the gear industry is awash in manufacturing technologies that promise to eliminate waste by producing gears in near-net shape, cut production and labor costs and permit gear designers greater freedom in materials. These methods can be broken down into the following categories: alternative ways to cut, alternative ways to form and new, exotic alternatives. Some are new, some are old and some are simply amazing.
The capabilities and limitations of manufacturing gears by conventional means are well-known and thoroughly documented. In the search to enhance or otherwise improve the gear-making process, manufacturing methods have extended beyond chip-cutting - hobbing, broaching, shaping, shaving, grinding, etc. and their inherent limitations based on cutting selection and speed, feed rates, chip thickness per tooth, cutting pressure, cutter deflection, chatter, surface finish, material hardness, machine rigidity, tooling, setup and other items.
Over the past decade, the wire electrical discharge machine (EDM) has become an increasingly important tool for machining non-standard shapes. It has even been used to cut gears and gear cavities for plastic molds. While generally accepted as a quick and versatile method for cutting spur gears, the EDM gear has lacked the precision of a mechanically machined or ground gear. We suspected that many of the errors associated with these gears were caused by inexact setup procedures, poor tool path control and improper cutting parameters. We decided to test the potential for the wire EDM to make the most accurate gear possible.