NASA Langley Research Center researchers have a strong technology foundation in the use of electron-beam (e-beam) deposition for freeform fabrication of complex shaped metal parts. While e-beam wire deposition is of interest for rapid prototyping of metal parts, cost-effective near-net shape manufacturing, and potential use in space, it is also of intense interest for industrial welding and fabrication in a range of applications, from small components to large aerospace structures. Through significant advancements in techniques to improve control of the process, NASA greatly expands upon the capabilities of the e-beam fabrication and welding process.
The technology employs rastering of the e-beam in the region of the wire and substrate melt zone. By controlling the raster pattern, the e-beam selectively heats the outer edges of the wire as it strays from the melt zone. With such selective heating, the wire automatically curls back away from the high-heat outer edge and back into the region of the molten pool. Thus, with a fixed raster pattern, the process becomes self-correcting without any sensing or external control of process parameters.
This innovation provides a continuous and predictable deposition pattern, and simplifies deposition of complex geometries. It also optimizes microstructural control of the solidified molten metal. It provides efficient use of power and feedstock, and improves automated operation.
Potential applications include welding of metal structures for automotive, aerospace, and other industrial and commercial manufacturing; freeform fabrication of complex metal components in remote locations; near-net shape manufacturing and rapid prototyping; and use in a variety of metal fabrication markets, from automotive and aerospace to sporting goods and medical devices.