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What are the common applications of electron beam welding?

The full range of electron beam welded fabrications is incredibly diverse - after all, not many welding techniques can weld (say) steel that is 0.1mm thick, or at the other extreme 300mm thick in a single pass! Some examples of electron beam welded products are given below:

  • Bi-metal saw blades are produced in large numbers by electron beam welding. The high speed steel required for the cutting teeth is electron beam welded in a narrow strip to the main part of the blade, which is in low carbon steel. Material costs are reduced, and the bi-metal blade is considerably more flexible and thus less prone to breakage. This results in an improved product, both in terms of cost and performance.
  • Transmission assemblies are frequently fabricated by electron beam welding. Complex parts can be fabricated with great savings in machining and materials. The parts can be finish-machined and hardened prior to welding, which is the final operation. This example illustrates the ability of electron beam welding to restrict distortion to a minimal level, thus allowing easy fabrication of otherwise difficult or even impossible components.
  • Aerospace components in titanium alloys are fabricated by electron beam welding. Again low distortion means intricate components can be accurately joined. Due to the clean vacuum welding environment, there is no risk of oxygen pick-up and consequent weld embrittlement when electron beam welding these titanium alloys.
Being a vacuum based process, electron beam welding is ideal for sealing of pre-evacuated housings and electrical components. Despite the pump down time needed, small components can be welded with a cycle time of typically 10s or less.

The above examples go some way towards illustrating the diverse range of materials and component types that are electron beam welded. However, the applications of the technique are wider ranging still.

Besides the ability to weld thick material to thin material, electron beam welding also allows joining of dissimilar metals, i.e. those with different melting points and thermal conductivities. Some combinations which are unweldable by other processes are thus readily electron beam welded.

The applications detailed here require welding powers of a few hundreds of watts to tens of kW. Electron beam welding equipment is available with powers of over 100kW.

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