This slightly abridged paper reviews the proceedings of the International Conference on High Power Electron Beam (EB) Technology, sponsored by ALD Vacuum Technology, Bakish Materials Corp. and von Ardenne Anlagentechnik. The conference was held in Reno, Nev., on Oct. 26-28, 2008.

This year’s conference was held at Harrah’s in Reno, Nev., on the very site where the conference was born in 1983. Participants came from Bulgaria, Canada, France, Germany, England, Estonia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Russia, the Ukraine and the United States.

Fig. 1. 800-KW gun EH800/50 (Courtesy of von Ardenne Anlagentechnik)

History of Electron Beam Technology

Mathias Neumann of von Ardenne Anlagentechnik, the leading supplier of EB-powered systems, started with a presentation that reviewed 50 years of electron-gun and melting-furnace progress. Early electron guns arrived in late 1950s. The first electron beam melting furnace for reactive and refractory metals, 45 KW, was built in 1959. A milestone EB melting furnace of 1.2 megawatts of power was built in 1964-66. Their underlying principles still govern today’s prevailing technology. Von Ardenne’s guns are the most powerful EB guns available today, and they are used in a wide range of operations, including melting, coating and heat treating. Fig. 1 shows the EH800/50, which is capable of delivering 800 KW of power. This gun is the workhorse of all the most recent large EB melting installations.

Fig. 2. Schematic of newest 5-megawatt TIMET furnace (Courtesy of TIMET): 1. Melt chamber cover with five guns mounted on it; 2. Melt chamber; 3. Particular and solid metal feed for melting; 4. Evacuation path; 5. Ingot


Len Korzon of TIMET, Morgantown, Pa., the largest EB melting installation in the world, with a total capacity of 20 megawatts of power delivered by five furnaces, reported on the design of the two newest furnaces, each powered by six 825-KW guns, comparing the design to existing furnaces. These two chamber furnaces can cast slabs as large as 26x65x165 inches, up to 50,000 pounds. Fig. 2 shows a schematic of the newest furnaces.

J.P. Bellot from the University of Nancy next presented results of studies including modifying and simulation of the thermal behavior of Ti6Al4V electrode in the electron beam remelting process. The work conducted in a 100-KW ALD Vacuum Technologies-built furnace focused on studying losses of alloy elements. Lower melting rates reduce Al losses.

D. Tripp of TIMET next began by listing the ever-increasing requirements for AMS 4928 used in applications such as land-based military vehicles, armor, air force rotating vanes and jet-engine discs and spools. It followed with a presentation on “Production of Bar of the Same Alloy by Single Melt.” This approach, which eliminates a melt cycle, reduces cycle time and processing steps. There are potential savings in the manufacture of small-diameter bars using EB single-melt stock. TIMET has produced trial quantities of 25-mm, 50-mm and 100-mm bar from EB single-melt stock. The material has been tested for chemistry, mechanical properties, micro and macro structure and ultrasonic responses. Trial results indicate that with appropriate processing EB single-melt ingot is capable of meeting all requirements of AMS 4928 or similar specifications for small-diameter bar. Comparative chemical analysis of a different alloy, ASTM B348, by single melt and standard-processed material (EB+VAR) is given in Table 1.

Fig. 3. Tantalum products and manufacturing technology (Courtesy of ULBA, Kazakhstan)

A report on the ULBA plant in Kazakhstan by S. Dobrussin and M. Neumann followed. This plant produces Ur, Be and Ta. Details on Ta production are shown in Fig. 3. Improvements in the equipment were discussed together with their affect on the products. The upgrade is actually a conversion of a 1.2-megawatt single-gun installation EM01200 to a 1.6-megawatt system powered by two 800-KW guns. The update included new beam guidance, increased power permitted, improved quality and better cleaning of impurities. The new guns have better access to the cathode and are much easier to maintain. Further expansions in the ULBA plant are planned for 2010 and 2012.

Elena Koleva from the Institute of Electronics, Bulgarian Academy of Science in Sofia followed with a presentation on the analysis of inclusion removal. She began with the theoretical aspects of the process. The influence of beam power density and its distribution on the molten pool was investigated with optimization of the EBM regime. Simulation application based on a statistical approach in addition to results of experimental measurements provide the possibility to predict impurity content in the refined ingot with changes in process conditions. Some inclusions change concentration while others do not. The changes depend on power, flow rate and time.

Fig. 4. 2.4-MW Ti furnace (Courtesy of Perryman)

EB Safety Panel

Next, a panel chaired by Douglas Hughes of Reading Alloys with N. Dagle of Zak, R. Dorvel from H.C. Starck and L. Heinz of Heinz Engineering discussed EB Melting Safety. Preventative maintenance, OSHA hazards, communication standards, job-safety behavior, job-safety analysis and risk assessment were discussed. Though EB melting is a very dangerous process with high voltage, high temperature, X-rays and vacuum involved, there have been virtually no accidents in the industry.

