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Electron beam melting


#1

Hi folks,

I hope this isn’t a stupid question, but the whole metals quiz/3D
printing thing got me thinking. I was talking to another member
about the different technologies and it left me wondering whether
electron beam melting (EBM) could ever be modified for use in the
jewellery industry?

It’s a metal sintering technology which melts metal particles using
a laser beam in a high vacuum. It (apparently) “grows” fully dense,
strong metal models. Currently things such as medical implants made
of titanium are made using this technology. Using a vacuum also
means that reactive metals can be successfully sintered in an
oxygen-free environment.

It was just a thought. However, it was probably ruled out long ago
as being too expensive - but jewellers already use expensive
equipment using lasers and vacuums so the technology may not be out
of reach for some. Thanks Nanz for getting the brain cells active!

Helen
UK
http://www.hillsgems.co.uk
http://helensgems.ganoksin.com/blogs/


#2
It's a metal sintering technology which melts metal particles
using a laser beam in a high vacuum. It (apparently) "grows" fully
dense, strong metal models. Currently things such as medical
implants made of titanium are made using this technology. Using a
vacuum also means that reactive metals can be successfully sintered
in an oxygen-free environment.

I think there may be some confusion here. Sintering is not what
electron beam furnaces are used for. They are used for evaporation
of various materials including metals. It is done in a high vacuum
and the resulting vapor then coats substrates that are placed in the
vacuum chamber. It is the fastest means of doing these vapor
coatings but nowhere near fast enough to build objects other than
nano machines from. Sintering is normally done on powders that have
been compacted into some form of shape by a press then the resulting
"green" compact is placed in a furnace and exposed to temperatures
high enough for the atoms to diffuse fairly rapidly and bond the
powder into a solid mass and yes this is often done in a vacuum as
well to reduce the unwanted reactions of the powders with the
atmosphere. The resulting density ofthe sintered materials can be 99
percent of ideal density of the material and if the sintering is
followed with a hot isostatic pressing (HIP) operation then it can
achieve densities of 99.8 or better. In jewelry the PMC and other
metal clays are an example of sintering. there are also a few
manufacturers who are using powdered metal processes for some jewelry
items but the processing costs to get to the higher densities make it
only viable for true mass production items where you are making tens
of thousands of identical parts. HIPping is only used in industrial
parts like aircraft or other high tech items where the costs can be
dealt with. Also a minor detail, e- beams generate x-rays when they
strike metals at a high enough voltage so you need some shielding and
careful controls when using them.

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


#3

Helen,

First plan on selling your first 3 kids souls and then capturing and
confining a troll to run the thing. Otherwise good plan :slight_smile:

jeffD
Demand Designs
Analog/Digital Modelling & Goldsmithing
http://www.gmavt.net/~jdemand


#4

It’s a metal sintering technology which melts metal particles using
a laser beam in a high vacuum. It (apparently) “grows” fully dense,
strong metal models. Currently things such as medical implants made
of titanium are made using this technology. Using a vacuum also
means that reactive metals can be successfully sintered in an
oxygen-free environment.

I think there may be some confusion here. Sintering is not what
electron beam furnaces are used for. They are used for evaporation
of various materials including metals. It is done in a high vacuum
and the resulting vapor then coats substrates that are placed in
the vacuum chamber.

Some major snippage, but your both right, and wrong. As I will
probably be too.

Electron beam furnaces can be used to sinter (think ceramics for
things like flame arrestors) and they can also be used to melt/cast
metals, I have a button of Ruthenium that was “cast” from ruthenium
sponge (dust) in this way. In industry things like niobium ingots are
continuously cast: i.e. sponge is fed into the hearth and melts in
the beam and a continuous ingot “falls” out the bottom. AS to how
they make this work in a sealed vacuum chamber I don’t know!

The pit falls with this technology is that it happens in a vacuum so
cooling is very slow this can lead to odd/large crystal growth
patterns, some metals anneal this way and others don’t. One that does
is Niobium, and one that doesn’t like it much is tungsten (although
my memory on this metal is hazy, long time since I last did any
real work with it, so it I’m miss remembering someone please
correct me).

BTW I still have a complete vacuum chamber system in the basement
rigged to do evaporated metal vapour coatings (Al through you name
it, welllll within reason) and specific oxide over coatings (SiO,
and MgF)… In theory I could use this rig to grow CVD diamonds,
but I won’t, not enough hours in the day as it is, don’t need another
"project"! I did have an E-beam to go with it, but I sold it quite
some time ago, you’d have been surprised at how much room that rig
took up.

Cheers, Thomas Janstrom.
Little Gems.
http://tjlittlegems.com


#5
I think there may be some confusion here. Sintering is not what
electron beam furnaces are used for. 

