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Japanese EDM builder Sodick is introducing a new wire EDM model to the U.S. market at this year's Westec show in March, 1998. According to the builder, this submerged cutting machine reflects a number of current trends as indicated by requests of American customers for most-wanted features in such a machine.
For example, U.S. dealers were telling Sodick that their customers, especially job shops and shops that specialize in extrusion dies, had more and more projects that required much larger taper angles. Dealers like Don Miller of Emerging Manufacturing Technology had customers asking for larger U/V travel to increase taper capacity. And from Megatel Inc., Sodick heard, "Customers demand more U/V axis travel and corner control." Bill Welsh of Welsh Machinery said, "A power Z axis, ease of use, increased taper angle and automatic threading are of highest importance." Peter Klier of Brooks Associates wanted the builder to make their anti-electrolysis technology a standard feature. So, over time, Sodick drew up a wish list of EDM features most requested by the EDM market. They knew that the job shops needed these features for their bread and butter projects—machining dies, molds, cutting tools, exotic metals and carbide.
The submerged wire EDM being introduced is called the A325. P. J. Naughton of KGK International (Buffalo Grove, Illinois), the Sodick importing company that markets the machine, explains that this machine is designed for a variety of applications. He believes that there are probably very few applications that this machine cannot do. It has a medium size travel (10 inches by 14 inches). It provides 8.6 inches in the Z axis, considered ample height in this size machine. According to Mr. Naughton, the U/V travel is a very strong point because it provides ±20 degrees of taper at about 4 inches of height.
Heretofore, the most popular Sodick EDM has been the A320 submerged wire EDM. Since the A325 has incorporated all the most popular features of the A320 and upgraded its capacity, travel, corner accuracy, surface finish precision and standard features, KGK-I expects the new A325 to be even more popular. The importer is reportedly building up inventory of the machines before its introduction at Westec.
The A325 is this builder's first fully enclosed EDM machine. It came about because the European Community standards require full enclosure. The price to enclose the machine was nominal while the advantages to the user are measurable, Mr. Naughton states. The full enclosure provides additional safeguards to the operator, while its compactness takes up less floor space and reduces installation time. "The prices of our machines have dropped in the last year, and since KGK-I offers its own financing program, we can open the doors to first time EDM users."
One of the reasons this new machine was developed was to respond to the growing market demand for larger U/ V travel. But, because the A325 was to be an affordably priced machine, cost considerations went into the final decision on how large the travel should be. Dealer reports established that 10 inch by 14 inch X/Y, 8 inch Z and 3.15 inches by 3.15 inches U/ V covered the most popular range (32 inches by 24 inches) of workpiece sizes. Since the builder has bigger, more expensive machines that can handle less common larger travels, the A325 focuses on the popular range.
In light of its affordable price tag, the A325 is surprisingly heavy, Mr. Naughton points out. "It is by far the heaviest machine when compared to others built to appeal to the same type of user," he says. "This weight translates into a rigidity that guarantees machining accuracy." The machine body is made of cast Meehanite and weighs 6600 lbs. The A325 can hold a workpiece weight up to 1,000 lbs with a table-driven X axis and a Y-axis movement that is incorporated into the column.
This model has Sodick's EF4 circuit, which is an anti-electrolysis as well as a fine finish feature, as standard equipment The company states that this feature allows the machine to achieve surface finishes down to 8 rms.
A survey of wire EDM manufacturers shows that the percentage of machines sold with the automatic wire threader feature is 75 percent. So an automatic wire threader has been incorporated as a standard feature on the A325. The reason that automatic wire threaders have become so popular is that they allow wire machines to operate unattended, substantially improving the potential for profitable operations.
The A325 has a new control, the Mark 25, that will automatically select cutting conditions and offsets. After the operator answers a few questions on screen menus, the controls will generate all the cutting information. In addition, several function keys were added to the control keyboard to further simplify the machine operation.