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What is Electron Beam Welding? Process Definition and Advantages


Electron beam (EB) welding is a fusion welding process whereby electrons are generated by an electron gun and accelerated to high speeds using electrical fields. This high speed stream of electrons is tightly focused using magnetic fields and applied to the materials to be joined. The beam of electrons creates kinetic heat as it impacts with the workpieces, causing them to melt and bond together.

Electron beam welding is performed in a vacuum environment as the presence of gas can cause the beam to scatter. Due it being a vacuum process and because of the high voltages used, this welding method is heavily automated and computer controlled. As a result, specialised fixtures and CNC tables are used to move the workpieces inside the welding vacuum chamber.

Recent developments in electron beam welding machine technology have realised a local method of electron beam welding, whereby the electron beam gun is enclosed in a vacuum box on the side of the material to be joined, rather than placing the entire workpiece inside a vacuum chamber.

Electron Beam Developments - Podcast

What are the Advantages of Electron Beam Welding?

The electron beam welding process is a very precise technique and is also highly repeatable due to the automation required. This welding technology also creates strong and pure joins that can be used across a number of high-end applications for a wide range of industries. Electron beam welding also offers precise weld penetration control from a depth as small as 0.0001 inches.

The EB process also provides a small heat affected zone due to the high depth-to-width ratio, which minimises distortion and material shrinkage while allowing welds to be performed in close proximity to heat sensitive components.

Electron beam welding also shows high strength properties, maintaining up to 95% of the strength of the base materials.

As the technique is performed in a vacuum environment there are no impurities left by the process. Oxides and nitrides are eliminated while impurities in the materials themselves are vaporised.

EB welding is also highly automated and thereby controllable, while also being excellent for joining materials, such as refractory or dissimilar metals, that are not weldable with conventional processes.

Find out more on our recorded webinar

What are the Disadvantages of Electron Beam Welding?

The main disadvantage of this process is that the electron beam welder technology is expensive and requires frequent maintenance to ensure the equipment is functioning correctly. As a result the support required to maintain this high energy vacuum welding technology can be demanding.

Electron Beam Welding Services

TWI has decades of expertise in developing electron beam processes, including a number of innovations to the technique. Our equipment includes various EB machines with a range of voltage and power outputs and different vacuum chamber sizes, meaning that we can process both small and large components. We support companies from across industry with matters such as design, process selection, manufacture and quality control.

Find out more about our electron beam services

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