International Journal of Machine Tools & Manufacture 43 (2003) 1287–1300

State of the art electrical discharge machining (EDM)
K.H. Ho, S.T. Newman ∗
Advanced Manufacturing Systems and Technology Centre, Wolfson School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, Loughborough University, Loughborough, Leicestershire LE11 3TU, UK Received 5 June 2003; accepted 10 June 2003

Abstract Electrical discharge machining (EDM) is a well-established machining option for manufacturing geometrically complex or hard material parts that are extremely difficult-to-machine by conventional machining processes. The non-contact machining technique has been continuously evolving from a mere tool and die making process to a micro-scale application machining alternative attracting a significant amount of research interests. In recent years, EDM researchers have explored a number of ways to improve the sparking efficiency including some unique experimental concepts that depart from the EDM traditional sparking phenomenon. Despite a range of different approaches, this new research shares the same objectives of achieving more efficient metal removal coupled with a reduction in tool wear and improved surface quality. This paper reviews the research work carried out from the inception to the development of die-sinking EDM within the past decade. It reports on the EDM research relating to improving performance measures, optimising the process variables, monitoring and control the sparking process, simplifying the electrode design and manufacture. A range of EDM applications are highlighted together with the development of hybrid machining processes. The final part of the paper discusses these developments and outlines the trends for future EDM research.  2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Electrical discharge machining (EDM)

1. Introduction Electrical discharge machining (EDM) is one of the most extensively used non-conventional material removal processes. Its unique feature of using thermal energy to machine electrically conductive parts regardless of hardness has been its distinctive advantage in the manufacture of mould, die, automotive, aerospace and surgical components. In addition, EDM does not make direct contact between the electrode and the workpiece eliminating mechanical stresses, chatter and vibration problems during machining. Today, an electrode as small as 0.1 mm can be used to ‘drill’ holes into curved surfaces at steep angles without drill ‘wander’ [1]. The basis of EDM can be traced as far back as 1770,

Corresponding author. Tel.: +44-1509-227660; fax: +44-1509227648. E-mail address: s.t.newman@lboro.ac.uk (S.T. Newman).

when English chemist Joseph Priestly discovered the erosive effect of electrical discharges or sparks [2]. However, it was only in 1943 at the Moscow University where Lazarenko and Lazarenko [3] exploited the destructive properties of electrical discharges for constructive use. They developed a controlled process of machining difficult-to-machine metals by vapourising material from the surface of metal. The Lazarenko EDM system used resistance–capacitance type of power supply, which was widely used at the EDM machine in the 1950s and later served as the model for successive development in EDM [4]. There have been similar claims made at about the same time when three American employees came up with the notion of using electrical charges to remove broken taps and drills from hydraulic valves. Their work became the basis for the vacuum tube EDM machine and an electronic-circuit servo system that automatically provided the proper electrode-to-workpiece spacing (spark gap) for sparking, without the electrode con-

0890-6955/$ - see front matter  2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/S0890-6955(03)00162-7

