Electron beam welding is not exactly new technology, but it’s gaining some momentum among manufacturers and fabricators – in part because of the expanding potential of EBW systems. The recent installation of a second 8-axis CNC EBW system at Applied Fusion Inc. in San Leandro, Calif., is a clear example. The family-owned operation chose Pro-Beam Systems GmbH to supply the new machine that, thanks to its 125-ton, 64-cubic meter vacuum chamber, offers a larger workspace than was previously possible for the high-precision work that EBW makes possible.

It’s not just the need to fabricate larger or more complex structures. “Most high-tech industrial trends are now all about superior quality requirements and total process control,” Applied Fusion president Jeff Musgrove explained. “Repeatability and ‘copy exact’ philosophy drive this trend. We are especially seeing this in the semiconductor industry. The stakes are very high.”

Electron beam welding (EBW)is a ready-to-go solution for all these challenges. EBW is a fusion welding technology in which two materials are made to combine by the heat generated from an electron beam. In fact, the materials are transformed at the molecular level thanks to the heat of the EB, focused on the material surface under vacuum to contain the heat energy.

Applied Fusion Inc. installed its first EBW machine in 1978, and since then it has been offering electron beam welding and brazing, along with laser welding and cutting, and more conventional welding processes, as well as CNC milling and turning, and numerous other manufacturing options. The new Pro-Beam Systems EBW machine joins a similarly sized model installed five years ago.

However, the new machine offers additional functions and higher production capacity than the earlier installation. Its 65-in., tilting rotary table has a Z-axis movement that establishes the flexibility to handle to a wider range of parts and perform a wider range of tasks.

It also has a faster vacuum pump than the first machine, which means it has a higher throughput capability. Many smaller parts can be welded in a single pump-down cycle.

"By installing another more advanced electron beam welder, we've stayed on top of the industry's latest trends and technology," stated Applied Fusion president Jeff Musgrove. "This increases our bandwidth and generates faster turnaround times, all while maintaining our high standards of quality and performance."

Announcing its new installation, Applied Fusion explained that the excellent performance of the first Pro-Beam Systems EBW machine, and the fact that it has been operating steadily since it was installed n 2008, indicated that another, more advanced machine would be a valuable addition.

This is because of the changes in demand that Musgrove described. Applied Fusion’s customers’ product quality and on-time performance requirements have grown stricter, and the physical dimensions of their products are increasing too. That accounts for the need to install a machine with a larger working envelope.

"Our new welder opens the door to a better customer experience," he said. "Our operators can begin welding sooner thanks to faster pumping speeds, and increased volume capabilities create manufacturing flexibility. Overall, this saves time and money for us, and more importantly, the customer."

The types of projects that are best addressed with EB welding are those with “stringent requirements for a super high-quality weld that can pass all non destructive and destructive tests,” Musgrove detailed, “as well as passing high-pressure and high vacuum requirements.

“In many cases,” he continued, “welding and brazing of space alloys and refractory metals are best suited with EB applications, for many reasons. Semiconductor, nuclear, aerospace, solar, automotive, and defense — all have these types of weld specifications that are very detailed.”

And for all those reasons, Applied Precision made the decision to expand its EBW capabilities. “Electron beam and laser welding are practically integrated into everything we manufacture,” the company president said. “Specifically, EBW represents (or is integrated into) approximately 70% of what we produce.”