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GF Agiecharmilles has announced that its Form 2000 die-sink machine equipped with IQ technology has been recognised at the MWP Awards.

The machine took the prize for ‘Best Specialised Machining/Manufacturing Equipment’.

The Form 2000 die-sink machine is equipped with IQ technology, a ‘self-healing’ technology that reduces (and in many cases eliminates) electrode wear – an unwanted phenomena associated with the spark erosion process.

Zero Wear technology enables manufacturers to make precision parts quicker and more economically than before.

To fully understand the IQ technology performance benefits of the Form 2000, we must first take a closer, more general look at the EDM (spark erosion) principle and process.

The spark erosion process causes electrode wear and historically there has always been a compromise in EDM machining between achieving high-stock removal rates (and high electrode wear) or reduced electrode wear (and lower machining speeds).

Depending on individual precision manufacturer’s priorities, generator settings could be altered to achieve an ‘acceptable balance’ between the two.

This is no longer the case with IQ technology.

At the start of the EDM ‘discharge’ process, the plasma channel created is very narrow, the density of the electrical current is high and the positive electrode is strongly charged.

Therefore each pulse causes microscopic wear.

The rationale behind IQ technology is to reduce the number of pulses during machining operations in order to reduce electrode wear.

This has been achieved by increasing the efficiency of individual pulses (via GF Agiecharmilles IQ generator technology) and by ensuring that the same material is not eroded over and over again by removing eroded material quickly from the spark gap (achieved by improved and more efficient flushing).

The company said the Form 2000 machine’s true potential is realised when using graphite electrodes, although similar performance breakthroughs are also available when copper electrodes are used.

Graphite has many characteristics that make it an ideal electrode material.

It does not melt, but sublimes at 3740C (whereas copper melts at 1083C).

This means that more power can be used and channelled through a graphite electrode, which results in faster stock removal.

Graphite ensures a more reliable EDM process, leading to more homogenous surface finishes on machined parts; and graphite is also more thermally stable than copper, which results in improved accuracies.

In addition, very high aspect ratio features and details can be machined on graphite electrodes, which are impossible to replicate in copper.

So, for example, tall, thin features such as fine up-stands used to produce small, deep holes or recesses can be readily machined using graphite.

The EDM process creates debris in the spark gap and this debris consists essentially of charged carbon particles.

By ‘passifying’ the electrode it is now possible, via IQ technology, to attract these particles back onto the electrode to build up worn areas by creating a turbostratic ‘protective’ graphite layer.

The Form 2000 machine with IQ technology is said to provide precision manufacturers with a number of inter-related benefits and advantages.

Complex parts can be machined using fewer electrodes, and electrodes can be used over and over again.

The die-sink EDM process is not interrupted for waiting for replacement electrodes to arrive (if outsourced) or be machined (if manufactured in-house).

Time and resources spent machining additional or replacement electrodes are both reduced.

CNC machines that are used to machine electrodes do not have to be on stand-by waiting to machine replacement or additional electrodes.

Consumable costs, for example graphite or copper electrodes, are also reduced as less replacement/additional electrodes are required.

Energy savings are achieved as the whole EDM and electrode manufacturing process is made more efficient and effective.

Erosion and cycle times are reduced – and fewer electrodes are required to machine completed parts.

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