the widely accepted principle of the process based on thermal conduction is presented as a process overview together with the applications. EDM and laser beam machining (LBM) [18]. 2.000–30. Several studies on the combined machining technology of ultrasonic machining (USM) and EDM have been carried out [19–21]. When the pulsating direct current supply occurring at the rate of approximately 20. 2 and 400 mm3/min [1] depending on specific application. . This process of melting and evaporating material from the workpiece surface is in complete contrast to the conventional machining processes. These growing merits of EDM have since then been intensely sought by the manufacturing industries yielding enormous economic benefits and generating keen research interests. exotic and high strength and temperature resistive (HSTR) materials with the scope of generating intricate shapes and profiles [17]. EDM applications This section discusses some of the applications of EDM commonly found in the industry. This causes a sudden reduction in the temperature allowing the circulating dielectric fluid to implore the plasma channel and flush the molten material from the pole surfaces in the form of microscopic debris. 2. avoiding the problems of dimensional variability.000 °C [13] or as high as 20. Milled material has to be within an acceptable hardness range of less than 30–35 HRC with ordinary cutting tools [25].1288 K. EDM process The material erosion mechanism primarily makes use of electrical energy and turns it into thermal energy through a series of discrete electrical discharges occurring between the electrode and workpiece immersed in a dielectric fluid [11]. Newman / International Journal of Machine Tools & Manufacture 43 (2003) 1287–1300 tacting the workpiece [5].000 °C [14] initialising a substantial amount of heating and melting of material at the surface of each pole.000 Hz [15] is turned off. grinding. EDM variations A number of EDM variations based on this basic configuration have emerged in the industry to cope with the machining of exotic materials or super hard metal alloys used exclusively in the manufacture of aeronautical and aerospace parts. It was only in the 1980s with the advent of computer numerical control (CNC) in EDM that brought about tremendous advances in improving the efficiency of the machining operation. EDG has also been applied in the automatic removal of cusps and fitting of a pair of dies [24].1. Wire-cut EDM (WEDM) is one of the most favourable variants owing to its ability to machine conductive. It also includes other experimental interests providing a feasible expansion of EDM applications.H. Ho. EDM has replaced traditional machining processes such as the milling of heat-treated tool steels. EDM operating parameters along with electrode design and manufacture. There is widespread academic and industrial interest in the development and use of hybrid machining process (HMP) involving high-speed machining (HSM). the accuracy of the part produced after EDM is fairly high. which implied an automatic and unattended machining from inserting the electrodes in the tool changer to a finished polished cavity or cavities [6].1. as chips are not mechanically produced. The thermal energy generates a channel of plasma between the cathode and anode [12] at a temperature in the range of 8000 to 12. Since the shaped electrode defines the area in which the spark erosion will occur. CNC has facilitated total EDM. EDM This section provides the basic fundamentals of the EDM process and the variations of process combining other material removal methods. the plasma channel breaks down. The core of the paper identifies the major EDM academic research area with the headings of EDM performance measures. 2. which are required in the EDM. S. This paper provides a review on the various research activities carried out in the past decade involving the EDM (Die-Sinking) process. Other more specialised variations include electrical discharge texturing (EDT) used for the texturing of cold rolled steel and aluminium sheets [22] and electrical discharge grinding (EDG) used for the manufacture of polycrystalline diamond cutting tools [23]. Although the technique of material erosion employed in EDM is still arguable [7– 10]. 3. However. which are characteristic of post-treatment [26]. After all. It utilises both conventional and unconventional material removal processes making use of the combined advantages and limiting the adverse effects when applied individually.2. Heat-treated materials In some applications. It uses a thin continuously travelling wire feeding through the workpiece by a micro-processor eliminating the need for elaborate preshaped electrodes. EDM allows tool steels to be treated to full hardness before machining. The volume of material removed per discharge is typically in the range of 10Ϫ6–10Ϫ4 mm3 and the material removal rate (MRR) is usually between 3. The final part of the paper discusses these topics and suggests future direction for the EDM research.T. EDM is a reproductive shaping process in which the form of the electrode is mirrored in the workpiece [16].

