Shop Grows Its EDM Machining Capabilities

Extreme Wire EDM Service Inc. could not efficiently machine large parts on its existing EDMs. The AgieCharmilles Cut P 1250 wire EDM solved this problem, reducing the time, effort and cost of setting up and producing the part.


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Growth is usually a welcome prospect for manufacturers; however, it can present some major obstacles when that growth is in the size of parts a shop is asked to accommodate. Extreme Wire EDM Service Inc. in Grandville, Michigan, faced these challenges when customers began to approach it with parts that were too big for any of its 10 existing machines. A massive EDM unit from GF Machining Solutions (Lincolnshire, Illinois), helped the shop take on work that nobody in the area could.

Specializing exclusively in wire EDM and EDM drilling, Extreme Wire turns out high-quality precision parts for the tool and die and mold industries, producing components used in automotive, aerospace, medical, oil and gas, consumer products, research and development, and prototyping applications. Typical part sizes range from 0.03 inch in diameter and 0.5 inch long to 20.1 inches tall by 53 inches long by 44 inches wide.

Although Extreme Wire’s expertise lies in wire EDM, it struggled to fit larger parts into its machines’ work envelopes and access the feature reference points from which to work. Employees typically had to remove upper nozzle components and reinstall them after loading a part. The procedure drained a significant amount of time and resources, which in turn increased cost per part, limited output and forced the shop to sometimes turn away work.

As the situation escalated, the company realized that the most effective way to provide fast turnaround times was to acquire a machine that would significantly expand its current part-size capability. It was at this point that Extreme Wire turned to its EDM supplier, GF Machining Solutions, and the AgieCharmilles Cut P 1250 wire EDM, which can accommodate parts ranging to 31.5 inches thick, 90 inches long and 54 inches wide, and weighing more than 6 tons. The machine’s XYZ travels measure 49.2 by 33.5 by 31.5 inches. It also features an attachment to “pick up” blind reference holes in order to drill straight reference holes in thicker parts. As a result, the shop spends less time setting up blocks for the EDM process.

To streamline the learning curve with the new machine’s control, GF Machining Solutions supplied the shop with an AgieCharmilles Cut 400 Sp with very similar controls to those on the Cut P 1250. The intention was to use the surrogate machine as an intermediary learning tool and return it once the new EDM was installed; however, the shop quickly realized that both machines were needed to keep pace with increasing production demands.

The consistency in controls from machine to machine makes it easy to cross-train employees on all its GF Machining Solutions EDM models, the shop says, which include a Cut 640, Cut 440, Cut 330 and Cut 240. The machines are designed to excel at efficiently cutting the hardened materials that comprise the vast majority of Extreme Wire’s work—mainly A2 and B2 tool steels for tool and die parts, and S7 and H13 steels for molds.

Along with efficiency, accuracy is key for big parts that represent significant investments in materials and resources, says company Vice President Brian Bernt. That’s why all nine employees are capable of running and programming any machine on the floor. Programs and cutting specifications are pre-emptively corrected to yield higher-quality parts and turn jobs around faster. One specific feature that helps Extreme Wire produce high-quality parts is GF Machining Solutions’ advanced high-speed spark generator technology, which protects against electrolytic effects, resulting in surface finishes of 0.1 micron Ra. The EDMs also deliver tolerances of 0.0003 inch.

In addition to machining capabilities, GF Machining Solutions supplies connectivity features that heighten Extreme Wire’s unattended EDM operations. For example, the controls simplify machine monitoring so that it is easier to stay connected remotely, and interactive programs send cutting data directly to mobile devices.

The AgieCharmilles EDMs can also cut 30-degree tapers at their full Z-axis heights. While common EDMs can cut tapers at those angles, they are often limited in height range to do so. Most of Extreme Wire’s parts require taper cuts, so the full-height taper capability is particularly beneficial, Mr. Bernt says. Since Extreme Wire says it is the only shop in the area with a wire EDM of this size, it is able to provide better service for local customers that previously had to use shops hours away to process large parts. According to Mr. Bernt, the shop is so pleased with the performance of its Cut P 1250 that he already foresees the need for further expansion. The machine’s schedule is full several months in advance, and he predicts that the shop may require a second one on its floor in the near future.


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