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Author Archives: Patrick Johnson

  1. Wire EDM Cutting vs Laser Cutting

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    There are many techniques, technologies, and methods for cutting and shaping components during manufacturing, and many of these methods utilize similar functions to create components. These similarities can make it challenging to determine which technique is best suited for your particular application. For example, wire EDM cutting and laser cutting are very similar in that they use localized thermal technology to create highly precise cuts into workpieces for shaping and adding features.

    Both EDM cutting and laser cutting machines offer fine-tuned control making them good choices for any project that requires tight tolerances, especially if the workpiece can’t be subjected to the stress caused by mechanical cutting tools. However, there are distinct differences in functionality that make each method better suited for different applications.

    What are EDM Cutting and Laser Cutting?

    Both EDM cutting and laser cutting allow for manually operated or CNC machining cutting processes that remove excess material from workpieces. While they can achieve similar results, the processes are different.

    EDM Cutting

    Electrical discharge machining (EDM) is a subtractive machining method that implements heat produced by an electrically charged cutting tool to cut the workpiece. An electrode made from a conductive material such as brass, copper, graphite, or tungsten — or alloys composed of these materials — is situated at the top of the tool and generates high-frequency electrical sparks that make contact with the substrate and disintegrate it in a localized path. This method is intended for use on electrically conductive substrates such as titanium, copper, and steel.

    Laser Cutting

    Rather than using direct electrical current, laser cutting tools generate a strong beam of light, the laser, that the operator or automated machine directs across the surface of the workpiece in a fixed pattern to cut the workpiece into the desired shape. It allows for the continuous removal of excess material while preserving the structural integrity of the remaining material, making it ideal for cutting brittle materials.

    Advantages of EDM Cutting and Laser Cutting

    Both laser cutting and EDM cutting processes have important advantages over water-based and mechanical cutting processes, such as their extreme precision. Both cutting methods also leave the cut edge free of burrs and sharp fragments, removing the need for additional finishing processes. However, EDM cutting and last cutting also have their unique advantages.

    Advantages of EDM Cutting

    EDM cutting is extremely precise, with the ability to meet specifications of +/- 0.0001, even when cutting highly intricate or thin-walled components. EDM processes won’t distort or bend the material like many mechanical tools because it’s a non-contact process that doesn’t put any pressure on the workpiece. This process is extremely versatile, and it can machine workpieces made from a wide range of materials, including Hastelloy, Nimonic, Nitralloy, Stellite, Tungsten Carbide, Waspalloy, and more.

    Advantages of Laser Cutting

    Laser cutting is also extremely versatile and can achieve excellent results with virtually any material. This cutting process is very energy-efficient. Because CNC machines and programmable laser tools can be entirely automated, this cutting process is also cost-effective and fast.

    EDM Cutting and Laser Cutting Industries and Applications

    Both cutting processes are used to create precision components for use in a wide array of industrial applications. EDM cutting is a popular choice for manufacturing products used in the following industries and applications:

    • Aerospace
    • Firearms
    • Medical devices
    • Prototype manufacturing

    Laser cutting is commonly used to produce goods for the following industries:

    • Aerospace
    • Automotive
    • Electronics
    • Medical

    Wire EDM and Laser Cutting Services From South Shore Manufacturing

    Whether your project requires precision wire EDM cutting or precision laser cutting services, South Shore Manufacturing is here to complete the job. Our company is ISO 13485:2016, ISO 9001:2015, and AS9100D certified, and we maintain a federal firearm license for manufacturing firearm components. Contact us today to learn more about our cutting and manufacturing capabilities or request a quote to start your order.

  2. Wire EDM Cutting for High-Quality Finishing

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    Electrical discharge machining, or EDM, is a precision manufacturing technique that uses electricity to shape metal workpieces. This method uses brass wire to create sparks that vaporize the metal they contact. In wire EDM, the electrode is a length of thin single-strand wire that, when applied continuously, generates clean cuts with a smooth, high-quality surface finish. 

    Because it relies on electricity, wire EDM can only be used on conductive metals like titanium, steel, aluminum, and copper. This method is ideal for materials that are challenging to cut using conventional methods. These materials include components with intricate details such as tight slots or inside corners with small radii. Wire EDM is also the preferred method to machine high rockwell hardness metals, which are otherwise slow and expensive to process. 

