A new technology is improving the efficiency of large-scale manufacturing projects by enabling firms to perform electron beam welding without a vacuum chamber. Pioneered in Britain by Cambridge Vacuum Engineering, the revolutionary EBFlow offers a flexible and efficient advanced manufacturing technology with numerous economic benefits.
In tests, EBFlow has been shown to be 20 to 30 times faster than conventional arc welding, offering transformational gains in productivity. This will enable manufacturers in a number of sectors to gain massive increases in throughput that will change their business models and unlock the true manufacturing potential of their facilities.
Many industries depend on a huge amount of “thick section” (greater than 20mm) steel structures to be cost-effectively fabricated on an annual basis. The ability to fabricate these thick section structures cost-effectively is in part limited by the welding time and associated cost.
As an example, heavy engineering industries looking to weld “thick section” components that are 5 metres in length (1.7 metre diameter) and 60mm in thickness could achieve the same process in 50 minutes compared to 12 hours using traditional methods. This could potentially save as much as 11 man hours at £40 per hour. A further example in the nuclear sector would be the the production of a typical 40-metre long monopile (60mm thick) which can take more than six thousand hours of ‘arc-on’ welding time. The EBFlow system has been proven to reduce the welding time involved to less than 200 hours, equivalent to a reduction in cost of over 85%.
Bigger capacity throughput is another vital improvement; the product price on cans and widgets that go out the door is 20 – 25% less expensive with EBFlow, bringing the return on investment down to months rather than years. The energy consumed in one metre of weld is 75% less using EBFlow than in standard submerged arc welding processes, resulting in a much lower energy usage.
Amongst the host of other economic benefits are lower working capital requirements and lower personnel costs as less employees will be needed to weld the components together. As filler materials are not needed consumable costs are also kept down to a minimum while reduced transportation costs and a smaller factory carbon footprint offer further savings.
In the past traditional vacuum chambers have been used to weld materials together but the ‘EBFlow system’ doesn’t need a chamber and associated pumping equipment. This dramatically reduces the welding time involved and means that bottlenecks move from the welding shop to other areas that can now afford to be upgraded. In terms of re-investing the millions saved this creates the opportunity to implement new technology elsewhere in the factory, increase R&D activity and increase overall profitability through enhanced throughput.
Bob Nicolson, Managing Director at Cambridge Vacuum Engineering commented on the innovation: “Our revolutionary EBFlow technology, fully developed in Britain, will transform the productivity of the fabrication processes throughout the world of heavy engineering. In many cases the speed of welding can be 30 times faster than current methods. By reducing the cost of ‘thick section’ steel structures commonly used in a range of industrial sectors, EBFLow will help play a vital role in the development of the manufacturing sector and in creating the factories of the future.”
Cambridge Vacuum Engineering (CVE) designs and builds process solutions and has more than 60 years’ experience manufacturing Electron Beam (EB) systems and Vacuum Furnaces (VF) from its base in Cambridge, UK. CVE’s range of equipment includes systems ranging from 50 – 200 kV with beam powers up to 100 kW.