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Author Archives: Patrick Johnson

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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 ISO 9001, 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.