IMTS 2014: EDM--Burning with Innovation
Automation, accuracy and custom solutions among the needs addressed at IMTS
Glynn Fletcher, President—Americas, GF Machining Solutions (Lincolnshire, IL) sees two trends among his EDM customers: “The first is an increased requirement for automation, and we’re very committed to finding automated solutions,” he said. “You will see evidence of that in our IMTS booth. We’ll be linking a high-speed milling machine with an EDM machine, with robot loading in between. There will be a flexible manufacturing cell as well, with machines linked with automation. There’s also the new Cut 2000 machine with the automatic wire-changing capability—a variation on the automation theme.”
As far as Fletcher knows, “there isn’t another EDM maker in the world that offers automatic wire changing capability.” He explains that traditionally, “wire EDM was a single-tool process”—one would have to stop to change wires if one wanted a different diameter of wire. With automatic wire changing, “We remove that manual intervention, so that customers can, for example, rough with one diameter of wire and then finish with a second diameter, but do it all automatically.” Just as one would no longer expect to buy a machining center without the option of an automatic toolchanger, Fletcher thinks automatic wire changing capability will become the norm in EDM.
The second trend Fletcher is seeing is an increased demand for custom solutions: fewer customers are willing to buy a one-size-fits-all machine and then try to adapt their processes to it, he said. “We’re certainly seeing this in the aerospace industry,” he noted, pointing to two machines that will be at IMTS as examples of the trend. “The Drill 300 was designed specifically for cooling holes in airfoils and came about directly as a consequence of requests from major jet-engine manufacturers,” he said. “And we developed the Cut 200 Aerotech in conjunction with Pratt & Whitney, specifically for the machining of the fir-tree form in the turbine disk.
“Finding these kinds of dedicated solutions is something that we like doing and expect to be doing more of,” he concluded.
Large Parts, Lower Costs
Cost of operation is on the mind of EDM customers of MC Machinery Systems Inc. (Wood Dale, IL), according to Technical Marketing Manager Greg Langenhorst.
“Input costs are always a consideration when running an EDM machine –or several EDM machines—and many customers are looking to reduce cost of operation,” Langenhorst said. “Ultimately, the goal is to reduce the cost per component to either deliver a more competitively priced part or improve margin on product. This is where we have seen some major successes with our MV series of wire EDM.” The series features a novel cylindrical drive system that features a round magnetic shaft replacing the ballscrew, creating a 360° magnetic flux for a no-contact, and thus low-maintenance, motor design.
“Customers have responded extremely well to the machine’s low cost of operation—wire consumption, power consumption, and maintenance costs are all remarkably low, and that seems to be a real trigger,” Langenhorst said. “The repeat purchases after that first MV series purchase have really told us how valuable operational cost savings are to those in the EDM market right now.”
Langenhorst said that they are also seeing a greater demand for machines that can handle large parts. “Previous machines from MC Machinery, including the FA30V Advance, have done a fine job as far as tall parts go, but they didn’t quite hit the mark on large round parts. That’s where the new MV 4800 has stepped up to the plate, taking care of larger round parts with the additional Y travel. The MV4800 Advance features a travel of 800 × 600 × 500 mm and can machine workpieces up to 1.3 × 1.1 × 0.5 m. Submerged, it cuts as much as 500-mm deep.”
The Fine Art of Surfacing
At Methods Machine Tools Inc. (Sudbury MA), customers have a growing concern for the small, according to Stephen Bond, the company’s national sales manager for FANUC RoboDrill, RoboCut & EDM Products.
“Accuracy and superb surface finish are paramount for manufacturers using EDM to make increasingly challenging parts,” Bond noted. “To meet these needs, EDM technology is evolving to offer several new innovations for enhanced taper accuracy, threading at a taper angle and more. Fine-wire machining continues to gain popularity, especially for precision applications such as aerospace and medical.”
At IMTS, Methods will be showing several new wire EDM capabilities from FANUC, including their High Taper Compensation function, which allows for straighter walls and smoother finishes when cutting tapers up to 45°. “Additionally, FANUC has improved their Cut Monitor software, allowing users to fully monitor up to 32 machines from a single PC or hand-held device,” Bond said. Other developments include improvements in Auto Threader capabilities for threading in the gap in thicker workpieces up to 150 mm and threading in stacked workpieces. “In response to today’s demands for increased precision and accuracy, FANUC continues to develop cutting technology for wire diameters as small as 0.05 mm.”
“Methods will also demonstrate the new, low-cost and highly accurate submersible rotary axis on FANUC Wire EDMs,” Bond said. “This axis will allow full simultaneous ‘turn and burn’ capability at a price which is approximately 50% less than that of a third-party supplier’s model.”
Automation and Ease-of-Use
Automation, accuracy and ease-of-use are customer concerns that Makino (Auburn Hills, MI) will address at IMTS, according to Marketing Manager Mark Rentschler. “Visitors will have an opportunity to experience the latest in high-performance machining technologies, engineered solutions and automation systems” at their IMTS booth, Rentschler promised in a company news release. The company’s booth will include a number of demonstrations that integrate automation, including a fully automated mold manufacturing cell featuring a D300 five-axis VMC, a V22 graphite machining center, a EDAF3 sinker EDM and a U53j wire EDM tended by an Erowa robot.
The company will also feature their U3 and U6 wire EDM machines, which, in response to growing concerns about a generational skills gap, are designed for ease of use.
“The U3 and U6 offer enhanced machine performance in a design that makes competitive cycle times and high degrees of accuracy and finish easy to achieve, no matter the condition or application,” said Brian Pfluger, EDM product line manager at Makino. “With the addition of our new HyperCut technology and Hyper-i control, even novice operators can program and produce leading-edge part finishes in the most complex feature geometries—a significant competitive advantage for shops experiencing difficulty replacing skilled EDM operators.”
In addition to the demonstrations and displays at IMTS, Makino plans to host five ‘lunch-and-learn’ events throughout the week. Each session is scheduled to include presentations from Makino customers, discussing real-world manufacturing challenges, and how they applied technology to their operations to become more competitive and more profitable.
—Senior Editor Michael C. Anderson
To view the complete IMTS preview for this pavilion as a PDF, click here.
Published Date : 8/1/2014