Micro-EDM The recent trend in reducing the size of products has given micro-EDM a significant amount of research attention. tool wear and surface quality (SQ) and also surveys them. micro-nozzles and micro-cavities using micro-EDM. or the micro-fabrication process such as laser machining. 4. [16] classified as non-conductor. Ceramic The EDM of advanced ceramics has been widely accepted by the metal cutting industry owing to the competitive machining costs and features. The proposed method significantly reduces the production time and costs of fabricating both the electrodes and parts. The feasibility of machining ceramic–metal composite steel plate coated with WC– Co (tungsten carbide–cobalt) using plasma spraying was also examined [44]. In addition. S. . Masuzawa et al. [40] brought a new perspective to this traditional EDM phenomenon by using an assisting electrode facilitating the sparking of insulating ceramics. Other attempts [35. Finally.4. Matsuo and Oshima [42] investigated the EDM of ZrO2 and Al2O3 by doping with carbide (NbC or TiC). Sanchez et al. a feasibility study of applying micro-EDM as an alternative method for producing photo-masks used in the integrated circuit (IC) industry has been conducted [33]. natural-conductor and conductor (a result of doping non-conductors with conductive elements). when machining engineering ceramics with significant improvement in the performance measures and reduction in the thickness of the white layer [38]. In recent years. thereby increasing the electrical conductivity of the materials. A HMP combining USM and EDM was also experimented to enhance the dielectric circulation in the spark gap. Micro-EDM is capable of machining not only micro-holes and micro-shafts as small as 5 µm in diameter but also complex three-dimensional (3D) microcavities [28]. the use of EDM for ceramics has overcome the technological limitation of the process requiring the electrical resistance of material with threshold values of approximately 100 [16] or 300 ⍀/cm [39]. Newman / International Journal of Machine Tools & Manufacture 43 (2003) 1287–1300 1289 Since EDM does not induce mechanical stresses during machining. Both EDM and WEDM have been successfully tested for diffusing conductive particles from assisting electrodes onto the surface of Sialon ceramics or silicon nitride (Si3N4). which can produce holes just up to 70 µm.3. research concerning the design and manufacture of electrodes is reported. it provides an additional advantage in the manufacture of intricate products. Major areas of EDM research In this section. The second area describes the effects of process parameters including electrical and non-electrical variables.T. [43] surveyed the various machining processes performed on metal matrix composites (MMC) and experimented with the machining of Al2O3/6061Al composite using rotary EDM coupled with a disc-like electrode. which have very limiting electrical conductive properties have also been examined based on the same technique [41]. 3. [30–32] also made several successful attempts producing microparts such as micro-pins. which are required to optimise the stochastic nature of the sparking process on the performance measures. 3. Ho. On the other hand. which have been commonly machined by USM and LBM. Yan et al.2. The first relates to machining performance measures such as material removal. It was found that EDM was suitable for machining PRMMC with a relatively small amount of sub-surface damage but the MRR was very slow. Modern composite materials The development of different modern composite materials in the last decade has led to an expansion of EDM applications. the authors have arranged the research areas in EDM under three major headings. which can only create holes of 40 µm [29]. This is unlike mechanical drilling. 3.K.36] have also been made on trajectory EDM but special apparatus or complex control mechanism is needed to develop the trajectory motion of electrode. In the same paper. they proved the feasibility of machining boron carbide (B4C) and silicon infiltrated silicon carbide (SiSiC) using EDM and WEDM. Ishida and Takeuchi [34] recently proposed a trajectory EDM technique facilitating the electrode to move along a smooth trajectory. Other types of insulating ceramics materials including oxide ceramics such as zirconia (ZrO2) and alumina (Al2O3). There are different grades of engineering ceramics. Muller and Monaghan [45] compared the EDM of particle reinforced metal matrix composite (PRMMC) with other non-conventional machining processes such as LBM and abrasive water jet (AWJ). Mohri et al. while performing EDM eliminating the conventional drilling or boring operation required. The coating of WC–Co onto parts by means of plasma spraying is used extensively in the automobile and aerospace industry to prevent erosion and wear. Weng and Her [27] carried out several successful experiments involving an electrode of 50 µm diameter and a multi-electrode for the batch production of micro-parts. Other applications include the general interest in developing trajectory EDM to solve the machining problems of water-cooling channels used in moulds or manifolds.H. [37] provided a literature survey on the EDM of advanced ceramics. which Konig et al.

