How Electron Beam Welding Works

Electron beam welding is a process that is foreign to most people who are not highly involved in manufacturing, even though the technique was first developed almost 60 years ago in 1958. Most of the time, when we are imagining the process that affixes two pieces of metal together, we picture a man in a hooded mask armed with an extremely hot flame. However, this is not the case when using this technologically advanced technique. This method is commonly used in a variety of industries, including automotive part production, aircraft engine manufacturing, and the energy industry.

The negatively charged ions used in this method have a great deal of kinetic energy, which is energy that is produced due to movement. If you remember your high school science, these particles are constantly in motion, rotating quickly around the nucleus of an atom. When these ions are placed into a vacuum and forced into collision with the atoms in solids, this kinetic energy is transformed into heat. The heat then enables the desired melting and connection to occur.

The benefits of electron beam welding are many. By using this technique, the energy can be concentrated so that it melts only a very small area. This allows smaller parts to be joined together in a fully automated process that would otherwise be too costly to manufacture, which is why it is often utilized in the technology industry. This precision allows for the reduction, and often the elimination, of scrap normally produced in binding. Along with the reduction or elimination of scrap, this method also eliminates the need to further process or finish the joined product.

Electron beam welding can also allow the technician to precisely control the amount of heat generated during the operation. This has several benefits. The ability to control the heat makes it easier to bind dissimilar materials that have different melting points. The material with the lower melting point can be precisely targeted and the energy output can be limited to only the exact amount needed, which can reduce the loss of material. Furthermore, because the heat controls are so focused and precise, this technique has a higher weld penetration than other methods, with less distortion of the joint.

This technique takes place in a vacuum, which is an area where all the air is sucked out. This environment helps prevent the ions in the process from dissipating, enabling them to be better focused. These conditions are good for eliminating contaminants that would normally be in the air and could possibly weaken the joint.

Electron beam welding is an excellent example of practical science. Although it was developed in the 1950’s, this method of binding two materials together has evolved and matured along with the science that informs it. Today, small-chambered vacuums and high-speed machines make it possible to take full advantage of the extreme preciseness of this method of manufacturing.