Top 5 Design Suggestions for Wire EDM Manufacturability

Why Design for Wire EDM Manufacturability?

Wire EDM is an extremely accurate machining process capable of cutting complex shapes in exceptionally hard —and hard to manufacture — metals. Despite this accuracy, engineers are always looking for new ways to improve this process. 

Design for manufacturability (DFM) provides engineers and designers with an outlet for creative problem-solving while simultaneously improving the manufacturing process and reducing overall production costs. Due to the nature of wire EDM, the manufacturing process is slower than other machining processes such as waterjet. However, this tradeoff allows for the machining of extremely hard materials, improved accuracy, and finish.

While the precision, accuracy, and repeatability of KLH Industries’ wire EDM machining services are unmatched, our engineers are always looking for ways to provide more value, improve processes and reduce costs.

This is where the process of design for manufacturability has proven invaluable to KLH and our clients, customers, and partners. Depending upon the production challenge, KLH’s experts have a combination of in-shop, hands-on experience, design creativity, and advanced technology that has provided the team at KLH deep insight into the process of manufacturability for wire EDM, CNC and Waterjet machining.

We believe the following to be some of the top considerations any manufacturer and/or machine shop should review when designing for wire EDM manufacturability.

1 — Evaluate the Wire EDM Project for Manufacturability

Whenever a new wire EDM project is being considered, the first thing KLH recommends is to evaluate the project for manufacturability. During the initial phases of project evaluation, your engineers are going to be working with or even drawing up a variety of CAD files.

This give and take analysis is critical to the process of manufacturability. Some things to consider:

  • Do the needs of the project align with the capabilities of wire EDM? Is this a good fit for wire EDM?
  • What is the material type of the part(s), and is it a conductive material? Aluminum, steel, carbide, tool steel, copper, etc.
  • What is the geometry of the part? Can this part be cut with wire EDM, or would another type of machining process be better suited for this project?
  • What are the tolerances required by the project? Wire EDM can cut accurately within +/- .0001,” but the type of material or height of the part could influence this accuracy. Taller parts require more power to remove material but both accuracy and surface finish will be influenced and must be considered.

2 — Consider the Needs of Part Geometry

Wire EDM comes with its own set of challenges when designing for manufacturability. Part geometry plays a major role in determining if a design is suitable for wire EDM. It also is a factor in how difficult it will be to manufacture the part itself. Designers should first ask the question, “Can the features be created with wire EDM?”

Not all geometries make sense for EDM and can create complications with wire erosion, surface finishes (based on the variance in material thickness) and even the degree of tolerance that can be attained. When designing a part for manufacturability, engineers and designers must consider the geometry at the earliest stages of development.

3 — What are the Surface Finish and Tolerance Requirements?

Designing a part for wire EDM machining should include significant analysis of the surface finish needs. While leading wire EDM tool shops like KLH can achieve exceptionally fine surface finishes with an accuracy of up to three microinches — a near polished surface finish — not all parts require this. With only some parts needing such an extreme degree of accuracy and finish, designers should consider both the minimum and maximum tolerance variances when engineering a part. Establishing minimum requirements will have a big impact on final product manufacturing costs.

A big part of design for manufacturability is the optimization and reduction of cost, project lead time and, of course, the repeatability requirements of the finished part. In wire EDM, the tighter the tolerance, the better the surface finish. However, this comes at an increased cost because the part will take longer to cut overall. Being aware of, finding and achieving the right surface finish — in design and production — that considers all these requirements is another key to designing for manufacturability.

4 — Material Thickness and Conductivity

Not all materials are suitable for wire EDM. During the design phase, wire EDM experts work closely with the customer to make recommendations based on the part/project needs. A client may want a part made with a specific material, but there may be other materials that provide similar or better properties which are more suitable for the overall product — or wire EDM machining.

When evaluating a project design, your engineer should be asking questions about the material choice as well. Determining the proper conductive material that can achieve the part design requirements and the suitability for wire EDM is another DFM decision that should be weighed carefully. If material hardness, dimensional accuracy and/or tight tolerances are required, then selecting the proper material that lends itself to wire EDM machining can lower product costs. Effective DFM requires evaluating and optimizing each aspect of the part design for proper functional performance and for the best product cost.

5 — Timing: Production Requirements

Another critical factor in designing a part for optimal manufacturability is the timing. How fast does the customer need these parts? With EDM machining being a slower process, the customer order often requires a tight turnaround.

You may develop or uncover a better process for cutting a specific part or even detect potential problems early on that can be solved before production begins. Too often, it’s worth asking your engineers to spend just a bit more time during the design phase — it can result in huge time savings in the shop and cost savings in your product. Don’t overlook this step before going to the production floor!

Key Benefits of Manufacturability in Wire EDM Production

In addition to the above considerations, wire EDM benefits greatly from the DFM process in other significant ways. Engineers and designers know that wire EDM is not a fast process, but customers still want their prototypes or parts as quickly as possible.

Spending the time evaluating concept drawings and CAD files upfront during the initial stages of a project is critical to maintaining quality and the overall (potential) speed of a project’s completion. Taken a step further, design for manufacturability is a perfect opportunity for prototype projects as well.

KLH process experts can provide feedback and input during the early design stages of a project. This is valuable for improving production requirements, reducing production times as well as reducing the overall costs of a project before going to large-scale manufacturing of a part.

Having access to highly skilled wire EDM experts that can help a client troubleshoot, recommend different materials, geometries, and help refine and improve the overall production process, is another major point of value.

By challenging all aspects of the design of a part— from the materials selected to the components used, to the geometry, tolerances, and surface finishes, timing, and material thickness — designers can potentially reduce production costs, speed up production and overall, improve how a part is machined. This can lead to a more efficient and streamlined manufacturing production process, resulting in a faster turnaround for an order.

At KLH, we excel at designing for wire EDM manufacturability. Our many years of trade experience transforming parts from a concept design into a high functioning steel part is unequaled. DFM is vital to your process and KLH operates in excess of twelve wire EDM machines — many of which are tied to automation and able to turn around an order as quickly as the same day.

We have a dedicated team of programmers that specialize in EDM services, manufacturing processes and production. With in-house access to CNC turning & milling, precision waterjet cutting, grinding and inspection experts, KLH provides advanced DFM services for projects requiring additional processing beyond wire EDM.

Our expert team knows exactly what it takes to get the job done efficiently and in the most cost-effective way. Every KLH team member has experience on our shop floor running machines and troubleshooting, working regularly with our cutting-edge equipment. In our shop, there is no separation between the “front and back of the house.” This is just one more quality that makes the KLH difference.

Interested in learning more about how KLH Industries can assist with your wire EDM? Need assistance with your next project? Contact us to start the conversation today!