2. which are costly and time-consuming to manufacture for the sparking process. Methods of improving material removal rate The application of CNC to EDM has helped to explore the possibility of using alternative types of tooling to improve the MRR. for applications requiring material accretion. Bleys et al.1.1. some useful applications exploiting both the advantages and disadvantages of electrode wear have been developed. namely breakdown. They also argued that the rapid wear on the electrode edge was due to the failure of carbon to precipitate at difficult-to-reach regions of the electrode. experimental work has been performed with a frame electrode generating linear and circular swept surfaces by means of controlling the electrode axial motion [53].2. Tool wear process The tool wear process (TWP) is quite similar to the MRM as the tool and workpiece are considered as a set of electrodes in EDM.1.55] successfully experimented and investigated the machining characteristics of contour machining with simple cylindrical electrodes.1. These techniques eliminate the need to utilise the 3D electrode to perform the roughing operation by replacing the simple electrode to remove unwanted material in a complete block improving the machining efficiency and MRR.2. Marafona and Wykes [62] introduced a wear inhibitor carbon layer on the electrode surface by adjusting the settings of the process parameters prior to normal EDM conditions. discharge and erosion [48]. which eliminates the need of producing and storing various types of 3D electrodes for different kinds of workpiece shapes. Although the thickness of the carbon inhibitor layer made a significant improvement on the TWR. Methods of improving tool wear rate The orbiting of the electrode relative to the workpiece is the most common machining strategy of compensating the . which have a lower electrical conductivity. reversing the polarity of sparking alters the material removal phenomenon with an appreciable amount of electrode material depositing on the workpiece surface [49]. a large pulse current is encouraged to increase electrode wear implanting electrode material onto the workpiece [63]. The TWR and energy efficiency were claimed to be better than the conventional EDM without any significant difference in the surface roughness (SR). This section provides a study into each of the performance measures and the methods for their improvement. which are electrically insulated.1.1. molten or gaseous-phase reaction [47].2. EDM has further exploited the capability of CNC in providing multi-axis movements for simple electrodes producing complex 3D shape parts. In addition. 4. The design of electrode was based on the Mohri et al.1. The types of eroded electrode and workpiece elements together with the disintegrated products of dielectric fluid significantly affect the MRM relating to the three phases of sparking. [59] concept of dividing an electrode into multiple electrodes. These elements are transported in solid. S. [56] referred the novel machining technique to milling EDM (MEDM). On the other hand. Mohri et al. it has little effect on the MRR. However. Material removal mechanism Several researches have explained the material removal mechanism (MRM) in terms of the migration of material elements between the workpiece and electrode. 4.1. liquid or gaseous state and alloyed with the contacting surface by undergoing a solid. Material removal 4. which only delivers single discharge for each electrical pulse. Another promising MRR improvement technique has also been made recently by modifying the basic principle of EDM. Singh and Ghosh [50] showed that the electrostatic forces and stress distribution acting on the cathode electrode were the major causes of metal removal for short pulses. From this simple understanding of TWP. However. EDM performance measures A significant number of papers have been focussed on ways of yielding optimal EDM performance measures of high MRR. Several authors [25.1290 K.1.1. An oxygen assisted EDM system.1. [61] claimed that tool wear is affected by the precipitation of carbon from the hydrocarbon dielectric onto the electrode surface during sparking. Kunieda and Muto [58] experimented a multi-electrode discharging system delivering additional discharge simultaneously from a corresponding electrode connected serially. which greatly improves the MRR was tested also by supplying oxygen into the discharge gap [60]. A similar machining technique using a wire frame electrode was conducted to compare the time taken to machine a cubic cavity using a 3D solid electrode [54].2. Soni and Chakraverti [46] showed an appreciable amount of elements diffusing from the electrode to the workpiece and viceversa. Wong and Noble [57] introduced more complex motions to the cylindrical electrode by using a micro-computer controlled XY table. Lee and Lau [52] argued that thermal spalling also contributes to the MRM during the sparking of composite ceramics due to the physical and mechanical properties promoting abrupt temperature gradients from normal melting and evaporation. 4. EDM commonly employs 3D profile electrodes. low tool wear rate (TWR) and satisfactory SQ. Tool wear 4. Gadalla and Tsai [51] attributed the material removal of WC–Co composite to the melting and evaporation of disintegrated Co followed by the dislodging of WC gains.H. Ho. Newman / International Journal of Machine Tools & Manufacture 43 (2003) 1287–1300 4.T.1. Other ways of explaining the MRM have also been reported by different authors. 4.