    What Is Wire EDM Metal Cutting?

    Wire EDM cutting is a subtype of electrical discharge machining that uses a fine metal wire to cut conductive metals. The process takes place in a specialized machine that keeps the wire and the workpiece submerged in deionized water. This fluid serves as insulation to prevent premature discharge, clear debris, and cool the wire and workpiece.

    During cutting, the electrified, CNC-controlled wire approaches the workpiece until it generates a spark. These controlled sparks can produce temperatures between 8,000 and 12,000 °C, which vaporizes and disperse the material into the surrounding fluid. The discharge process repeats until the desired cuts are achieved. Since these sparks also slowly erode the wire, the EDM machine constantly unspools fresh wire during operation.

    Applications of EDM Wire Cutting

    Wire EDM cutting only works with conductive materials such as steel and copper. (If the wire were to approach a non-conductive metal, there would be no electrical discharge to melt the material.) This process is highly versatile—it can be used to machine pieces ranging from small and delicate to large and very hard. EDM helps achieve manufacturing goals such as:

    • Parts requiring the best possible surface finish
    • Narrow slots or complicated features
    • Shaping hard, fragile, or expensive metals
    • Large or thick components with tight tolerance requirements down to ± 0.0001”

    Wire EDM Cutting Surface Finish

    Wire EDM is well known for creating even, sometimes mirror-like surface finishes. These results are possible because the process involves eroding rather than cutting the metal. 

    With conventional cutting, hard materials generate so much friction that they require slow passes with special cutting tools. Similarly, brittle materials often lose material in uneven flakes that must later be smoothed with a grinder.

    With wire EDM, sparks remove material without direct contact, friction, or directionality. This avoids creating a lay or warping the metal, and material hardness or brittleness does not affect the final results. By avoiding contact with the material, wire EDM can quickly and effectively achieve superior surface finishes regardless of the metal’s physical properties, thus reducing the need for secondary processing.

    How Manufacturers Achieve an Ideal Surface Finish with Wire EDM

    To achieve the most precise surface finish, manufacturers cut materials in multiple stages. The first rough cut uses a highly charged electrode to remove a large amount of material and establish the general shape of the component. Then, with each subsequent pass, the voltage is modified to remove less and less material, refining the surface to remove any imperfections from the initial passes. The amount removed depends on the wire’s thickness and charge, but the most precise passes can remove as little as 0.0001” of metal. Eroding the material in this progressive manner eliminates the irregularities associated with other cutting methods so that components are ready to ship without additional grinding, polishing, or deburring.

    At South Shore Manufacturing, we use these techniques to achieve surface finishes as smooth as 8 μin. Metals we work with include stainless steel, titanium, Inconel®, Monel®, platinum, silver, gold, aluminum, and more.

    Benefits of Wire EDM Metal Cutting

    Surface finish is a critical concern for many manufacturers. Irregularities on a component’s surface generate unnecessary friction and make the component more prone to wear. A smooth surface finish not only looks better, but it also performs better while protecting nearby components from damage. Wire EDM is a cost-effective way to address these concerns, as it creates an optimal surface finish with little to no secondary processing.

    Wire EDM has other advantages as well, including:

    • Efficiency: Unlike many manufacturing processes, wire EDM does not require molds, dies, or fixtures. It can also create components to specification without secondary processing and work around the clock with minimal manual readjustment.
    • Part quality: Wire EDM does not subject components to pressure or friction. This prevents damage to surfaces and edges, and it creates parts without distortion or directionality. Since they lack uneven stress patterns, wire EDM components are durable and wear evenly.
    • Versatility: Wire EDM can be used with any conductive material, including those that are too hard or too fragile to be easily machinable. The process can also create a wide range of features with a level of precision that exceeds even CNC laser or plasma cutting. Together, these capabilities allow EDM to produce delicate and intricate parts for precision applications. 

    Thanks to its efficiency, speed, and versatility, wire EDM can benefit many industries, especially those that require precise and durable parts. These sectors include the medical, firearms, and aerospace industries.

