EDM, or electrical discharge machining, is an innovative way to manufacture intricate machined parts out of hard metals to the designer’s exact specifications. Wire EDM is a CNC production service or manufacturing process that surpasses traditional machining methods in its ability to replicate complex contours and cavities in pre-hardened steel or other metal alloys.
Does your invention or concept require custom parts for prototypes or should your business outsource wire EDM services for production runs? Let’s drill down into the details of the EDM process, its benefits to innovators and businesses, and the cost-effectiveness of purchasing equipment or subcontracting these services to a company that specializes in non-traditional machining techniques.
What Is Wire EDM?
While wire cutting machines have been around since the 1960s, using this technology with CNC (Computer Numerical Controlled) plotters has taken the machining capabilities of wire EDM to amazing levels of accuracy. Using a CNC machine for metal machining allows designs to be manufactured for a single prototype, for R&D small batch runs, or for large scale production.
A simplified overview of the process:1
- A wire EDM machine uses a thin piece of electrically charged wire as a saw blade to cut any metal which will conduct electricity.
- The EDM wire is tiny—measuring only 0.010” to 0.012”—and it may be made of brass or other materials for specific applications.
- The cutting wire is stretched tight between two spools, which constantly move fresh lengths of wire into place.
- The workpiece and the cutting head are submerged in deionized water for cooling with a flushing action to remove waste materials.
- Using a CNC machine to guide the cutting pattern, the highly charged wire is brought very close to the metal, causing electricity to discharge to the workpiece.
- The discharges happen up to 250,000 times per second, with automatic sensors managing cutting speed and replacing broken wire automatically if needed.
- These rapid electrical discharges dissolve the metal to be removed, leaving no burrs or cutting marks, and with precision perfect results.
Wire EDM Applications
Wire EDM is most often used for mold and die, metal parts, and tool manufacturing. Many industries and small entrepreneurs are creating new uses for the process, including:2
- Extrusion dies and blanking punches
- Prototypes and proof of concept builds
- Automotive parts and accurate reproductions
- Aerospace industrial parts and components
- Electronics and implantable medical devices
- Creating dies to be used for jewelry, watchmaking, coin stamping, or starting blanks for hand engraving
- Shaping hardened steel materials without softening them, eliminating the need for re-hardening steps during production
- Machining application-specific materials that are extremely hard or soft, such as ceramics, titanium, polycrystalline diamond, Hastelloy, Kovar, tungsten carbide, and Inconel
- Creating any high-quality specialty part that must be free of burrs and imperfections, while being manufactured to exact specifications from difficult to machine materials
What Are the Benefits of Wire EDM Services or Equipment?
Having access to a professional CNC production service with wire EDM capabilities will offer your project or business the same quality and level of detail that is required for medical devices and airplane parts. As long as the material you want to re-shape is conductive, it can be machined into almost any shape.
Even if you are not sure of the exact design, with a clear concept of what the part or machine needs to do, you can work with the machine engineers to create the right design and transfer it to the wire EDM computer. Some of the reasons that businesses are working with subcontractors or even buying EDM equipment are:
- Cutting small radius inside corners, deep ribs, and narrow slots to create intricate patterns
- The ability to cut extremely thin stock without bending or warping
- Built-in sensing and intelligent automatic control, which has enhanced ease of use
- Eliminating mechanical force in the cutting process to create fragile outlines
- Drilling deep and irregular shapes that normal cutting tools could not reach
- Producing a part with fine or specialty finishes, superior to traditional methods
- Avoiding the deforming effects of heat in the cutting process, especially for hardened materials
- Leveraging the flexibility of CNC manufacturing techniques in automated production
Should You Use Wire EDM for Your Prototype, Process, or Production?
There are some questions to ask before choosing the right machining method for your project. Wire EDM machines represent a sizable investment and require trained personnel to program and operate. These considerations should be weighed against the lower costs of using a CNC production service or a less exact method of metal cutting.
Some reasons to choose wire EDM techniques include:
- Creating a single high-quality part for inventions, prototypes, and proof of concept models
- Needing to work with a wide variety of hard materials and alloys in varying thicknesses
- Requiring an extremely high-quality finish and reducing post-processing of parts
- Duplicating, replicating, or restoring a rare or unobtainable part for automotive or historical reproductions
- Producing a complex, highly detailed precision part that can be repeated and duplicated exactly in the next production run
- Avoiding part variances between different production lots and manufacturers when exact fit and appearance of parts is essential for the final product
- Reducing cutting waste in costly materials like gold, silver, or expensive alloy materials
- Producing fine, tapered holes, extremely narrow slots, or 3-dimensional shapes necessary for perfect fits to existing parts
- Using computer-controlled machining to automate complex cutting and part manufacturing processes
- Meeting extremely tight tolerances and materials restrictions as part of aerospace or medical applications
- Working with extremely small pieces or fragile materials that cannot tolerate cutting pressure or stress
Choosing a CNC Production Machining Service
Seizing these benefits for your business or concept company doesn’t have to break your budget. Even if your team does not have experts in CNC programming and EDM machining, there are professional CNC machine services that can make your design a reality.
Many designers work directly with the engineers and technicians at Laszeray Technology to design the perfect prototype part and move it into production with cost-effective access to our cutting-edge equipment. Laszeray has the latest in CNC machining to complete all phases of production, including:
- CNC-guided lathes, crane lifts, mills, routers, and grinders
- Haas High Speed 4 and 5 Axis Milling Centers
- Haas CNC Turning
- Large Capacity Mitsubishi Wire EDM Machines
With the capacity to handle high volume manufacturing, we also focus on low volume runs and prototypes, working directly with small businesses and entrepreneurs to bring their ideas to reality. You don’t need to understand all the complexities of CNC machining or wire EDM technology to create the perfect part for your project. Our expertise is one more advantage you can leverage to reach your business goals.
We offer rapid service on prototypes, so you don’t have to wait weeks or months to gain access to machinery or order parts from distant and unreliable sources. When quality and precision matter most, contact us to get your new project on the table or your production line back up and running. Laszeray Technology can be your source for custom machine parts and design resources, so don’t wait another day to get the wheels turning.