[73] provided a review on the metallurgy of EDMed surface.3. heat affected zone (HAZ) and unaffected parent metal [71.1. [32] introduced a uniform tool wear machining method compensating the longitudinal tool wear by applying an overlapping to-and-fro machining motion. which improves the part accuracy and process efficiency [64]. Newman / International Journal of Machine Tools & Manufacture 43 (2003) 1287–1300 1291 tool wear. However. Yan et al. it exerts a great influence on the surface properties of the workpiece. However.87]. the feasibility studies of using EDM with ball burnish machining (BEDM) have been experimented to improve the workpiece surface integrity.79–82]. Thomson also suggested that the number and size of micro-cracks increase with pulse duration when machining with copper electrode. The influence of process parameters on obtaining optimal MRR. powders are suspended in the dielectric fluid as another means of improving the surface properties.1. Thomson [10] argued that the pulse duration and type of electrode material under a paraffin dielectric has little effect on the amount of carbon contamination. Yu et al. The different methods of simulating the EDM process also provide a good opportunity of understanding and compensating the tool wear. the EDMed surface has a relatively high micro-hardness. sintered or powder metallurgy (PM) electrode. BEDM uses hard smooth balls attached to the electrode to form a plastic deformation layer on the workpiece surface during sparking yielding a hardened and modified surface micro-structure [84. [56] initially evaluated the reduction of tool length based on pulse analysis and subsequently compensated the tool wear by controlling the machining downward feeding movement in real-time. (iii) Powder addictives: Lately. Bleys et al.H. It also improves the corrosion resistance. The adverse effect of discharge energy also provided some insights on the fatigue strength of the workpiece.72]. In order to optimise the electrode trajectory in real-time.1.T. is dependent on the frequency and polarity of the applied current together with other processing parameters such as pulse shape. The orbiting technique also reduces the number of different electrodes required for initial roughing and final finishing operations. TWR and SR using BEDM was studied by some authors [75]. high corrosion and wear resistance. a computer integrated planetary machining strategy based on continuous adaptation of machining parameters was developed [65]. The composite electrode is also referred to as the green compact. Kunieda et al. [83] provided a review on the PM electrode and identified the effect of various operating parameters on achieving the desired workpiece surface characteristics. The thickness of the recast layer formed on the workpiece surface and the level of thermal damage suffered by the electrode can be determined by analysing the growth of the plasma channel during sparking [74]. It has low thermal conductivity allowing the composite material to disintegrate from the electrode and alloy onto the workpiece surface producing less cracks. gap spacing and dielectrics temperature [78]. Other methods include a reverse simulation of EDM obtaining the shape of the electrode based on the desired workpiece shape [70]. Several authors discovered the presence of micro-cracks and high tensile residual stresses on the EDMed surface caused by the high temperature gradient [75]. Other authors [66] derived the measurement of tool wear from the study of pulse characteristics based on discharge voltage fall time. Similar tool wear compensation strategies have also been applied to MEDM.3. The concentration of carbides. The powder particles facilitate the ignition process by creating a higher dis- . It involves the electrode making a planetary motion producing an effective flushing action. both as surface layer on the workpiece and as fine powder debris. was reported to yield a more realistic representation of the sparking phenomenon [69]. Dauw [68] developed a geometrical simulation of EDM illustrating the development of tool wear and part geometry. S. which is dependent on the solidification behaviour of molten metal after the discharge cessation and subsequent phase transformation. 4. Since the white layer is the topmost layer exposed to the environment. which propagates from the multiple surface imperfections within the recast layer [76]. Lim et al. which can be explained by the emigration of carbon from the oil dielectrics to the workpiece surface forming iron carbides in the white layer [77].3.85]. (ii) Ball burnish machining: In addition.K.1. In addition. which is commonly executed in thin layers using simple cylindrical or tubular electrodes. On the other hand. Ho. Simao et al. fatigue strength and SR of the workpiece surface [86. which are dependent on the distribution of debris concentration. TWR and spark gap. Surface quality analysis The electrical discharge machined (EDMed) surface is made up of three distinctive layers consisting of white layer/recast layer. It is also considered as an off-line process planning technique as the simulation algorithm is largely based on MRR. 4.2. [67] reduced the tool wear ratio by performing MEDM using highvelocity gas as the dielectric medium. [88] applied rotary motion to BEDM which further improves the MRR and SR when compared to conventional EDM. Methods of improving surface quality (i) Surface alloying: The surface alloying method using the composite electrode to improve the surface properties of the workpiece has been reported by a number of authors [11. Surface quality 4. the simulation of discharge location and spark gap.