    Wire EDM Metal Cutting at South Shore Manufacturing

    South Shore Manufacturing has specialized in precision wire EDM manufacturing for nearly 40 years. Today, we are the largest EDM provider in New England, equipped with a 10,000-square-foot facility and 16 wire EDM machines. Our staff draws on cutting-edge equipment, advanced automation, and extensive industry knowledge to deliver components on time and to precise specifications.

    To learn more about our production capabilities, contact us or request a quote today.

  3. CNC Machining vs 3D Printing

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    South Shore Manufacturing is renowned for its high-quality computer numerical control (CNC) machining services and having the best close-tolerance metal parts. We use versatile CNC machining capabilities to manufacture various products and parts of different shapes, sizes, and materials. Even if you need the most complex, intricate design, our computer-aided controls, computer-aided design software, and CNC printing provide us with the ability to create your physical pieces with tight tolerances. We have the capabilities to produce a plethora of components with the most precise quality criteria.

    With the vast development of stronger 3D printing materials, manufacturers are also exploring CNC machining versus 3D printing. The main difference between these two processes is that CNC manufacturing is a form of subtractive manufacturing, while 3D printing is additive. Read on for more insights.

    Processes of CNC Machining & 3D Printing

    CNC Machining

    CNC machining starts with a solid block of material and cuts away material to achieve the finished shape. To shape the pieces, manufacturers use spinning tools and cutters. This procedure is one of the most popular ways of manufacturing, used for small one-off jobs as well as medium to high-volume production. Moreover, CNC machining offers high accuracy, excellent repeatability, and a wide range of surface finishes. 

    3D Printing

    3D printing or additive manufacturing involves creating parts layer by layer using materials like plastic filaments, resins, metal, or plastic powders. Mostly, 3D printing parts are from melted material, which is then layered and shaped into a preprogrammed specification. The layers of these materials are usually solidified using a source of energy, such as a heated or laser extruder, to form a finished part. 

    Materials & Benefits of CNC Machining & 3D Printing

    Both 3D printing and CNC machining have different material capabilities because of their fundamental fabrication methods. Also, the two methods have different benefits, as highlighted below.

    CNC MachiningCNC Machining

    Materials: You can use CNC machining to create parts and components from several materials, including wood, glass, granite, acrylic, modeling foam, machining wax, thermoplastics, fiber in-layered composites, metals, and metal alloys.

    Benefits: Some of the attributes that make CNC machining ideal are listed below.

    •   Quality: CNC machining makes products of high quality and precision.
    •   Cost: CNC milling costs are less expensive in most quantities than 3D printing. Even though the per-unit cost in 3D printing remains constant, it’s much cheaper when using CNC machining. 
    •   Strength: The parts made through CNC machining are strong enough to be used in airplanes and engines.
    •   Consistency: Since this process makes products with high precision, you get parts the same way every time.
    •   Variety: You can make a product with almost any material you want and of any size you desire using CNC machining.
    •   Speed: CNC machining is a much faster production procedure, especially when you need higher-volume throughput.
    •   Customization: CNC machining helps you achieve more specialized parts and components.

    3D Printing

    Materials: Most 3D printing utilizes resins, but technological developments have increased the material options for different printer types. Other materials used for 3D printing also include photopolymers, wood filaments, thermoplastics, metal filaments, and nylon.

    Benefits: The following advantages of 3D printing are beneficial to manufacturers as well as customers and the environment.

    •   Fast turnaround time: Since 3D printing involves little setup and custom programming, you can get a small batch of parts in around 2-3 working days.
    •   Reduced waste: There is less material and energy waste in 3D printing because it’s an additive process.
    •   Cleaner production: Generally, this process is a cleaner process than CNC machining.

    CNC Machining Services at South Shore Manufacturing

    CNC machining has been one of the most cost-effective ways of mass production, and 3D printing has also grown significantly in the past decade. While comparing CNC versus 3D printing, it’s also important to consider functionality, quantity, size, and purpose to know what makes the most sense for your application.

    At South Shore Manufacturing, we avail high-quality CNC machining services for different industries and applications, from consumer goods, packaging, transportation, automotive, and food processing to construction, aerospace, defense, power generation, and automation. Contact South Shore Manufacturing today or request a quote for the different services we offer.

