HomeCNC EDM MachinesIntroduction to Electrical Discharge Machining | Learn to Burn

Introduction to Electrical Discharge Machining | Learn to Burn

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Welcome to the first episode of the Everything EDM – Learn to Burn series. Zero Tolerance LLC zeroes in on electrical discharge machining (EDM), starting from the basic concepts.

There are many different names for this subtractive manufacturing process: spark machining, spark eroding, die sinking… the list goes on and electrical discharge machining is considered a “non traditional” or “non conventional” machining process. This video, Introduction to Electrical Discharge Machining, will show you how, what, and why.

00:15 Introduction to Zero Tolerance and how they use electrical discharge machining to create their plastic injection molds.
2:14 Beginning the electrical discharge machining process of an intricate mold.
3:37 Using the electrode holder and how it works.
8:43 Continuing the electrical discharge machining process of an intricate mold.
11:24 Quick lesson about how the electrode and voltage create the spark and cut the metal.
13:31 No broken cutters with hardened steel and EDM.
14:01 Thank you and closing

Let us know in the comments any topics you want to see covered on our new series Everything EDM – Learn to Burn. Have questions? Drop them below!

Stay tuned for next month’s episode that will talk all about wire EDM and fast hole EDM.


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  1. Pretty cool, subtractative spot welder type machine on a CNC machine is a simpler way of explaining it, where the welder doesn't touch the project so it cuts away not adds to.

  2. The best way to honor you mentors is to pass in what you have learned.
    I am a tool and diemaker of 40 years and I just really enjoyed your video, and your explanation of the over burn. I was trained in an old edm that yes we used super glue, on the carbon graphite and small c clamps and all kind of stuff, ah the good old days..?

  3. I'm more of a fan of electrochemical milling: essentially reverse electroplating.
    Selective masking confines metal removal for etching graphics; a formed cathode can 'plunge-cut', leaving a hole with the same profile as the tool.
    Wire EDM is more precise, but tool configuration prevents making concavities on flat surfaces.
    ECM with a shaped cathode works very well for plunge-cuts and concave surfaces, but requires 100's of amps, high-pressure electrolyte pumps, cooling and rigid fixtures…
    EDM can plunge-cut, but the tool is consumed.
    I've used ECM and masking to make decorative designs (back-filling etched areas with silver-solder), roughing out the shape of knives (think terraced hill-sides) from steel billets.

  4. Being one of those old timers I'll mention your not quite correct on the square corners knowledge. In your lifetime cnc Mills and lathes do the heavy lifting. It's easier to design around the processes available on the shop floor so square corners are avoided when possible.

    A shaper can cut square corners and brooches can also cut square corners but usually requires a hole or pocket space for the chip to roll into during the cutting. Not many shops have shapers these days and the skills to run them is even rarer than the machines.

    A waterjet can also cut square holes. The real advantage to EDM is accuracy. You can maintain far better tolerances than most waterjet machines and you can work in blind holes. A plastic injection piece to hold wires probably doesn't need tight tolerances. The die for this part could have been a dozen different ways using conventional machines and easier to machine tool steels and then had the individual pieces heat treated for the desired hardness.

    If you got a guy with a burn table in the area that also designs and cuts his own electrodes for the task at hand and at an affordable rate then it makes sense to farm that part of the die build out.

    With the internet and modern software, and a fast and efficient postal system, farming out work has become the new standard.

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