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Thirteen Criteria for Using Wire EDM in Production Applications

Over the past decade, wire electrical discharge machining (known as WEDM or wire EDM) has developed into a popular and standard alternative to CNC machining. Wire EDM often offers quicker, less expensive and more accurate solutions than conventional machining.

Of course, not all machining jobs are best performed with a wire EDM, but some machining scenarios are ideal to wire EDM.

Listed below are thirteen cases where wire EDM offers a distinct advantage for CNC production machine shops. This list is not exhaustive: it is intended to offer ideas and insights into the range of possibilities offered by wire EDM.

1. Hard materials - The foremost benefit of wire EDM technology is its ability to cut hard material. The hardness of the material to be cut does not affect the EDM's speed or ability to cut it. Wire cutting can be performed on parts with finished dimensions after heat treating with no additional cost. Typical applications: large series production molds, jigs, fixtures, form tools, knives, broaches, custom tool inserts.

2. Exotic Metals - Wire EDM process can cut any material that conducts electricity, including Carbide, Inconel, Titanium, Hastelloy, and many others. Wire EDM removes the difficulty of cutting a simple geometry in a material like 1" carbide. Typical applications: carbide knives and wear surfaces, Inconel molds, titanium high performance parts.

3. Stacking Plates - You can stack thin plates of a specific material and get multiple pieces with a single cut. For example, with our 12" Z, we can stack 48 pieces of .250" material and cut 48 copies of one part on one wire pass. Typical applications: custom collet wrenches, flat gears, copper shims.

4. Speed of EDM Delivery - Production Wire EDM delivery is very rapid as it usually requires little or no tooling or fixturing. Typical applications: medical and dental prototypes, prototype gears, prototypes for molded parts.

5. Racking of Parts - Wire EDM machining allows you to rack parts: this technique is used when only a particular portion of your work piece needs a complex geometry wire cut into or through it. Example: A 2" square by .500 thick needs 20 .060 x .800 deep slots cut in one end. The part can be racked in a fixture to cut the configuration 20 pieces at a time.

6. Raw Materials - Wire EDM saves time and money by making possible the use of raw materials straight from the mill. Bar stock, round stock and plates can all used with little added processing. A job that would normally require sawing, squaring and milling of stacked plates can be accomplished in much fewer operations with a wire EDM.

7. Complex Geometries - Wire EDM is especially beneficial when shapes such as gears, splines, and long thin slots are required. Any operation requiring such geometries is an excellent candidate for wire EDM. Examples of applications: broaches, keys, pins, cams, nestable parts.

8. Internal Contours – Pipes, gears, pultrusion molds all benefit from wire EDM, as do prototype extrusion sections up to 15" long.

9. Design flexibility - Since programs are easily adjusted, prototypes and single parts are extremely well suited for Wire EDM machining. A part is manufactured very easily since no hard tooling is involved. Changes to part design can be handled simply and quickly.

10. CNC 5 Axis Wire Cutting Capability - Complex three dimensional programming systems enable EDM machines to independently control the top and bottom contour when wire cutting CNC 5 axis wire. Example: A 3" high part can have a hexagonal shape on the top contour and a triangular shape on the bottom contour. Other applications: tapered pins for molds, pultrusion molds.

11. Burr Free - Wire EDM eliminates secondary deburring operations, reducing the number of steps required to complete each part. Applications: go/no go gauges, custom tool inserts.

12. Splines - Wire EDM allows you to cut splines that would not be possible to cut with mechanical tools. You can make sharp angles with a radius as small as the diameter of your wire. Applications: machine tools with disposable blades, also cut with a wire EDM.

13. Repeated high precision/ tight tolerance parts - Wire EDM can cut repeated hig h tolerance jobs, from stacked plates, blocks or bar stock cost effectively, with less waste and reduced operator involvement.

If your machining job fall into one of these scenarios, Wire EDM technology will offer distinct advantages over other machining and precision machining methods. Machining your job with a wire EDM will offer an excellent opportunity to reduce costs and shorten delivery time. Machining your job with Vancouver Wire EDM will also give you peace of mind that you are getting great service, the highest quality and great value from one of Vancouver's best machine shops.

Still not sure if your job would benefit from wire EDM? Find out more with our tip sheets for Machinists, Purchasers, Engineers and Designers:

How does a wire EDM work?

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