Parameter optimisation Traditionally. [96] employed grey relational analysis for solving the complicated interrelationships between process parameters and the multiple performance measures of the EDM process. which is dependent on the thermal. control and noise factors generating a dynamic range of output responses. SR and accuracy of the part [99]. Yu et al. (ii) Time domain: However. [95] proposed an empirical model. Newman / International Journal of Machine Tools & Manufacture 43 (2003) 1287–1300 charge probability and lowering the breakdown strength of the insulating dielectric fluid [89]. built on both peak current and pulse duration. [106] also studied the time domain of different pulses and presented a wavelet transform serving as an input signal for an online monitoring and control systems. They subsequently developed a semi-empirical model. It was realised that the discharge current has a greater effect on the MRR while the pulse-on time has more influence on the SR and white layer. Tsai and Wang [7] established several surface finish models based on various neural-networks taking the effects of electrode polarity into account.71] studied the effects of workpiece and electrode materials on SR and suggested an empirical model. EDM process parameters This section focusses on the effects of process parameters such as electrical and non-electrical parameters on the various performance measures.T. Process monitoring and control (i) Pulse parameters: The real-time monitoring and control of EDM process has often been built on the identification of different pulses. (iv) Surface finish simulation: In the past few decades.2. [107] measured the various transient pulses and regulated the cycle time of periodical retraction (auto-jumping) of electrode avoiding arcing damage and machining instability during sparking process. Lin et al.H. Marafona and Wykes [62] used the Taguchi method to improve the TWR by introducing high carbon content to the electrode prior to the normal sparking process.1.2. monitoring and control of the various electrical parameters on the performance measures. Luo [94] reported an improvement in machining stability and discharge transitivity during EDM due to a decline in arcing frequency contributed by the even distribution of gap debris. a few EDM modelling tools correlating the process variables and surface finish have been developed. whereas Zhang et al.2. this section describes research in the areas of optimisation. the recognition and classification of the different pulses provide a viable option of monitoring and controlling the sparking process by measuring the related gap voltage and current.2. [9. 4.2. the optimisation of parameters now relies on process analysis to identify the effect of operating variables on achieving the desired machining characteristics. However. reduces the TWR and improves the sparking efficiency producing a strong corrosion resistant EDMed surface [90–92]. while Liu and Tarng [101] suggested an abductive network method of classifying and regulating the EDM pulses occurring at varying machining conditions. the selection of the most favourable process parameters was based on experience or handbook values. and have a direct influence on the MRR.1. which shows the trend towards undesirable arcing. [97] employed it with a set of fuzzy logic to optimise the process parameters taking the various performance measures into consideration. 4. Kao and Tarng [100] proposed a neutral-network method. EDM pulses can be classified into open. Moreover. it increases the MRR. Therefore. It was noted that the later model produces a more reliable surface finish prediction for a given work under different process conditions [8]. S. Effect of electrical parameters The stochastic thermal nature of the EDM process makes it difficult to explain experimentally all the effects of electrical parameters on the individual performance measures.1. arc. which are dependent on the ignition delay time. Weck and Dehmer [102] studied the effect of different pulses on MRR together with TWR and developed an adaptive gap controller. several authors [103–105] argued that the gap voltage is not a good indicator of the dynamic responses taking place at the spark gap largely due to the high frequency (HF) noise component. Thus. off or short pulses. for the machining of ceramics. Lin et al. Wang et al. As a result. which focussed solely on pulse energy. 4. 4.1292 K. physical and electrical properties of the workpiece and electrode together with pertinent process parameters. spark. Jeswani et al.1. the presence of powders in the dielectric fluid increases the micro-hardness and reduces the micro-cracks on the EDMed surface due to a reduction of losing alloying elements residing onto the workpiece [93]. These authors instead suggested monitoring the time ratio of transient arc measured by the pulse-on time. which produced inconsistent machining performance. which directly adjusts the servo feed rate . Tzeng and Chen [98] optimised the high-speed EDM process by making use of dynamic signal-to-noise (S/N) ratio to classify the process variables into input signal. Ho. Other works have applied the Taguchi approach to analyse and design the ideal EDM process. which reduces the number of undesirable pulses. A self-tuning regulator for an EDM servo control system.