  4. Laser Cutting vs. Water Jet Cutting

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    Cutting is an important step in nearly every manufacturing project. It makes raw material easier to handle and helps it achieve the proper shape and size. There are many cutting methods available, each of which has distinct advantages and disadvantages that make it suitable for different applications. Two of the most commonly used processes to produce high-precision components are laser cutting and water jet cutting. Below, we discuss the differences between the two processes and highlight the advantages of each.

    Differences Between Laser Cutting and Water Jet Cutting

    Laser cutting and water jet cutting are considered non-conventional cutting processes, meaning they do not require direct contact between the tool and the workpiece. The laser cutting process uses a focused, high-powered beam of light (i.e., a laser) to cut the workpiece, while the water jet cutting process uses a high-pressure stream of water (i.e., a jet) to cut the workpiece. The difference in the equipment used results in each process being appropriate for different cutting needs. For example:

    • The laser cutting process can be used to cut a wide range of materials, including metal, plastics, wood, and glass. However, it is not recommended for cutting highly reflective materials since there is a risk of the laser bouncing off the workpiece toward the equipment or the operator. The water jet cutting process can be used to cut all types of materials, including reflective ones.
    • The laser cutting process can cut through thick materials (0.010–0.4 inches in thickness). The water jet cutting process can cut through thicker materials (0.010–4 inches in thickness).
    • The laser cutting process cannot accommodate 3D material cutting, while the water jet cutting process can accommodate 3D material cutting.
    • The laser cutting process can cut and engrave materials, while the water jet cutting process can only cut materials.

    Advantages of Laser Cutting

    Compared to other cutting methods, laser cutting offers the following advantages:

    • Higher cutting accuracy and precision. The laser cutting process can achieve cutting tolerances of ±0.002 inches. Additionally, since the laser cutters are commonly fitted with computer software and controls, they can consistently produce the same cuts between different workpieces.
    • Broader project versatility. Laser cutters can cut and/or engrave a variety of designs of varying complexity into a wide range of materials, making them suitable for various manufacturing projects.
    • Greater sheet utilization-to-waste ratio. The high-accuracy, high-precision cuts achieved by the laser cutting process help optimize material utilization; a single piece of material can produce more pieces and less waste.
    • Lower risk of damage and warping. Unlike traditional cutting methods, the laser cutting process does not require direct contact between the equipment and the workpiece. As a result, there is less risk of the workpiece experiencing mechanical distortion. Additionally, since the process produces a small heat-affected zone (HAZ), the risk of thermal distortion is low.
    • Operating costs. The operating and maintenance costs associated with laser cutting are much lower than other cutting processes. Laser cutters use less energy than cutting equipment like presses, while the laser components require less repair and replacement.
    • The laserjet cutting process is also exponentially quicker compared to the water jet cutting process.
    • Operating costs. The operating and maintenance costs associated with laser cutting are much lower than other cutting processes. Laser cutters use less energy than cutting equipment like presses, while the laser components require less repair and replacement.

    For these reasons, among others, the laser cutting process finds application in the manufacturing operations of a wide range of industries, including the following:

    • Advertising
    • High Technology
    • Automotive
    • Lighting
    • Medical
    • Aerospace & Defense
    • Semiconductor

    Advantages of Water Jet Cutting

    Similar to laser cutting, water jet cutting offers a number of advantages over other cutting methods, such as:

    • Broader material versatility. The water jet cutting process can be used to cut virtually any material.
    • Lower risk of damage and warping. Water jet cutting is a non-contact cutting method that utilizes water at minimal heat. As a result, the water jet does not have to create a heat-effective zone during the cutting process that could change the cut edge hardness.
    • Cleaner cuts. Water jet cutting produces highly accurate cuts with clean edges, so workpieces generally do not have to undergo secondary finishing operations to clean up the cuts.
    • Better eco-friendliness. The water jet cutting process does produce hazardous waste (e.g., fumes or gases), which allows it to be considered more environmentally friendly than cutting processes that do produce it.

