Electron beam additive manufacturing is a rapidly growing industry. Electron guns capable of reaching higher energies and higher average power can enable larger melt pools, higher production speed, and permit a broader range of materials for metal additive applications.
Such electron guns require technologies beyond those normally achieved with DC high-voltage sources. As an example, superconducting radio frequency (SRF) technology is an option to achieve higher energy and higher power with excellent efficiency; however, current SRF technology requires complex cryogenic systems to safely handle cryogenic gases or liquids such as helium. Such complexity severely restricts their usage to R&D facilities.
A high-power, high-energy, superconducting, radio-frequency electron gun was developed for advanced metal additive manufacturing applications. The novel design is based on a technique that eliminates liquid helium entirely and dramatically reduces the complexity of the system. It enables printing of high-performance alloys such as tungsten, niobium, and high-entropy alloys. It also provides 15X larger print sizes or, alternatively, 15X faster processing times. Other features include higher power, decreased spot size, more precise tolerances, and in situ SEM-like capabilities for defect detection.