Demystifying wire EDM

AMJun19Features - fanuc
AMJun19Features - fanuc

Wire Electronic Discharge Machining (EDM) is becoming increasingly important in the aerospace manufacturing process. Despite its growing role, there are a number of common myths which continue to be discussed. Andrew Spence, sales manager at Fanuc UK, debunks his top four.


Number One: Wire EDM is inaccurate and slow. With wire EDM, many manufacturers believe there is a compromise to be made between accuracy and speed. In the aerospace sector, manufacturers are already being pushed to capacity and therefore any machining they require has to be both fast and reliable. Accuracy is especially important due to the critical application use in aerospace. Luckily, manufacturers don’t have to compromise between speed and accuracy when it comes to wire EDM machines, as Fanuc’s R&D team has developed its EDM technology to ensure a high surface finish can be produced quickly and accurately.

Fanuc’s wire EDM machines offer 140 hours of unmanned machining. This can facilitate the possibility of a 24/7 production line, as work can take place over weekends, with the wire EDMs running and producing precise components from Friday evening through to Monday morning without the need for human presence.

Another way wire EDM can increase production is through multi-workpiece machining, which effectively allows manufacturers to load a number of materials to be cut at the same time. Machines can also be programmed to complete the cutting of different components through multi-workpiece machining, saving manufacturers time when having to complete large orders.

Number Two: The second myth to debunk is that it takes too long to re-thread the wire. We all know how frustrating rethreading cotton into a needle can be, so it is understandable that people may think it will be the same for wire EDM. However, what isn’t necessarily known is that wire EDMs, such as Fanuc’s ROBOCUT machines, are capable of automatically rewiring in as little as 10 seconds.

Thanks to Fanuc’s Automatic Wire Feed (AWF3) threading technology, manufacturers can take advantage of fast, reliable, automatic threading. The latest AWF3 will connect the wire in thickness of up to 500mm fully submerged. In addition, the wires are cut electronically, producing an absolutely straight, burr-free pointed end. This is extremely beneficial to manufacturers as it means minimal disruption is caused to the manufacturing process, alleviating concerns of bulk orders not being met due to the wiring being out of place.

Number Three: It’s time to talk about costs: a subject which has often clouded not just wire EDM, but automation too. It is understandable to think that increasing automation in the production line is too expensive, with a rise in running costs. Yet, while the initial expenditure may seem like a big investment, the payback period for manufacturers can be as little as 18 months.

Breaking this down further, the actual cost of running wire EDMs is around £5/hour, a figure which can be reduced further with Economy Mode. Also, as wire EDM can be left unmanned, it allows factory workers to concentrate on other, more important tasks.

Number Four: The final myth to debunk is all about the well-documented skills shortage. Manufacturers continue to show concerns that there aren’t enough skilled people to operate automated machinery, including EDMs. In reality, operators can become proficient in less than a week, especially when utilising CNC Drive Systems.

Selecting a manufacturer of wire EDM machines that offers training is vital, as it helps ensure that you are fully equipped with introducing the machine into your operations. Fanuc, for example, offers training at its UK headquarters in Antsy Park, Coventry, meaning customers aren’t left in the dark when purchasing the industrial machine.

In summary, Wire EDM provides a complex, precise cut with low running costs, allowing manufacturers to operate out-of-hours and increase production capacity. The machines are versatile, meaning they can be implemented for a range of uses, from the smallest bolt to building blocks for an aircraft.

As industry faces pressure to complete a growing number of orders for it to compete with overseas manufacturers, UK companies shouldn’t overlook wire EDM and automation as a solution to achieving quality output. Fanuc’s wire EDM service will be on show at its UK Open house event in October 2019.


Fanuc UK

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