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The Next Big Thing in Wire EDM

The Next Big Thing in Wire EDM

The Next Big Thing in Wire EDM

Despite the many important and critical machine improvement points over the years, wire EDM machining speeds have remained relatively flat over the past decade… until now. Find out more in this article by Makino.

Wire EDM machining technology has seen continuous development to improve the reliability and efficiency of the process. These efforts have nurtured this non-traditional machining process to grow in use to become a mainstream method of manufacturing for an increasing number of industries. From its humble beginnings that revolutionized the tool and die building process, wire EDM has matured and expanded its use to direct parts production, especially in the medical and aerospace fields.

The latest generation wire EDM machines are better in almost every way compared to their predecessors, which has helped elevate the wire EDM process to become a daily relied upon manufacturing method. In recent years, many wire EDM manufacturers have focused developments on items that address and enhance the reliability of the process. This includes items such as simplifying the control interface, improving automatic wire threading capabilities, reducing machine maintenance requirements, and reducing wire consumption costs. While these are all important and critical machine improvement points, Wire EDM machining speeds have remained relatively flat over the past decade… until now!

Makino has introduced a new wire EDM machine, the U6 H.E.A.T. Extreme, that has been developed to take machining speeds to new levels of performance and efficiency. At the core of these new capabilities is the use of a larger diameter wire—0.016” (0.4mm)—elevating the U6 H.E.A.T. Extreme as the fastest wire EDM machine on the planet.

Is Bigger Better?

The key benefit in using a larger diameter wire is that it allows higher power levels to be applied, which result in increased machining speeds. There is a physical limit to how much power a particular wire size can withstand (spark density—the maximum amount of power that can be applied to the electrode over a specific area), as exceeding this level will result in a wire break; although there are other factors that contribute to wire breakage. Comparing 0.016” diameter wire to the traditionally used 0.010” diameter wire, the cross-sectional area is 265 percent larger.

Comparison of Wire Size

Using a larger diameter wire alone will not necessarily achieve higher performance. A larger wire supports higher power levels, but the 0.016” diameter wire size exceeds the power output capability of most machines, as wire EDM generators are commonly configured and optimized for 0.010” diameter operation. Stated differently, a standard wire EDM generator does not have a sufficient amount of additional/reserve electrical power to apply to the cut to operate at optimum levels with 0.016” diameter wire and will therefore starve and impede the process from achieving faster speeds.

To achieve faster cutting speeds using 0.016” diameter wire, the U6 H.E.A.T. Extreme machine is configured with an additional generator booster that increases the maximum average machining power from 30 A to 60 A. This booster unit increases the machine’s kVA power consumption by about 50 percent over the base U6 H.E.A.T., but this increase in power consumption is fully justified and offset by the gains in rough machining speed.

More Enhancements

The U6 H.E.A.T. Extreme builds and expands on the existing U6 H.E.A.T. machine and retains all the standard machining capabilities to achieve high accuracy and fine surface finish with wire sizes down to 0.004” (0.100mm) diameter. The “Extreme” portion entails special enhancements that focus on the operation of 0.016” diameter wire. Beyond the need for increased machining power, additional development and modifications are necessary to achieve reliable automatic wire threading with 0.016” diameter wire, which represents a severe technical challenge.

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