EMAG LLC. recently announced the introduction of its electrochemical machining (ECM) and precision electrochemical machining (PECM) machines to the North American market. As a longtime European leader in these technologies, the company will sell and support these machines with application engineering, field commissioning and technical service from its Detroit-area location.
ECM takes many forms, but all involve the electrolytic dissolving of metal substrates. This technique is often utilized in applications involving hard-to-machine materials such as Inconel, high-nickel alloys, titanium etc. Because ECM is a non-contact machining process with no heat input involved, the process is not subject to the variances inherent in conventional machining, such as tool wear, mechanical stress, microcracking caused by heat transfer, plus surface oxidation and recast layer present with EDM (electrical discharge machining), for example. By contrast, the ECM process is characterized by stress-free stock removal, smooth and precise transitions in machining contours with burr-free surfaces. End products from turbine blisks to dental implants and automotive industry products are ideal uses for this technology, according to Tobias Trautmann, product manager for ECM/PECM Products at EMAG ECM.
The many advantages of the EMAG ECM and PECM technologies for the end user include: low tool wear on the cathode, suitable for batch production; surface finishes to Ra 0.05, depending on the material, suitable for high precision production in nearly all machining areas; reproducible cutting depth to <20 mm; extremely high-precision machining; no negative thermal or mechanical effects on the material, so no changes in microstructures; basic material properties are unaffected; hardness, magnetic and other performance properties are unchanged; nano and extremely thin-walled section contours are possible, critical in aero and medical applications, for example; high repeatability, owing to the consistency of the mechanical components and predictability of the machining conditions; minimal secondary operations; roughing, finishing and polishing in one machine. The process allows users to employ multiple fixtures and run the process simultaneously.
Standard features offered on the EMAG ECM Basic Series machines are a Siemens S7 controller with full graphics display, current relay and voltage monitor, pH control and conductance monitor, temperature control module, machining area of 1150 mm x 950 mm (45.27" x 37.40") and two-handed operator safety controls. EMAG also provides ancillary equipment interfacing for work cell set-ups, including pre- and post-op cleaning stations and multiple machining units, as well as robotic workpiece handling.
PECM machines operate on the same basic principle of electrolytic dissolution, but include a mechanical oscillation mechanism for more intricate 2-D and 3-D microstructures. All standard machines include EMAG scalable generator technology up to 30,000 Amps, pulse frequencies to 100 kHz and a machine base of MINERALITâ or granite. The Premium Series further offers precision imaging, surface finishes up to Ra 0.05 (relative to the material) and a high degree of precision in lowering speeds, essential for micromachining.
Complementing this new machine series is the EMAG test laboratory. Users can examine a variety of test cut scenarios to determine the optimum conditions for machining, fixturing, process performance and materials specification, matching the requirements to the most productive machines and systems available.