operation. This saves additional processes such as straightening of warp or grinding, usually necessary after welding, speeding up the process without impacting the quality or the finish of the product in question.

2. Superior welding of reflective materials

Manufacturing frequently involves materials with reflective qualities. Most laser beams would bounce off these, but because the delivery system of the energy in electron beam welding is electrons, not photons, EBs can be used to easily weld highly reflective materials such as copper or platinum.

3. Ideal for refractory materials such as titanium or niobium

The welding of refractory materials will fail if exposed to oxygen. Electron-beam welding circumnavigates this challenge because it takes place in a vacuum chamber, reducing the risk associated with refractory welds while speeding up production.

4. No gas contamination

Electron-beam welding’s use of a vacuum chamber grants another benefit. Without an atmosphere, there is no chance of gas contamination, resulting in clean, high-quality welds above and beyond those made using traditional methods.

5. Will not damage heat-vulnerable materials

You will have read above that electron-beam welding produces very little heat. Because of this, temperature-sensitive parts can be located in proximity to the weld region without risk of damage, creating new opportunities for assembly and production.

6. Flexible process suitable for wide range of materials

Electron-beam welding is capable of handling very deep to very shallow welds, even with the same machine. It can also process almost all metallic materials, from all kinds of steels to superalloys, aluminium to copper or reactive materials, miniature to heavy workpieces and thin to thick sections.

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7. Excellent at welding dissimilar metal joints 

Building on electron-beam welding’s ability to handle a wide range of materials is its application for welding a variety of dissimilar materials and industrial segments. The ability to weld dissimilar materials consistently and to a high quality makes it a versatile welding approach suitable for even complex production. 

8. Produce parts with virtually any geometry  

Prior to welding, the product is placed within the vacuum chamber onto a 3-axes computer numerical control (CNC) table. During welding, it can be further manipulated using a range of different types of jigs and fixtures to rotate or move the part as necessary. 

To give further degrees of freedom, the EB gun can be mounted on an 8-axes gantry and robot combination. This gives EB welding machines the maximum flexibility to deliver complex welded parts, opening up new approaches to design and production planning by enabling improvements in existing and completely new products.

9. Produce high quality welded products...

All these benefits combine to result in high-quality weld seams and clean workpieces. The result is a superior product compared to conventional techniques, ensuring that products meet internal and regulatory standards and delivering market-leading products to market.

10. ...at a high volume

Productivity and accuracy have not always gone hand-in-hand with electron-beam welding, but recent advancements have addressed these shortfalls. With pump downtime a thing of the past and seam tracking removing certain manual requirements, electron-beam welding can be used to weld high volumes of materials with precision and quality.

11. Cost effective welding solution

The electron beam can produce deeper welds and is more efficient than laser welding. The deeper the weld penetration is and the higher the cost of the material, the more cost-effective the electron beam approach becomes compared to other welding techniques.

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Electron-beam welding services you can trust

The advantages of electron-beam welding can provide cost-effective solutions for your most challenging welding projects. If you recognise these benefits and would like to talk about how your EB welding could improve your product quality and efficiency, we can help.

Vacuum Furnace Engineering (VFE) is in partnership with Probeam for the supply, installation, service, calibration and aftercare of EB welding machines in the UK.

We offer a range of service levels to meet every customer’s requirements, including the following:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To find out more information about any of these services, simply click the links above.

In terms of your existing setup, EB welding machines can be tailored to meet a wide range of product dimensions, geometries and welding complexity. This means that whatever your requirements, we can ensure they integrate smoothly into your production lines with minimal disruption to uptime and the fastest time-to-value.

Production is constantly evolving. EB technology opens new doors in terms of the quality of your product and how efficiently you are able to manufacture it. Investing now will give you the technology you need to overcome short-term production challenges while setting you up for greater efficiencies in the long-term.

With EB technology at your fingertips, aiming for perfect production has never been easier.

For more information about electron-beam welding or to enquire about our range of EB welding products and services, get in touch by clicking the button below.

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