Ensuring Reliability in High Vacuum Manufacturing: The Critical Role of Helium Leak Detection

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Maintaining high standards for quality control is an essential cornerstone of high vacuum manufacturing. Seemingly minor errors can cause issues that scale exponentially, leading to major losses in time and valuable process resources. This is especially true in the case of inspecting components for potential leaks when under vacuum.

A leak is a pathway that allows for the uncontrolled movement of gas into or out of a vacuum system. Though seemingly non-disruptive if your vacuum use is merely for observation, leaks affect all applications as they can greatly affect the evacuation time. Leaks can also cause interference in applications relying on specific outcomes from physical and chemical couplings. In many deposition applications, for example, it is absolutely necessary to ensure that proper vacuum is maintained so that precise mixes of gasses can enter a system. With a leak present, this process can experience costly production errors or material waste.

ANCORP understands the severity of these issues and has strict procedures to ensure our manufactured products excel under the technical demands of our customers’ applications. One of the many ways this commitment is honored is through the process of leak checking.

High Vacuum Leak Detection

Leak detection methods vary, but ANCORP employs the most effective vacuum technique, helium leak detection. This method is classified as a sensitive and precise means of identifying and quantifying leaks in vacuum systems, ensuring the most accurate levels of quality assurance.

How Helium Leak Detection Works

Helium leak detection is a technique with origins tracing back to the infamous Manhattan Project in the 1940s. From then to now, the process has scaled down significantly and seen drastic improvements in the level of measurement sensitivity. Today, standards for leak detection processes in vacuum are three orders of magnitude more sensitive and ensure a leak rating of <1 x 10-9 std. cc/s of helium.

The general process is done by closing off all ports of a vacuum component and taking them to vacuum. Next, potential leak pathways receive a spray of helium gas through a probe operated by a leak check technician, a choice dictated by helium’s chemical properties that make it an ideal tracer gas. Then, a highly sensitive mass spectrometer assesses whether helium gas has entered the vacuum system through a leak. If the spectrometer detects a leak, the technician pinpoints the location and the component is reworked. The leak detection process is then repeated to confirm that the leak pathway has been eradicated. This meticulous approach allows ANCORP to guarantee the integrity of its vacuum components, ensuring that they meet or exceed the industry’s stringent standards for helium leak rates.

Why Helium is Used for Vacuum Leak Checks

Helium’s unique properties make it the ideal choice for vacuum leak detection. As the smallest noble gas, helium easily permeates through microscopic leaks, detecting even the smallest imperfections. Moreover, helium’s inertness with metals such as stainless steel and aluminum prevents any reactions with the surface of the components, preserving the integrity of the vacuum system.

Upholding High Standards for Technical Demands

ANCORP continues to stand out for its dedication to accuracy and precision through every stage of the production process. Our commitment to quality assurance and control in delivering superior vacuum components is evident with every product undergoing thorough scrutiny, surpassing industry standards. ANCORP’s strategic application of helium leak detection, combined with an unwavering promise to the highest QA/QC benchmarks, makes us a trusted partner for high and ultra-high vacuum users since 1965.

ANCORP’s expansive set of manufacturing capabilities showcases our domestic manufacturing skills and covers material sourcing, machining, specialty welding, surface finishes, quality control, supersonic cleaning, and packaging.

Need a capability not listed? As adept craftsmen, we have expanded our skill set to meet the demands of our customers. Please contact a member of our team to discuss how ANCORP has the solution for your vacuum requirements.