HEDM has also been experimented in the micro-machining of small parts [127. However. The possibility of using water instead of kerosene as the working fluid for micro-EDM has been experimented [118]. Kunieda and Masuzawa [126] proposed a horizontal EDM (HEDM) process in which the main machining axis is horizontal instead of the conventional vertical axis. while in the finishing operation. Tarng and Jang [111] shortly proposed the use of genetic algorithms (GAs) to synthesise the required membership functions automatically.30] was installed in these prototype machines making it possible to fabricate the complex micro-electrode at the same machine and maintain the concentricity of the parts produced. Guu and Hocheng [125] provided a workpiece rotary motion to improve the circulation of the dielectric fluid in the spark gap and temperature distribution of the workpiece yielding better MRR and SR. health and safety factors of dielectric fluids [117]. Other alternative ways of improving the flushing condition involve making relative motion between tool and workpiece. by means of vacuum flow. Flushing of dielectric fluid The flushing of the dielectric during the sparking process has an adverse effect on the EDM performance measures. flash point. viscosity.2.2. in relation to the morphology. Soni and Chakraverti [131] compared the various per- . Effect of non-electrical parameters Besides electrical parameters. the definition of membership functions for each fuzzy set is not straightforward and is based on exploratory means to classify various discharge pulses. (iii) Fuzzy logic: The application of fuzzy logic to the adaptive control system provides a reliable pulse discriminating role during the EDM process. the techniques of applying rotational motion to the sparking process also affect the EDM performance.2.K. [110] suggested a fuzzy pulse discriminator established on the linguistic rules acquired from the knowledge of experts and expressed mathematically through the theory of fuzzy sets. Rajurkar and Wang [114] provided a good review on the research and development of advanced monitoring and control systems. Moreover. In addition.T. Bhattacharyya and El-Menshawy [112. 4.2.1.H.2. The result revealed a high MRR and low TWR without any metal carbides forming on the workpiece surface.129]. an electrode fabrication system using wire electro-discharge grinding (WEDG) [28. Lonardo and Bruzzone [115] revealed that flushing during the roughing operation affected the MRR and TWR. The flushing rate also influences the crack density and recast layer.3. Benedict [119] broadly classified the most common flushing methods delivered under constant pressure into five main categories. On the other hand. The same alloying effect of migrating material elements from the workpiece and tool is also observed. The application of ultrasonic vibration on both electrodes facilitating an induced flushing within the gap has also been evaluated [124]. Tool wear and MRR are dependent on the breakdown resistance.128].2. non-electrical parameters such as the flushing of dielectric fluid together with the rotational movement of the workpiece and electrode also play a critical role in delivering optimal performance measures. The change in the basic construction in addition to the rotary motion of the workpiece offered an accessible evacuation of debris improving the erosion efficiency and accuracy of the sparking process. chemical composition and size distribution of debris.2.118. which can be minimised by obtaining an optimal flushing rate [116]. S. the different properties of the dielectric fluid also play a vital role in flushing away the debris from the machining gap. 4.113] developed an RF monitoring system providing a pulse control to the machine power generator by examining the RF signal created from the spark gap. 4. These include making an electrode planetary movement at the lateral gap allowing dielectrics to flow in from one side and leave at the other side of workpiece [121]. which significantly improves the MRR and SR [43. Tarng et al. It serves as an effective gap flushing technique. the emitted radio frequency (RF) or HF signal generated during EDM has been used to monitor and control the sparking process. (iv) Radio frequency: In addition. A dynamic jet flushing with moving nozzles that sweep along the sparking gap providing an even distribution of debris concentration has been reported recently [120]. Several authors claimed that the fuzzy logic control implements a control strategy that is adopted by a skilled operator to maintain the desired machining process [109]. others [123] used controlled forced vibration to evacuate debris effectively from the sparking gap. vibration or jet flushing. Several authors [122] applied magnetic fields to transport magnetic debris through the gap while. the rotary motion has been introduced to the electrode to improve the performance measures of the EDM process. Newman / International Journal of Machine Tools & Manufacture 43 (2003) 1287–1300 1293 based on the discharge time ratios from the gap has also been reported [108]. Ho. This section discusses the effects of non-electrical parameters on the various performance measures. Rotating the workpiece Besides the flushing of the dielectric. Rotating the electrode Similarly.2. conductivity. The dielectrics can be delivered down or up through the electrode. when using rotating electrodes [130]. it influenced the SR.2. 4. The RF monitoring system detects any drop in the intensity of signals to a threshold value whenever the discharge changes from sparking to arcing.