The process I’m talking about does indeed make parts from metal
powder which is then melted using an electron beam in a high vacuum,
to produce fully dense, strong parts. I’m not talking about a
conventional electron beam furnace. The powder is laid down in a very
thin layer, then the electron beam, which is controlled by magnetic
fields, is used to melt the powder in the desired shape for that
layer (the data being from a CAD file). Another layer of powder is
applied and the process is repeated until the model is fully grown.
Although I read that it was a sintering process, I can see now that
it’s not really, as it fully melts the metal powder rather than just
fusing it

  • but it’s still a valid and very interesting technology which could
    one day be used in the jewellery industry. Read Arcam’s pdf which
    presents their EBM process.

http://tinyurl.com/cfkw74 (pdf file)

Also watch their YouTube videos:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?vA4lm_CgISnA
http://www.youtube.com/watch?vlUIipa3AgNg

The second one describes the process in more detail. It is a tad
misleading when representing the thickness of the layers though -
but

it describes the process pretty well.

It is the fastest means of doing these vapor coatings but nowhere
near fast enough to build objects other than nano machines from. 

The technology I’m talking about builds parts for the motor and
aviation industries, medical implants (see video), etc - hardly nano
machines. They can be built solid or in mesh form (if light weight
properties are required). The company talks about the technology
being used in place of conventional (investment) casting methods and
that it can produce complex geometries which are not possible by
other

manufacturing methods.

Sintering is normally done on powders that have been compacted into
some form of shape by a press then the resulting "green" compact is
placed in a furnace and exposed to temperatures high enough for the
atoms to diffuse fairly rapidly and bond the powder into a solid
mass 

See above re the process not really being sintering. Yes, the powder
is actually melted rather than just fused, so yes it’s not really
sintering, you’re right.

In jewelry the PMC and other metal clays are an example of
sintering. there are also a few manufacturers who are using
powdered metal processes for some jewelry items but the processing
costs to get to the higher densities make it only viable for true
mass production items where you are making tens of thousands of
identical parts. 

I never suggested that individual jewellers would go out and buy the
machinery to do this type of technology. I was fully aware that if
it did ever catch on in our industry (and I’m talking about years
down the line when such technology is more commonplace and not
astronomically expensive), that it would be the big boys doing it.
Maybe I should have kept my mouth shut and patented its use for
jewellery myself! :wink: That’s me joking by the way.

Also a minor detail, e-beams generate x-rays when they strike
metals at a high enough voltage so you need some shielding and
careful controls when using them. 

The company also mention this but their machinery obviously shields
users from such dangers.

It was just a thought that grabbed me based on the puzzle posed by
Nanz the other day. I knew I’d get knocked back by the metal experts
but if you review what the patent holders say about the process,
it’s not a million miles away from what I was thinking.

Helen
UK
http://www.hillsgems.co.uk
http://helensgems.ganoksin.com/blogs/


#6

Hi Helen,

I think you may be thinking of this process used by Bathsheba
Grossman, link below,

http://www.bathsheba.com/sculpt/process/index.html#3dprint

I don’t know if it would work in all metals. I came across it on
computersculpture.com, his linkspage has more than
anyone could possibly want to know about…computer
sculpturing.

regards Tim Blades.


#7
First plan on selling your first 3 kids souls and then capturing
and confining a troll to run the thing. 

Like me, Helen has an insatiable curiosity. I believe that’s never a
bad thing, but sometimes you/we paint ourselves into a corner. You
can search for electron beam welding and find much. Here’s a page:

http://www.ebeinc.com/eb_and_laser_welding_machines.asp

to buy them, if you want. Each picture is worth a million dollars
(or 2)…

We’re pretty much looking to pop for a laser welder soon. I’ll
confess that I’ve never used one before. The machine we’re
contemplating is $30k… So, I found these videos (from our friend
the laser salesman’s company, BTW, TYVM)

http://www.laserstar.net/jewelrywelding_videos.html

Well… In the time it takes to retip a stone with the laser
in the videos, I’ll have it delivered and be sitting down having a
scotch. Even more so with the ring shank. The only real advantage
toa laser is doing un-solderable jobs. We just had an emerald ring
repaired that was a $750 job by conventional methods. It is foolish
to get one as a replacement for a torch. When people have one, they
use them for trivial things like tacking parts together, but that’s
not a reason to BUY one, it’s a fringe benefit. It is true that the
welded tips are welded, as opposed to soldered, but jewelry got
along just fine with soldering for centuries…

