From Wire To Ram EDM With Success

Find out here how this Windsor, Ontario, job shop made a big move to ram EDM successfully.

Case Study From: 2/1/1998 Modern Machine Shop

Three years ago when Dino Civiero and Joe McCarthy opened Technicut, Inc., their Windsor, Ontario, job shop, their goal was to produce highly accurate, top quality parts—period. They realized that Windsor, a hot bed of tool, die, mold and automotive part-building, needed a job shop that could produce work at that level, and they believed a capability in electrical discharge machining (EDM) was a "must"—especially wire EDM. "Wire EDM was—and is—under-utilized in this area," says co-owner Joe McCarthy.

When the shop opened, they bought their first EDM, a GFAGIECHilles ROBOFIL 510. In test cuts, it proved to be versatile, flexible, highly reliable, and it could manage large workpieces frequently needed by the area's heavy industrial fabricators. Since opening three years ago with one mill, one grinder, the 510, and 2,000 square feet of warehouse space, Technicut has been expanding impressively. Today work is done for more than 200 customers with six EDM machines—wire and ram—in triple its original floor space.

Much of the cutting that had been done by milling machines is now done with wire EDM. The co-owners say it cuts more accurately (most parts are cut to tolerances within ±0.0002 inch), performs taper cuts up to 30 degrees and produces superior surface finishes.

With respect to accuracy, Mr. McCarthy and Mr. Civiero like to cite a spline detail on a punch and die section cut from M-2 high speed steel for the U. S. military. "When the parts were inspected, they saw that we had held tolerances within two ten thousandths of an inch. They said they weren't used to seeing work like this; they just couldn't believe how precisely the part had been cut."

At Technicut, wire EDM does lots of tapers, too. "One of the first jobs we did that impressed us and our customer involved 14.5 degree lifter pockets cut in a custom mold ten inches thick. Recently we cut a tapered pocket into a workpiece 15 inches thick. This spool mold required a T-slide with two side walls tapered 3 degrees and the back tapered 7 degrees. To do this, we just thread the wire and start the machine."

When the shop is closed, the machine is set up to run multiple cuts overnight. Autothreading, rethreading, and auto restart are among the features that enhance its ability to run unsupervised. All these capabilities are important in Windsor's shrinking labor pool, Mr. Civiero says. Even though it's difficult to find qualified operators, Technicut has been able to increase productivity by running machines unattended for 18 hours a day, seven days a week, he says.

With business flourishing, Technicut continues to turn to wire EDMs. Today the shop has wire machines to handle smaller, more detailed work including small production die sections and replacement sections.

As Technicut became known as one of the best wire EDM shops in the area, customers began asking for more services—particularly ram EDM.

Technicut's first ram EDM was a basic model, the GFAGIECHilles ROBOFORM 4LC.

It can handle workpieces weighing up to 3,260 pounds and has a large work tank fitted with two doors, making it easier to load large, heavy parts. Technicut now cuts an assortment of custom, one-time molds on this machine, and they have added an automated ram unit, to handle production work.

This machine, a ROBOFORM 40, accommodates workpieces up to 2200 pounds and can run unattended. Today it operates five days a week in 10- to 12-hour shifts. The shop finds it well-suited for machining detailed molds, including long ribs, and orbiting. "We do lots of thin ribbed mold details," Mr. Civiero says. "For an A-pillar...we're burning very thin ribs in a four-cavity tool with 40 ribs per cavity. We're able to burn these thin ribs with very little electrode wear." The thinness ranges from 30 thousandths out at the tips and tapers 1.5 degrees per side, he says.

"Customers demand this type of accuracy," Mr. McCarthy explains, "and we strive to do the best job that we can."

Since the addition of the ram capability, Technicut added six customers in the first month of its operation. Mr. Civiero anticipates their ram operations will continue to grow quickly. He finishes by saying that the ram operations may even grow faster than the wire EDM business. MMS

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