Electrical discharge machining (EDM) is a subtractive fabrication process that uses electrical current to remove substrate material. EDM uses thermal energy to shape materials, rather than direct contact used by more traditional cutting methods. Since it requires electrical interaction with the base material, EDM can only be used on conductive materials, such as copper, steel, and titanium. It is particularly useful for especially hard materials that are challenging to cut with standard tooling, or complex components that are difficult to create using standard machining processes.
EDM manufacturing typically uses one of two methods: sinker EDM and wire EDM. Although both methods operate using electrical current discharge, they operate under slightly different principles. Sinker EDM, also known as die sink EDM, uses pre-shaped electrodes that are “sunk” into the base material to create the desired component. Wire EDM, on the other hand, uses a single wire electrode and computer-aided direction to ensure highly accurate cuts. Since it is not necessary to create a pre-shaped die, wire EDM is often the more efficient and cost-effective method.
South Shore Manufacturing is pleased to offer quality wire EDM cutting services to meet the needs of a variety of applications. Our EDM capabilities allow us to create components that would be impossible to manufacture using other cutting methods. With our state-of-the-art wire EDM machines, we can create detailed and complex components with unusual geometries and features to meet nearly any specification within ±0.0001 inches.
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.
Advantages of Wire EDM
The wire EDM process offers a broad range of benefits over other manufacturing methods. The process is highly cost effective and can be used to cut a variety of materials with a high degree of accuracy and minimal distortion, including especially thick or strong materials such as titanium and tool steel.
- Cost-effectiveness. Rather than creating dies and molds for manufacturing operations, EDM can be used to cut and shape materials directly. Since wire EDM does not rely on pressure, it can cut both hardened and delicate materials accurately at a high rate of speed, which enhances production turnaround time. The system is largely automated, so significantly less labor is used than what is required in some other processes. In addition to saving on labor and production costs, wire EDM produces less waste than other manufacturing processes, which greatly reduces material costs.
- Minimal distortion. Wire EDM is particularly valuable for its ability to cut a wide range of hard, thick, thin, and fragile materials without compromising the surface or edge of the material. Machining typically creates distortion in the area surrounding the cut. Not only does this compromise the integrity of the component material, it may result in excessive wear on cutting tools. Wire EDM can cut nearly any conductive material quickly and accurately without causing damage to the component or cutting equipment.
- High production speed. Wire EDM requires less preparation than other machining methods since it does not require the use of additional tools or finishing processes. A wire EDM machine can be quickly set up and programmed to produce components to spec. The components have naturally smooth surfaces and clean edges, so additional tooling, polishing, and deburring are usually not necessary, which shortens lead times significantly.
- Extreme accuracy. Wire EDM can be relied upon to provide exceptionally precise cuts, even more accurate than laser or plasma cutting. Since there is no pressure applied to the component during the cutting process, the part can be cut to spec without additional finishing. The method uses extremely fine wire that can create especially small or intricate shapes and designs within tight tolerances.
- Part complexity. The ability to produce particularly intricate and detailed shapes makes wire EDM ideal for producing components that are too small or detailed for other fabrication methods. This makes it particularly useful for aerospace and medical applications that require extremely fine details with a high degree of accuracy.
Wire EDM Applications and Industries
Wire EDM’s unique benefits make it useful for an extensive range of industries and applications. Below are some common uses for wire EDM components.
Medical devices, especially implanted devices, are often manufactured from specialized materials such as titanium. These expensive materials can be difficult to cut to specifications. Not only does wire EDM provide highly detailed and accurate cuts in even the hardest conductive materials, it is a very efficient process that can reduce material wastage. Medical devices manufactured using wire EDM processes include spinal and dental implants, catheters, and surgical instruments.
The aerospace industry often uses wire EDM cutting to shape very thick components from especially hard metals. Since it can be relied upon to cut components with a high degree of accuracy, no distortion, and minimal waste, wire EDM is highly valued for producing prototypes and no-fail components in aerospace applications.
To operate safely, firearm components must be designed and manufactured to an extremely high degree of precision. Since firearm parts are often made of particularly hard materials, this can present a challenge for more traditional cutting and milling methods. Wire EDM produces durable firearm components quickly and accurately from a variety of alloys, making it the ideal manufacturing option for firearm production.
Since wire EDM operations can be set up quickly with minimal preparation, they are ideal for the quick production of prototypes used for pre-production testing. Wire EDM can be relied upon to create highly accurate components to spec in a variety of production volumes, which makes it the perfect choice for prototype and sample production in automotive, aerospace, manufacturing, and medical product development.
Wire EDM Process, Materials, and Capabilities
As a reliable authority in wire EDM processes, we focus on providing superior quality components to meet even the most stringent specifications. At South Shore Manufacturing, we pride ourselves on our commitment to producing the best wire EDM precision parts in the industry, and we constantly work to improve and expand our service to stay ahead of the competition. Our extensive portfolio of 16 wire EDM machines allows us to complete a broad variety of projects with the utmost speed and efficiency. Our extensive range of EDM (Electrical Discharge Machining) services includes:
- EDM Drilling
- Fine Wire EDM
- Precision Wire EDM
- Wire EDM
Our dedicated EDM department includes a comprehensive fleet of machines that provide us with a full range of wire EDM capabilities from fine wire cutting to drilling on a broad selection of standard and exotic materials, including:
- Alloy, Carbon, and Stainless Steels
- Aluminum and Tin
- Copper, Brass, and Bronze Alloys
- Iron, Nickel, and Molybdenum
- Inconel® and Monel®
- Platinum, Gold, and Silver
Our state-of-the-art CNC systems ensure an exceptional level of precision and repeatability, with tolerances within ±0.0001″ and surface finishes to 8 μin.
Quality Wire EDM Services from South Shore Manufacturing
Whether you need a prototype for a new product design or a set of precision dies for your press, South Shore Manufacturing has the wire EDM services necessary to make your project a success. We offer the highest quality wire EDM services on the market, with a quick turnaround and on-time delivery. To learn more about our wire EDM solutions and other fabrication services, contact our experts today!