Electrical discharge machining (EDM), sometimes referred to as spark machining, is a nontraditional method of removing metal by a series of rapidly recurring electrical discharges between an electrode (the cutting tool) and the workpiece in the presence of a dielectric field. The ensuing minute metal chips are removed by melting and vaporization, and are washed away by the continuously flushing dielectric fluid. EDM can cut materials regardless of their hardness or toughness, but is limited to the machining of electrically conductive workpiece materials.
The EDM process is most widely used by the mold-making tool and die industries, but is increasingly applied to make prototype and production parts, especially in the aerospace and electronics industries in which production requirements are relatively low. EDM is particularly well suited for parts which are made from materials that are difficult to machine and/or contain small or odd-shaped angles, intricate cavities or intricate contours.
There are two major types of EDM, Wire EDM and Sinker EDM (sometimes called Ram or Conventional EDM). The main difference between the two is the type of electrode used. Wire EDM, as its name suggests, uses wire as the electrode. Certain parts can only be produced using sinker EDM, which, unlike wire EDM, does not cut all the way through the part. As its name implies, Sinker EDM literally "sinks" a required shape into the workpiece.
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