That’s not a rant - Yes, Helen (and all), we probably could use
electronic beam welding, and we could also install robots to pick up
food off a dinner plate and place it gently in your mouth for 10
million dollars/pounds… But a spoon in your hand does the job quite
nicely…

http://www.donivanandmaggiora.com


#8

Ok Helen,

I went and looked at what you are referring to. It is a very cool
process, it is a variant of a laser based process called Selective
Laser Sintering or SLS by the inventors. They got the terminology
wrong also but did not ask me about the nomenclature :-). I see what
they are doing and it is an improvement over the SLS but it is going
to be godawful expensive to make anything with the process. I think
it will probably be restricted to things like the medical implant and
prototype aerospace or other products where cost is not the driving
factor. The cost of handling parts in a vacuum really drives up the
price. One of the parts they show on YouTube they say took 20 hours
to grow. That machine is many hundreds of thousands of dollars so 20
hours of machine time will be quite pricy probably $200 per hour or
more. I doubt they will achieve any significant cost reductions on
the technology any time soon if ever so it is doubtful if it will
ever be useful for consumer products like jewelry.

But it is very cool,

Jim

James Binnion


#9

Helen - it does sound as though you may be describing a 3D printing
technique.

I’ve got a tiny (and lovely) sculpture by Bathsheba Grossman, which
has been made by a 3D printing process in stainless steel. Here’s a
link to her description of the process:

http://www.bathsheba.com/sculpt/process/

The process for the stainless steel involves building up the model
layer by layer, using an organic binder on steel powder, then
sintering it in an oven and filling its porosity with molten bronze.

I see that the same company also offer 3D direct printing in gold
for dental products:

http://exone.com/eng/technology/x1-imagen/process_imagen.html

This lot are using an electron-beam melting technique to do direct
3D printing of titanium alloys for bone implants:

I don’t know if anyone is using this technology to produce jewellery
yet, but I’m sure they will be before long.

Richard


#10

To Thomas,

As I said in my response to James Binnion, it’s not an electron beam
furnace I’m talking about. The particles of metal are precisely
melted by the electron beam, which is controlled by magnetic fields.
Read the info and watch the videos I mentioned.

To Tim,

http://www.bathsheba.com/sculpt/process/index.html#3dprint

Almost but not quite. She uses a sintering technique, leaving a
porous product which then has to be dipped in molten metal to fill
the pores. What I’m talking about is actual melting - but precise
melting so that the whole thing doesn’t end up in a puddle of metal.
Her sculptures are fantastic btw - I’ve drooled over them for a
while.

To John,

Like me, Helen has an insatiable curiosity. 

That’s all it was. Everyone who has responded has got slightly the
wrong technology in mind when they have tried to correct me. I’ve
posted the so people can see what I’m talking about -
it’s done by a company called Arcam.

Please also note that I NEVER suggested that any of us go out and
invest in such machinery - far from it. It was an “I wonder whether
such a technology will ever be used in jewellery one day” type
speculation. Let’s face it folks, once upon a time, casting was seen
as outlandish and not true to the roots of jewellery-making. Also
the likes of PMC has been sneered at. I’m sure folks turned their
noses up at laser welding to start with. So don’t knock what I’m
saying. In a few years or a couple of decades, when such technology
is more affordable and commonplace, the big manufacturers might be
knocking out pieces of jewellery using freeform fabrication
"printers" utilising the electron beam melting method. Remember where
you heard the idea first! :wink:

Helen - insatiably curious!
UK


#11

Helen et al

Actually this is not as silly as you might think perhaps just a
little premature. There are in fact powder based AF ( Additive
Fabrication ) systems that utilize electron beam melting and one or
two of the really well funded jewelry companies have already
purchased the technology. Unfortunately the cost of fabrication from
precious metal to a powder and then back again to a finished product
is far too costly for jewelry at this stage but the technology is
quite viable in terms of surface finish and accuracy. Costs on
equipment start about $500K and that is before you have to add the
metal powder. The foremost system available is from Sweeden

I have been working with the folks at NASA on the development of
newer systems that we will someday use for jewelry that also
incorporate electron beam melting called EBF3. These new systems use
a wire feed and a focused electron beam to build 3 dimensional parts
intended for aerospace applications, mainly structurals in steel
and/or titanium. At these early stages of development the wire size
and beam width are far too large for the accuracy we need in jewelry
but, it is only a matter of time. Engineers are hard at work
developing the solutions we will need for micro-focus beams and the
host of mechanical issues to accommodate the wire size. Below is a
YouTube link to a NASA briefing which describes the technology.

Steven Adler
A3DM


#12
Actually this is not as silly as you might think perhaps just a
little premature. There are in fact powder based AF ( Additive
Fabrication ) systems that utilize electron beam melting and one
or two of the really well funded jewelry companies have already
purchased the technology. 