S. Ladokhin of the Physico Technical Institute of Metals and Alloys of the National Academy of Science of Ukraine was the next presenter. He had results of studies of EB melting Ti-Al and TiNi Alloys. The technology proposed includes introduction of Al and Ni, while electromagnetically stirring, in the finishing stages of melting alloys with Al concentration from 14-17% and 32-34% and TiNi alloys with Ni concentration of 55%. The investigation of the structure and hardness show the possibility of regulation of these characteristics by modifying the EB heating regime without changing the chemical composition. Properties of the alloys investigated indicate that the alloy permits casting of shaped parts.

Only highlights of a paper by A. Gladkov and V. Chemiavsky were given, as the speakers could not obtain visas to attend the conference. The paper was devoted to Zr and Nb production in an EB furnace with electromagnetic stirring (EMS). Zr ingots of 290 mm diameter and Nb ingots of 200 mm diameter were cast. EB melting with EMS made possible reduced grain-size ingots while in Nb EB melted with EMS reduced oxygen content to 0.16% and nonmetallic inclusions from 0.5 down to 0.19%.

E. Koleva presented a second paper that was co-authored by I. Balchkova and K. Velev. Using advances in information technologies and development of models for optimization and equipment controls, an engineering support system (ESS) for modeling and control of the process of EB melting and refining (EBMR) of metals was developed. The reference architecture of the ESS is open, giving the possibility to expand and improve the system. Adequate mathematical models of the EBMR equipment are designed. The systematization of the development, analytical and statistical models for mass and heat transport, pool geometry, content of impurities and evaporation rates is performed by transforming the developed models in a unified ESS approach.

V. Arzhakova of the AA Bochvar All Russian Institute of Inorganic Material followed with a paper titled “Features of Melting and Molding Ingots of Hafnium.” Physical and foundry properties of Hf and the areas of its use were discussed. The metal is produced by both calcium reduction and the Van Arkel process method. In the EB melting furnace, Fe, Si, Mg, Ni and to a lesser degree O and C are removed while vacuum-arc melting does not significantly affect its composition. Comparing analysis and hardness of ingots after EB and vacuum-arc melting show that EB melting of Hf with installations of intermediate capacity is the optimum process for production of metal of high quality.

The presentation by I. Grosse of Perryman described the company’s new 2.4-megawatt EB Cold Hearth Refining (EBCHR) installation (Fig. 4), which is powered by three 800-KW von Ardenne guns for processing Ti to be converted to large bar and hot-rolled products and will start with 30-inch-diameter ingot, 180 inches long. He also discussed the pioneering utilization of dry-compression screw-type vacuum pumps (Oerlikon Leybold’s ScrewLine SP630) in the EBCHR furnace. These pumps replaced conventional piston pumps with similar capacities. Although more expensive, they offer many advantages (Table 2).

Fig. 5. SEM of fractured surface of nano-layered ceramic produced by evaporation (Courtesy of Applied Research Lab, Penn State University)

Titanium Market

The next paper by D. Esser of ALD was a slight departure from the essentially technical vein of the conference. It instead concentrated on the following markets for Ti and its continued growth in demand.
  • Aerospace, including commercial and military
  • Industrial, including everyday chemical
  • Automotive
  • Secondary and emerging markets, including medical comprising devices, implants and tools
  • Consumer markets, including sports and leisure
All these industries have a long history of fluctuation in demand, availability, price and applications. Despite current economic conditions, long-term projections show growth opportunities for titanium materials, alloys and products. Present industry focus is used to determine material production requirements, dictating capacity increases, capital equipment investment and plant expansion. Departing from the existing capacity to produce these materials, Esser speculated on future-equipment requirements to support the demands.

Fig. 6. Recoated graphite cores produced simultaneously by EBPVD (Courtesy of Applied Research Lab, Penn State University)

Niobium Market

The next paper was by D. Proch and titled “Niobium Demand for Superconductor (SC) Accelerator Systems.” These types of systems have proven superior to conventional, conducting-design accelerator concepts. The pioneering applications in storage rings for high-energy physics accelerators were followed by projects at Oak Ridge and Desy. There are also several operating projects related to the acceleration of heavy ions or protons.

Superconducting RF-accelerator systems are built from niobium. High-purity Nb is required for this application, where contamination must stay at or under the level of 10 ppm. In the technical specifications, the material is defined at Residual Resistance Ratio RRR300. This is an indirect measure of the purity by measuring electrical resistance at room and cryogenic temperatures.

