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Electron Beam Additive Manufacturing

TWI offers electron beam (EB) additive manufacturing (AM) solutions that draw on a combination of 50 years of experience developing EB technology and knowledge gained over 25 years of working with AM.

We work with both types of EBAM – powder-bed and wire-fed – and offer a full range of supporting services to help you exploit these technologies. This includes non-destructive testing, modelling, mechanical testing and analysis, as well as help addressing joining challenges where AM components are to become part of a high-integrity structure.

We critically compare different fabrication routes, additive or otherwise, to provide you with impartial advice on the most suitable manufacturing route for a particular component.

Capabilities at a glance

  • Wire-fed processing
  • Expertise working with many materials
  • Equipment optimisation and quality assurance including BeamAssure
  • Welding and brazing of additive parts
  • Modelling and practice to mitigate stress and distortion during build
  • Surface finish improvement methods
  • Non-destructive inspection
  • Techno-economic assessments

Powder-bed vs wire-fed EBAM

Powder-bed and wire-fed EBAM each offer distinct advantages. Electron beam powder AM allows fine detail and complex internal geometries to be fabricated, but it is a relatively slow process. Electron beam wire-fed AM enables a large volume of material to be deposited rapidly, but a final machining operation is usually required to reach dimensional tolerances.

What is EB powder-bed AM?

Electron beam powder-bed AM, also known as electron beam melting (EBM), is conducted in a powder bed inside a vacuum chamber. A powder feed system deposits an even layer 100 microns deep. An electron gun then heats the powder according to the component’s design, melting a single layer at a time. The beam is moved across the powder bed by magnetic deflection coils. The powder bed moves down, a new layer of powder is distributed and then the next layer is fused. 

Benefits of EB powder-bed AM

  • Create bespoke parts with very low material wastage
  • Achieve part geometries that are impossible to produce with conventional fabrication processes.

Electron beam powder-bed AM is used in sectors including medical (eg orthopaedic implants), aerospace and automotive (eg turbochargers).

What is EB wire-fed AM?

Electron beam wire-fed AM uses wire as feedstock, introduced through a nozzle. Heat applied from an electron beam both melts the wire and softens the base metal.

Like other wire-fed additive processes, EB wire-fed AM enables a large volume of material to be deposited rapidly, but produces a part that typically requires final machining. This often still represents a significant reduction in material wastage compared to machining a component from solid. 

Benefits of EB wire-fed AM

  • Combining near-net-shape deposits rather than machining an entire component from solid results in significant reductions in material wastage (and improved buy-to-fly ratio)
  • High deposition rate
  • Lower manufacturing costs (especially when working with expensive or difficult-to-machine materials)
  • Create functionally graded material
  • Performed in a vacuum, making it suitable for highly reactive materials and resulting in a very dense and clean deposit 
  • Reduce cost and lead times 
  • Manufacture small numbers of components in a cost-effective manner by eliminating the need for costly castings or forging dies 

Electron beam wire-fed AM may be used in sectors including aerospace (eg wing ribs, gear beams, dispense frames, pylon spigot fittings), power (eg Zircaloy/nickel alloy fittings), oil and gas (eg bosses on pipes), space and defence (eg titanium and aluminium fuel tanks). It can also be used to make repairs to metal components across every industry.

Contact us to find out how we can help.