The cost of the powder is only one issue but the cost of the machine
is also a major one. Given the maturity of the underlying technology
I seriously doubt that such a machine would ever be made for even
half that price. The build time will still be way too high for direct
production work in jewelry. Aerospace, medical sure no problem but
this industry, no way. These guys have fits over a few cents
additional cost.

Engineers are hard at work developing the solutions we will need
for micro-focus beams and the host of mechanical issues to
accommodate the wire size. Below is a YouTube link to a NASA
briefing which describes the technology.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WrWHwHuWrzk

Also really cool but still needs high vacuum, e-beam power supplies
precision actuators etc. Gonna be hundreds of thousands for such a
machine at a minimum.

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


#13

Hi Jim,

I went and looked at what you are referring to. 

Thanks for taking the time to look. Yes, I thought it was similar to
SLS (Selective Layer Sintering) too, which is also fascinating, but
the fact that EBM makes pieces directly in metal obviously caught my
eye.

To Richard Sewell,

it does sound as though you may be describing a 3D printing
technique. 

That’s exactly what I’m talking about - I did try to explain.

This lot are using an electron-beam melting technique to do direct
3D printing of titanium alloys for bone implants 

It is not Bathsheba’s process, which is sintering - it is precisely
Arcam’s technology which I’m talking about. I did post links to a
pdf file they’d written, and two YouTube videos they’d done, but I
don’t think they appeared on Orchid until yesterday, so replies to
that may still be in the ether.

I don't know if anyone is using this technology to produce
jewellery yet, but I'm sure they will be before long. 

That was exactly my thought too.

To Steven Adler,

Actually this is not as silly as you might think perhaps just a
little premature. 

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I feel vindicated. As for the
premature bit, I did mean at some point in the future, rather than
at the present time. I understand that technologies have to be
developed further and that the process would need to evolve to be
made more suitable for our industry, and that costs would have to
come down (which always happens with technology).

one or two of the really well funded jewelry companies have
already purchased the technology. 

Again, thank you! Not quite so premature after all then?!

The foremost system available is from Sweeden http://www.arcam.com 

Yes, that is the company I have been talking about. I posted links
to some of their yesterday.

I have been working with the folks at NASA on the development of
newer systems that we will someday use for jewelry that also
incorporate electron beam melting called EBF3 

I stumbled on the EBF3 technology when I was looking into EBM.
Equally fascinating.

It’s taken a while to get people on track with what I was actually
talking about, but after quite a battle, I think I’m finally getting
there.

So to sum up, it’s NOT the technology which Bathsheba is using to
make her gorgeous models - although that is very interesting too -
but it IS the technology which the company, ARCAM has (if I remember
correctly) patented, which makes fully dense models from metal
powder, the particles of which are fully melted by an electron beam
controlled by magnetic fields.

As for the technology being prohibitively expensive, costs always
come down with further development. My guess is that in the future,
they’ll have machines with multiple vacuum chambers all running at
once, growing many pieces rather than just one at a time. Electron
beam technology controlled by magnetic fields is hardly state of the
art technology either, just think of the cathode ray tube! and the
mass spectrometer which both use electron beams deflected by
magnetic fields - and they’ve been around for decades.

As I said yesterday, for those of you who think I’m mad, remember
where you heard it first, when you go to MJSA and see the technology
being demonstrated for use in jewellery manufacture. :wink: You might
think “oh yes, that crazy English woman was harping on about that a
few years ago!”.

Helen
UK
http://www.hillsgems.co.uk
http://helensgems.ganoksin.com/blogs/


#14
to do direct 3D printing of titanium alloys for bone implants: 

Helen and others are right that you just never know what the future
holds.

Long, long ago - 30 or 35 years ago - I saw a show about the "latest"
technology. They were using it to grow bone implants because bones
are quite difficult to machine. They are “organic” shapes. Very
expensive stuff, that. Now they call it RP - rapid prototyping - and
there’s a machine down the hall…


#15

Dear Jim and helen,

some of my colleagues are working on rapid prototyping of artificial
bone using electron beam and powder interaction but it is sintering
rather than melting. a group of students have tried fabricating a
golf club head using the technology, it was a bit iffy because of the
time constraints they were working under meant that they didnt have
the right conditions. The technology is not that new but the scale is
the big leap forward. Focused Ion beam melting and deposition can be
done on the small scale as can CVD which have applications in
jewellery making for lesser cost.

You can build your own system if you have a vacuum spluttering or
coating unit which only cost a few thousand and enough electronics
knowledge to build a TV scanning unit and away you go. total cost
about 10k. Who wants to spend that on a toy when you can do proper
powder sintering for much less. Having said that, there are probably
secondhand machines available from the electronics industry.

also, You can cast platinum by suspension in a RF field, small scale
is possible at low cost and a south african company is marketing a
commercial set-up at a price that makes sense.

Nick