Pennsylvania College of Technology’s First Electron Beam Welder
(ARTICLE TAKEN FROM PENN COLLEGE MAGAZINE – SPRING 2020)
Electron Beam (EB) welding is used in a wide variety of industries, including aerospace, automotive, energy, nuclear, semiconductor and sensor technology. As of 2013, the American Welding Society estimated there were 3,000 Electron Beam Welders in operation globally.
The process can produce very thin welds that can range from one-thousandth of an inch to 2 inches deep. The resulting bead is so thin, explains Michael R. Allen, instructor of welding and co-head of the department, that it requires a magnifying glass to see the detail. The process also provides efficient energy transfer, which results in low heat output and makes it safe to seal sensitive internal electronics packages into devices.
Students are eager for it to become part of their hands-on education. “The thing that excites me the most about Cambridge Vacuum Engineering’s electron beam welder is that it will raise the bar, academically, for Penn College welding students”, said Nathaniel H. Lyon, a senior pursuing a bachelor’s degree in welding and fabrication engineering technology. “To gain a mastery of any process, it’s important to understand how that process works. Well, with EB welding, there are some exciting physics principles involved that I think will push students outside of their critical-thinking ‘comfort zones’ – and that’s where real learning happens!”
The 60kV welder resides in a dedicated lab within the addition to the Lycoming Engines Metal Trade Center, which opened to students in the fall and was dedicated in February 2020. The expansion nearly doubled the center’s instructional space and allowed the college to accept more welding students, eliminating the popular program’s traditional waiting list. Construction of the 35,000-square-foot facility was funded in part by a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce.
The new equipment, which includes the electron beam welder, and many other industry-standard technologies, not only expands learning opportunities for students but also benefits companies that had already been scrambling to hire the college’s real-world ready welding graduates.
The electron beam welder was acquired through a partnership with Cambridge Vacuum Engineering, of England with sales and service based in Agawam, Massachusetts.
“Industry has been calling us and asking us if our students have any training on this type of equipment, “Allen said. “Now we can actually say yes.”
Each year more than 200 Penn College students will gain hands-on experience with the EB welder. “I have read job postings that asked for experience in electron beam welding,” the soon-to-graduate Lyon said. “That used to be a little intimidating, but it won’t be for long”,
“Giving them (students) the opportunity to have hands-on exposure to this stuff I think is going to bring them to a whole new level, and is going to take us with them,” said Ryan P. Good, assistant professor of welding.
Good, Allen and four other welding faculty members received training on a similar EB welder at CVE Inc. in Massachusetts before the college’s equipment was delivered. After a day and a half of training, Tony Slater, technical sales manager for Cambridge Vacuum Engineering, gave the group a quiz. “They scored higher than I’ve seen anyone do before”, Slater said.
Slater was the driving force withing Cambridge Vacuum Engineering for the placement of the welder at Penn College.
“After visiting (Penn College), I realised they are forward thinking, and their attitude toward the students would be a perfect match for us,” Slater said.
The expansion of the Penn College welding lab has also brought the addition of a laser welding cell, a dedicated CNC robotic welding lab, an air pressure-controlled specialised welding room, additional capabilities and space for non-destructive testing, rigging and crane operations for work with larger parts, expanded space for pipe welding, and space for hands—on training in Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards.
METAL WALL OF HONOR – located inside the new Welding Facility at PCT
Penn College currently offers the following courses:
- Welding and fabrication
- Engineering technology
- Metal fabrication technology
- Welding technology
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