EDM simplification through innovation

Innovative CAM technology can and should simplify the entire programming process. However, working with wire and water, instead of speeds and feeds, presents a challenge for CAM systems originally developed for conventional milling and turning applications. The concept of removing material with a cutter does not translate easily to the concept of eroding material with a thin wire.

Slicing through metal with an energised wire is a very efficient way to cut intricate shapes. These intricate part shapes have physical properties unique to the wire-cutting process, and include constant tapers, variable tapers, vertical land areas, sharp corners, radius corners, sharp corners that taper into radius corners, and more. A first step to simplifying the programming process is for a CAM system to recognise and retain knowledge of those unique properties so that wire programming can be automated.
Esprit is a feature-based CAM system that automatically recognises machinable features that are specific to wire machining. Choices include die (pocket), punch (boss), hole, open profile, and even turning profile features for wire machines equipped with a rotary table.
An emphasis is placed on fast and easy creation of machinable features for wire EDM. Detailed properties about XY and UV profiles, workpiece height, tapers and corner styles are associated with the EDM features so that, regardless of the type or number of operations applied to the feature, the integrity of the underlying data remains the same. When EDM properties are embedded in the feature, the entire programming process is streamlined because most of the data needed for programming is coming from a single, reliable source.
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Wire EDM can replace broaching for fir tree slots

As aerospace OEMs and supply chain companies face increasing pressure to produce more fuel-efficient aircraft, wire EDM (WEDM) is emerging as a key machining technology, reports GF Machining Solutions. According to a body of evidence generated by David Welling at the Laboratory for Machine Tools and Production Engineering (WZL) at RWTH Aachen University (Germany), WEDM has the potential to replace broaching as the technology of choice for the manufacture of fir tree slots for found in high-pressure compressor and turbine disks.

“Broaching tools have obvious limitations; one of these is the high tool wear that results from the increased toughness of aerospace materials,” says Welling. “Also, broaching machines require a lot of floor space, have a high initial investment cost and offer low flexibility.”
Until about 10 years ago, WEDM was not considered a viable process for full fir tree slot production due to the recast white layer left on components by earlier generator technology. But Welling’s research has shown that WEDM now, with the advent of sophisticated digital generator technology, compares well to broaching in terms of surface integrity and part tolerances – both important in fir tree slots.
So far, Welling’s research has shown through component high cycle fatigue studies that WEDM compares with broaching in terms of component fatigue life, and that WEDM is actually capable of machining fir tree slots with the required accuracy. In addition, Welling says that WEDM offers an advantage when it comes to automation since it offers the process monitoring capabilities necessary to ensure machining quality.
“Furthermore, WEDM does not present the tool wear challenges inherent in broaching,” he adds. “In WEDM, since the tool is the wire that is being unwound from the spool, there’s a new tool being used for every process second.”
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Single platform tool grinding and eroding

The latest version of the Walter Helitronic Tool Studio software for tool grinding now includes integrated functionality for the efficient and effective design, programming and simulation of PCD tool erosion.
Available from Walter Ewag, a member of the United Grinding Group, for all ‘two-in-one’ Walter Helitronic Power Diamond and Diamond Evolution tool-grinding and erosion machines, the new Tool Studio Erosion Wizard-enabled software is said to provide users with a quick and easy route to the selection and real-time simulation of PCD drill, mill and reamer production, incorporating both grinding and eroding operations.

After selecting tool size and geometry, then grinding wheel and electrode ‘package’, the system offers a simulation mode where parameters can be easily changed before tool production starts. Features also include automatic collision control, and geometry and parameter selection for individual teeth.
The new software complements similar Tool Studio functionality for the range of tooling that can be produced/reground on the Walter series of Helitronic tool grinders. This ‘what you see is what you grind’ system has, in effect, now been expanded and enhanced to a ‘what you can grind, you can also erode’ package.
Helitronic Diamond Evolution machines can grind and erode a range of carbide and PCD styles including shank, profile, circular and roll mills, multi-step tools and countersinks, as well as cutting and profile cutting plates. PCD tool programming routines include the erosion of PCD on tool diameters and the production of K-Land, variable spiral and ball-nose gash.
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A&M EDM on course for record sales

A Black Country precision engineering specialist is reaping the benefits of a major investment programme after landing new contracts in the automotive, aerospace and Formula One sectors, as well as parts for automation equipment. A&M EDM, which employs 58 people across its two sites in Smethwick, is heading towards £5m turnover for the first time in its 15-year history after setting its sights on supplying high-value, high-performance components, including the development of engines for unmanned vehicles.
Support from the Manufacturing Growth Programme (MGP) has also helped the company to identify improvements in its marketing activity, strategy and the implementation of a new environmental system that is set to lead to ISO:14001 accreditation shortly.

“We’ve come a long way since I started the business a few doors down, with just two people and a few machines,” explains managing director Mark Wingfield. “Over the past 15 years we have grown into the UK’s largest commercial EDM wire and spark erosion specialist, an achievement that we have built on by adding CNC machining and toolmaking design and manufacturing services.
“We invited MGP to come in and look at our business and how we could increase turnover and manufacturing efficiency,” he adds. “The discussions were great and resulted in the creation of an action plan that focused on our approach to customer relationships, strategy and digital marketing.”
Helen Fortune, manufacturing growth manager at MGP, says: “A&M EDM is keen to seek external assistance to help it get even better and unlock growth. We have identified a number of areas it could improve on and the management team and workforce have embraced them, developing and rolling out a robust environmental management system in just a few months.”
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Makino Inc strikes merger deal

Makino Inc has merged with EDM consumables supplier Global EDM Supplies. The merger is expected to expand the company’s SST Consumables business, providing customers with broader geographic reach, greater product diversity and increased accessibility to experienced technical services and support.

“We are pleased to continue our growth in the consumables business through the merger of Global EDM Supplies,” says Don Lane, CEO of Makino Inc. “We look forward to better serving our customers through the addition of Global’s skilled and experienced personnel, geographic presence and product portfolio.”
Headquartered in Mason, Ohio, Global EDM Supplies is a supplier of EDM technologies and turnkey application solutions. The company’s EDM consumables catalogue includes more than 3000 different EDM parts and supplies from major manufacturers, including wire, filters, wear parts, resin, fluid and lubricants, and electrodes. Since its founding in 1995, Global EDM Supplies has built a reputation for its technical support and customer service across eight US locations.
“We are excited about the prospects for expanding Global’s reach afforded by our merger with Makino,” says Tom Kucharski, president of Global EDM. “Our technical and personal service will be further enhanced by the resources of Makino and SST.”
With its network of engineers, Global and SST are committed to offering fast local support with complete machine repair and maintenance programs. SST and Global support and services are to continue to operate uninterrupted across all regions and locations.
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