Wayland Additive, a West-Yorkshire based startup specializing in electron beam additive manufacturing, is developing a new metal AM process which it says will be an alternative to laser powder bed fusion (LPBF) and eBeam PBF. The new process, called NeuBeam, reportedly combines the benefits of the two existing metal powder bed fusion processes but does away with several of the challenges associated with them, including material limitations and sintercakes.
You might not have heard much about Wayland Additive—not yet at least. The young company was founded in 2019 by a team of physicists with decades of experience in electron beam technology and industrial systems in the semi-conductor sector. In September 2019, the UK-based company showed the AM industry it meant business when it successfully raised £3 million in funding to further develop its NeuBeam process. Now, the company has revealed more about its new metal AM process. Let’s take a look.
What is NeuBeam?
NeuBeam is described as “an entirely new PBF process,” which is expected to advance and open up new industrial applications. The process does share certain aspects with electron beam melting (EBM) processes—both use an electron beam as a heat source to melt metal powder—however, it differs in a critical way. In short, the process neutralizes the charge accumulation created by the electron beam using core physics principles from the semi-conductor industry. This helps to establish more stability than traditional electron beam process and creates more flexibility than LPBF.
NeuBeam is considered a “hot part process” rather than a “hot bed process,” which means that the high temperatures of the electron beam are only applied to the part and not the print bed. According to Wayland Additive, this approach results in parts that are less prone to residual stresses, reduced energy consumption and free-flowing powder post build (i.e. no sintercakes).
“Furthermore,” added Will Richardson, CEO of Wayland Additive, “the process overcomes many of the limitations for manufacturing large components—no residual thermal stresses, no gas cross-flow, and a much simplified powder removal process than existing eBeam systems.”
The new metal AM process is also compatible with a wide range of materials, some of which, like refractory metals and highly reflective alloys, are incompatible with EBM and LPBF processes. Richardson also emphasizes that the process has advanced built-in real-time in-process monitoring, which enables rapid material development and microstructure tuning by adapting solidification during the manufacturing process. He said: “With NeuBeam the process temperature is not constrained by sintering the powder bed, allowing the process temperature to be optimized to the material microstructure and/or the application.”
A number of features in the NeuBeam process have enabled this degree of in-process monitoring, including structured light scanning, electron imaging and high-speed infrared cameras. These systems are all calibrated to the same reference points in the printer and help to promote optimal print results and consistency. Notably, every part of the build chamber can be thermally monitored, as well as the thermal history of the material and the topography of the part’s surface. Any defects found in the print process are then reported to the user in real-time.
As always, we are excited about the prospect of a new metal AM process, and Wayland Additive seems to have ambitious plans for its technology. At this point, the question of commercialization still remains, though we expect to hear more about Wayland Additive’s NeuBeam process in the coming months.