    Some of the industries that use water jet cutting for their manufacturing projects include:

    • Aerospace
    • Automotive
    • Construction
    • Medical
    • Defense
    • Electronics & Semiconductor

    Laser Cutting & Water Jet Cutting Services From South Shore Manufacturing

    Want to learn more about laser cutting and water jet cutting? Ask the experts at South Shore Manufacturing! We offer extensive laser cutting and water jet cutting capabilities, so we can answer any questions or address any concerns you may have about the processes.

    Interested in partnering with us for your cutting needs? We use the latest fiber optic laser technology to produce highly detailed components accurately, precisely, and quickly. We’ve also perfected our water jet cutting processes to ensure cost-effective, on-time solutions for projects across various industries and applications. Check out our laser cutting and water jet cutting service pages for more info on our capabilities. To get started on your order, contact us or request a quote today.

  5. How Does Wire EDM Work?

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    Wire electrical discharge machining, also known as wire EDM, is a contact-free machining method that uses a thin metal wire to conduct an electrical current. The current creates sparks, which are used to accurately cut a workpiece into the pre-programmed design. At South Shore Manufacturing, we offer high-quality wire EDM services to meet the needs of various applications. Our expertise combined with state-of-the-art machinery allows us to create extremely detailed and complex parts that adhere to strict tolerances.   

    What is Wire EDM?

    Wire EDM uses a thin wire composed of copper or brass to conduct electrical current between an electrical source and an electrically conductive base material. The current creates sparks capable of cutting the substrate into pre-programmed designs. The material is submerged in deionized water to prevent overheating or warping, facilitating smooth and precise cuts. Wire EDM is especially valuable for the creation of extremely intricate shapes, complex designs, and geometric angles that are difficult or impossible to create using other manufacturing techniques.

    How Does Wire Electrical Discharge Machining Work?

    Wire EDM

    During the wire EDM process, the material is carved, shaved, and otherwise removed from the workpiece through a series of repetitive current discharges between a wire electrode and the conductive substrate. The electrode and workpiece are immersed in a dielectric fluid, such as deionized water, maintaining a gap between them. 

    Wire EDM uses potential difference, which is applied to the electrode and workpiece in pulse form. As this occurs, electrons from the negative electrode move towards the positive workpiece, colliding with the molecules of the deionized water. The electrons convert the molecules into ions, increasing the concentration of ions and electrons between the electrode and workpiece. The electrons move towards the electrode and the ions move towards the workpiece, which creates an electric current.

    As the electric current moves between the electrode and workpiece, the temperature increases to approximately 10,000° C. The intense heat vaporizes and melts material away from the workpiece. Once the current stops, the molten material is carried or flushed away by circulating dielectric fluid. 

    The accuracy of the wire EDM process is heavily dependent on cutting parameters and speed. At higher speeds, the wire can slightly move or bend, affecting overall accuracy. To ensure the highest possible accuracy, it is best to maintain lower power and speed. With higher speeds, tolerances of +/- 0.001’’ are achievable, while tolerances of up to +/- 0.0002’’ are achievable with lower power and speed. 

    When compared to other methods of machining, such as CNC machining, milling/turning, and laser drilling, wire EDM offers a wide range of advantages. Although these alternative techniques offer certain benefits for specific applications, they also have numerous disadvantages.

    Disadvantages of CNC Machining:

    • CNC machines are expensive and require a higher initial investment
    • Loss of manual machining skills
    • Increased automation results in the need for less manpower, which could result in increased unemployment levels

    Disadvantages of Milling/Turning:

    • High machinery and setup costs
    • Milling machine operators require specialized training
    • Designing and programming takes a lot of time, making it unsuitable for small projects

    Disadvantages of Laser Drilling/Cutting: 

    • Requires high power consumption
    • High capital investment
    • Lasers are delicate to handle, meaning a slight mistake during adjustments can result in discoloration and other issues


    Wire EDM

    Wire EDM is one of the most efficient and cost-effective ways to machine electrically conductive and hard materials with extreme accuracy. This method is capable of quickly and easily cutting complex shapes while achieving very high tolerances. It is also a no impact cutting method, meaning it can machine fragile, brittle, and hard materials without the risk of distortion.

