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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
Water jet cutting is a fabrication process that relies on the principles of erosion. It involves pressurizing water—sometimes mixed with abrasive media (e.g., garnet)—to up to 392 MPa and projecting it from a small-bore nozzle. The result is a high-pressure, high-speed stream of water (i.e., water jet), which can be used to cut a wide range of materials for various industries and applications. Softer materials (e.g., foam and rubber) are generally cut using pure water jets, while harder materials (e.g., metal and stone) are typically cut using abrasive water jets.
Compared to other cutting methods, water jet cutting offers numerous advantages. That’s why it is used for many manufacturing projects. Below, we highlight three of the top reasons why you should consider using the water jet cutting process in your next metal fabrication project.
1. It accommodates many materials.
The water jet cutting process is suitable for cutting virtually any material. It is most commonly used in metal fabrication operations to cut metals such as:
2. It cuts without heat.
Unlike most other cutting methods, water jet cutting is considered a cold cutting process. Since only the water jet touches the workpiece during cutting operations, little to no heat is generated. As a result, there is no risk of thermal damage, such as warping or discoloration. This quality makes the process suitable for processing heat-sensitive materials and making components that cannot have thermal distortion. Additionally, it eliminates the need for secondary finishing operations to resolve any thermal damage on the component, which helps reduce production costs.
3. It can create complex shapes.
The water jet cutting process has the ability to cut basic to highly complex shapes. It can cut, drill, and slice a wide range of designs into flexible or rigid materials without causing damage. This versatility enables manufacturers to create a variety of elements, such as bevels, corners, and holes, and various components, both two-dimensional and three-dimensional. Plus, water jet cutting can also create near net shape components from plate material.
The equipment used in water jet cutting—i.e., water jet cutters—can be operated manually by human workers or automatically by computer software. The latter option is generally used for components that require a high degree of accuracy and precision.
Water Jet Cutting Services from South Shore Manufacturing
Water jet cutting is a highly versatile process. It can be used to cut basic or complex shapes into nearly any material to tight tolerances. For these reasons, among others, it finds application in the manufacturing projects of many industries, including aerospace, construction, food & beverage, medical, military, and more.
Looking for a partner for your next water jet cutting project? The experts at South Shore Manufacturing have got you covered. Throughout our decades in business, we’ve perfected our water jet cutting processes to ensure we can deliver on-time, cost-effective solutions to meet the cutting needs of any industry or application. Our team has the knowledge, skills, and equipment to create quality components from a broad selection of metal, plastic, and composite materials.
Our water jet cutting capabilities include:
Min to max thickness: 0.010 to 6.0 in.
Max cutting length: 12.0 ft
Max cutting width: 6.0 ft
Tolerance: ±0.005 in.
Kerf width:.015 to .030 in.
Production volume: prototype, low volume, high volume, blanket orders
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:
Aerospace & Defense
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:
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.
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?
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 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:
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 ourwire EDM services,contact us today, orrequest a quoteto start your next project.
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:
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.
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.