A Brief History Of Wire Cut EDM

Posted on Aug 27, 2021

Wire Cut EDM Machine

The full name of EDM is electrical discharge machining, also known as spark machining and spark eroding in the industrial field.

Wire cut EDM machine tools refer to the equipment that performs electric discharge machining with wires. Such a process is also called spark machining and spark eroding in the industrial field. It uses electrical discharge to machine the workpiece into the desired shape. Some countries interpret this process as sparking machining. EDM machines remove the material from the workpiece through a series of rapidly recurring electric currents.

There are several types of EDM machines on the market today. They are controlled by a programmed system (CNC) to ensure accuracy and higher repeatability. In this section, we will discuss one of the types that are widely used in the processing of small-sized pieces, the wire cut EDM machines. Their applications include household appliances, filter nets, electronic consumables, molds, just to name a few. 

AW5SHD Wire Cut EDM Machines, CHMER Group Taiwan

The Advent of Wire EDM Machines

Wire EDM machines were invented in the late 60s. Its purpose was to make hardened steel into tools and molds. The earliest numerical controlled (NC) machine tool was transformed from a perforated belt vertical milling machine. In the Soviet Union in the late 60s, the development of aerospace and military/defense industrial processing was rising.

The demand for tight-tolerance components and precision machining led to the advent of more advanced machine tools. The first commercial CNC machine made in the Soviet Union was an EDM machine. A team led by David H. Dulebohn developed a machine for milling and grinding at Andrew Engineering Company, which can optically follow the lines on the master drawing.

CNC Enters the Stage of EDM Machining

In the next decade, the computer numerical control (CNC) plotter successfully produced the master drawings, thereby improving the processing performance and repeatability. In the early 1970s, a wire-cut EDM machine using CNC drawing plotter and optic line follower technology was produced. After that, Dulebohn used CNC plotters in the wire EDM machine. So the first CNC EDM machine was produced in 1976.

After a series of long-term research and development, coupled with technological progress, the commercial wire EDM capability and its application have made great progress. In addition, after the introduction of an automated mechanism, the material feeding speed of the wire EDM machine has been greatly improved. Now, the surface finish of EDM can be well controlled by the CNC program.

EDM without Wires

People's understanding of wire EDM is mainly due to its wire features and is very different from other metal cutting machines on the market. There are other methods in the EDM series that do not use wire cutting, one of which is the die-sinking EDM. The development of die-sinking EDM can be traced back to the end of WWII in 1943. Two Russian scientists (B. R. Lazarenko and N. I. Lazarenko) were ordered to study methods to prevent erosion of tungsten electrical contacts due to sparking effects.

The two scientists at the time were unable to complete this research, but their efforts contributed greatly to this technology. They did find that under certain circumstances, it is possible to control erosion more precisely. This inspiration prompted them to invent the EDM machine tool for processing hard materials such as tungsten. The name of Lazarenkos' machine is called an R-C-type machine, which is named after the resistor-capacitor circuit that is used to charge the electrodes.

Progress in the US

At the same time, there was an American team composed of Harold Stark, Victor Harding, and Jack Beaver. They have successfully developed an EDM machine for removing broken drills and taps on aluminum castings. The American team initially used feeble electric-etching tools to make machines, but the results were not good, so they later switched to this method. The machine can generate 60 sparks per second, which was a technological breakthrough at the time. It prompted other research teams to further venture into the field of metal processing.

Machines later used vacuum tube circuits based on their design, which generated thousands of sparks per second. It significantly increased the wire EDM machining speed, with great potential and productivity. The new EDM machines based on this technology have prevailed in the industry since then.

Today's Progression

Wire Cut EDM is a very common metal cutting technology today, which is often used to cut hard and complex materials. It is the most widely used in mold and tool manufacturing. In addition, it has become a common method for making prototypes and parts, especially in the relatively low volume production of aerospace, automotive, and electronics industries.

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