This high purity of Nb has implications for the vacuum quality of the melting facilities and the number of melts. The bulk of the Nb material is bought in the form of small-grain sheets. Recently, there is interest in large-grain and even single-crystal sheet. The unsolved challenge is to develop an operating cycle of the melting facility with high yield of large-grain and even single-crystal structure.

At present, the largest SC accelerator project under construction is the XFEL at Desy. Nb demand is around 30 tons over three years starting in 2009. Major upgrades of existing installations, like the CEBAF lineac at Jefferson Laboratory, Newport News, are increasing demand by 2 to 3 tons during 2009-2013. At SNS at Oak Ridge, 1.5 tons during 2010 are approved. Conceptual- and advanced-design studies are on the way for the international linear collider (ILC) – 500 tons in 2015-2022. These are truly notable increases in demand for Nb.

Fig. 7. Graphite nozzle produced by EBPVD (Courtesy of ALD)

A paper by V. Melnyk from the Ukraine on high-voltage glow discharge guns for EB melting reported on a system using acceleration voltage of 30 KV current of 20A, which can deliver 600 KW of power at operation pressure in 1 to 10 PA. These guns are simple and reliable and do not need high vacuum for operation, and the power sources for these are relatively simple. The experience with these guns show technical and economical advantages.

C. Punshon followed with a paper on equipment and applications of reduced-pressure EB technology for melting and surface modification with active gases. EB welding, melting and surface treatment has been carried out using vacuum chambers and relatively good vacuum (10 mbar). The development of high-power (100 KW), reduced-pressure (1 mbar) systems led to the possibility of using local sealing and mobile vacuum technology as well as the possibility to introduce inert or active gases employed to modify mechanical and metallurgical properties of materials.

C. Metzner of the Fraunhoffer FEP, Dresden, next discussed new applications for PVD by electron beam evaporation for photovoltaic-concentrated-solar and high-efficiency lightning. Functional layers in thin-film photovoltaic can be deposited with high productivity on large-area substrates by electron beam evaporation. Potential applications are the intrinsic layer in silicon-based solar cells, electrically insulating layers for monolithic circuitry of solar cells and metallic layers as electrode on silicon-wafer cells. Some of these layers can be up to several micrometers and dictate for coating with high rates. Plasma activation of vapor is an effective method for densification of the layer structure. Single cells must be separated from the large coated area for circuitry on the substrate, and structuring by electron beam micromachining can also be used.

Fig. 8. A family of EBPVD systems (Courtesy of ALD)

EBPVD Coating

The next two papers were also devoted to EBPVD coating. The first, by J. Singh from Penn State University’s Applied Research Laboratory, was titled “Nano Structured Component Fabrication by Electron Beam Physical Vapor Deposition (EBPVD).” It demonstrated the versatility of EBPVD in engineering materials with controlled microstructure and microchemistry. In the form of coatings, EBPVD technology is being explored in forming precision net-shaped components for many applications, including space, turbine, biomedical and automotive. Simultaneous co-evaporation of multiple ingots of different compositions in the high-energy EBPVD chamber has brought considerable interest in the architecture of functional graded coatings, nano-lamination coatings and designing new structural material that could not be produced economically by conventional methods such as various metallic and ceramic coatings, including carbides nitrides of Ti, Hf, TiBeN and oxides of zirconia. Fig. 5 shows an SEM of a fractured surface of nano-layered ceramic produced by evaporation, Fig. 6 shows recoated graphite cores produced simultaneously by EBPVD and Fig. 7 shows a graphite nozzle produced by EBPVD.

Fig. 9. Process chamber of a PVD system (Courtesy of ALD)

The second paper was titled “Historical Development of Manufacturing Technologies for Production of Coatings for Modern Aircraft Turbines” and was authored by J. Holz of ALD Vacuum Technologies. This technology was developed in the last three decades. Bond coatings, originally developed with EBPVD, use MCrAlY as coating. A Pt-aluminide coating was also developed.

Diffusion barriers are employed between the bond coating and the thermal barrier. This is usually a thin AlO ceramic zone on top of the bond coating, and it is an ideal condition for applying thermal-barrier coatings using the EBPVD machine by oxidizing surface aluminum of either the MCrAlY or the Pt Aluminide. The thermal-barrier coatings (TBC) are the final layer that protects the turbine components from the high temperature. This paper-thin coating allows high gas temperatures – exceeding by 100-150°F the melting point of the Ni-base-superalloy component, yttrium stabilized ZrO – was proven to be the ideal material for these TBCs. The coatings serve both aircraft and stationary power engines. Fig. 8 shows a family of EBPVD systems, and Fig. 9 shows the process chamber of a PVD system. ALD has been very active in the development of this technology and today is the leading supplier of EBPVD systems for this task. High-rate electron beam has been superior to all other coating techniques.IH