    Advantages of Wire Electrical Discharge Machining

    Wire EDM offers a wide range of advantages over alternative manufacturing techniques. These advantages include: 

    • Cost-effective. Wire EDM cuts workpieces directly, eliminating the need for costly tools and molds. It can quickly and accurately cut both hard and delicate materials with quick turnaround times and significantly less labor compared to other manufacturing methods. Wire EDM also produces less waste, saving on material costs.
    • Minimal distortion. Wire EDM can cut through a variety of materials, both hard and fragile, without damaging the cutting equipment and without distorting the surface or edges of the material.
    • High production speed. Wire EDM machinery can be set up and programmed quickly. Since finished components have clean edges and smooth surfaces, it eliminates the need for additional tooling and finishing processes, which significantly reduces lead times.
    • Extreme accuracy. Since wire EDM uses an extremely fine wire, it provides extremely precise cuts on even the most complex shapes and designs while adhering to strict tolerances.
    • Part complexity. Wire EDM is ideal for producing small, intricate, and detailed components. This makes it an extremely popular manufacturing option for industries such as medical and aerospace that require extremely complex and accurate parts.

    Applications that Utilize Wire EDM

    The inherent properties of the wire EDM process make it ideal for extremely intricate designs, complex shapes, and components that require geometric angles that are impossible to achieve using other manufacturing methods. Common applications of wire EDM include:

    • Mold and die manufacturing
    • Punch tools
    • Small, highly detailed components
    • Precision machine parts such as gears and splines
    • Medical devices and surgical instruments
    • Small hand tools
    • Prototype manufacturing

    Wire EDM Services at South Shore Manufacturing

    Wire EDM machining is a highly cost-effective manufacturing method that offers minimal distortion, quick production speeds, and high levels of accuracy even for extremely complex parts. These benefits make wire EDM popular for a wide range of applications from aerospace and medical to firearms and prototype manufacturing.

    At South Shore Manufacturing, we are dedicated to producing the highest quality wire EDM precision parts in the industry. With a wide range of material options and an extensive fleet of state-of-the-art EDM machinery, we can produce parts with extreme precision and repeatability. From prototype to high production volumes, we ensure quick turnaround times and on-time delivery. To learn more about our wire EDM services, contact us today, or request a quote to start your next project.

  6. Jack’s Machine Company is Now South Shore Manufacturing

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    Jack’s Machine Company is now doing business as South Shore Manufacturing. As of the past few years, Jack’s Machine Company is under new leadership and has expanded its manufacturing capabilities and capacity beyond the core competence of Wire EDM. The company’s focus is still on Wire EDM and the company has also expanded its in-house capabilities to move from a 2 and 3 tier supplier to the major manufacturers, to a tier 1 supplier/contract manufacturing partner. 

    In the past 5 years, our Wire EDM capacity has tripled and waterjet cutting has doubled. In-house capabilities that have been added include:

    • CNC Milling
    • Laser Cutting
    • Conventional Machining

    These new services were introduced in an ongoing effort to keep critical machining operations in house, control quality, lower cost, and reduce lead times. The transition from Jack’s Machine Company to South Shore Manufacturing has been an evolution while ensuring that the company has not lost its original focus of Wire EDM.  

    About the Company:

    South Shore Manufacturing is an industry leader in Precision Wire EDM, CNC Machining, Laser Cutting, and a variety of other manufacturing processes. Located in Hanson, MA, South Shore Manufacturing uses a multitude of high-performance metals, including stainless steel, titanium and many others. Design engineers and project managers regularly turn to South Shore Manufacturing for the most technical and challenging jobs.

    Certifications:

    South Shore Manufacturing is proud to hold a number of certifications from numerous organizations to ensure the highest standard of production. These certifications include AS9100D, ISO 9001:2015, and ISO 13485:2016. We are also a Federal Firearms Licensed machining company and our staff has decades of experience working with projects that have firearms and military specifications.

    Since 1985, South Shore Manufacturing has provided state-of-the-art machining work for an assortment of industries all across the country. Our skilled and experienced staff work directly with customers to guarantee absolute precision and accuracy on each project we take part in. To learn more about our services and capabilities, feel free to contact us today for more information.