The various routes of manufacturing the rapid tooling (RT) electrode are classified as either the direct or indirect approach [26]. S.H. Electrode design and manufacture This section describes the different computer-aided systems that have been experimentally implemented in the design of the electrode. such as process energy and waste. Optimising the process variables The EDM process has a very strong stochastic nature due to the complicated discharge mechanisms [142] making it difficult to optimise the sparking process. A CAD system is capable of creating the electrode and holder designs from the workpiece 3D geometry and identifying any undesirable sharp corners on the designs. In several cases. Durr et al. 5. Fig. It was found that the vibratory motion yields comparable effects as the rotary motion of electrode improving the MRR. Arthur and Dickens [140] noted that the RT electrodes generate greater heat at higher MRR resulting in a combination of delamination. which is used in this section to discuss the various research areas and possible future research directions. Rapid tooling manufacture A number of research works have explored the application of rapid prototyping (RP) techniques in the production of electrode. S/N ratio together with the analysis of variance (ANOVA) tech- . However. In view of the growing concern for green manufacturing. 4.1. On the other hand. They suggested measuring the thermal condition within the electrode so that the machining process could be optimised thereby improving the performance of PR electrode. the thermal deformations caused by the removal of metal shell from RP master and backfilling of electroformed metal shell with molten metal are the major sources of inaccuracy in producing the RT electrode. while minimising the TWR and yielding the desired SR. The direct laser sintering of metal powders for the manufacture of the RT electrode. However. by measuring the surface angle along the edges [133]. They proposed a subsequent treatment of RT electrodes by infiltration with silvercontaining brazing metal minimising the porosity and improving the performance of the sintered electrode. enhancing the SQ of workpiece and increasing the stability of machining process.132] studied the effects of the controlled force vibration introduced to the electrode on the various performance measures. [137] suggested the integration of EDM within the computer integrated manufacturing (CIM) environment. [123. 1 shows the classification.2.1294 K. 5. 4. Newman / International Journal of Machine Tools & Manufacture 43 (2003) 1287–1300 formance measures of rotating electrode with the stationary electrode. The major research interest in the production of electrodes using the rapid prototyping technique is also included in the section. Ho. such as production rate and quality. Computer assisted electrode design The design and manufacture of an electrode has progressed along with the technological advancement made in the various computer-aided systems. 4.3.3. The system takes both the environment impact. the potential of manufacturing it using RP technology can still be proven to be a viable option when a better understanding of the various failure modes is recognised. The direct manufacturing route uses a PR (positive/male) model. DeVries stated that the large inconsistencies in the way the EDM process parameters and generator settings were programmed have hindered the standardisation and integration within the CIM environment. A computer-aided process planning (CAPP) system for electrode design has also been built using feature-based workpiece description [135]. while the indirect route uses RP (negative/female) cavity as an immediate step to machine the RT electrode. Yang and Leu [139] experimented the indirect technique of generating mould cavities and RT electrodes by electroforming of RP masters.3. The recent development in CAD/CAM systems and communications controls has also provided a thorough integration towards the design and manufacture of electrodes by selecting essential machining parameters prior to the machining operation [134]. and traditional manufacturing measures.1. The optimisation of the process often involves relating the various process variables with the performance measures maximising the MRR. On the other hand. Yeo and New [136] developed an environmentally friendly process planning system using a multi-objective analysis for the EDM process. Despite the unsatisfactory performance of the RT electrode. which are difficult to produce. Discussion and future EDM research direction The authors have classified the numerous EDM research interests referred in the paper into four different major areas. which is subsequently electroless copper and copper electroplated to improve the surface finish and conductivity of the sintered electrode has been studied [138]. Enache et al.T. DeVries et al. into account when performing the process planning. The performance of sintered copper electrodes is comparable to that of solid copper electrode but the dimensional accuracy of the former electrode during electroplating was inconsistent affecting the accuracy of the part produced. thinning and distortion of electrodes. The results showed an improvement in MRR due to the better flushing action and sparking efficiency with little tool wear but the SR was high. [141] studied the effects of porosity on the wear and erosion behaviour of RT electrodes.

these research works explored new and different ways of delivering a more efficient and stabilised sparking process improving the commonly observed performance measures. Ho. Therefore. with the perpetual push towards unattended EDM operation.2. 1. which is based on trail-and-error means of differentiating the various EDM pulses. niques are used to measure the amount of deviation from the desired performance measures and identify the crucial process variables affecting the process responses. 2. The option of using emitted RF has also been experimented but generates very little research interest. Such a move will in turn create considerable economic benefits for EDM in terms of training and operating costs. As discussed in Section 4. TWR and SR.T. Monitoring and control of the process The monitoring and control of the EDM process are often based on the identification and regulation of adverse arcing occurring during the sparking process. there is a need to develop a highly stable EDM servo control system either to improve the current machining performance or to meet the future needs of machining advanced materials [16]. The process variables include not only the electrical but also non-electrical parameters. a vast majority of research work have been concerned with the improvement made to the performance indices. This is partly due to the application of CNC to EDM facilitating the MRM and improving the tool wear compensation techniques. Most of the approaches measure pulse and time domain parameters to differentiate the arc pulses from the rest of EDM pulses. S. 2.2. it mainly relies on the application of fuzzy logic to maintain the machining process. Classification of major EDM research areas (correspondung section numbers are in brackets). As mentioned in Section 4.1. Newman / International Journal of Machine Tools & Manufacture 43 (2003) 1287–1300 1295 Fig. . Much of this research has departed from the traditional sparking phenomenon yielding higher machining efficiency and better performance measures. the different means of optimising the various process variables will continue to be a major area of further development reducing the stochastic sparking characteristic. with the continuous research effort made in understanding the initialisation and development of sparking process. the feasibility of manufacturing the electrode using the RP technique has been extensively studied to improve the performance of tools and sparking. the fuzzy logic provides a control strategy that is equivalent to the expertise and experience of a skilled operator. In addition. such as MRR. adaptive control system will continue to receive a definite amount of research attention. Improving the performance measures As shown in Fig. which have received quite a substantial amount of research interest. As for the adaptive control system.3. Moreover.2.K. it is not easy to establish the pulse discriminating function. 5. However.H.1. 5. Distribution of the collected EDM research publications. Fig. Therefore.

H. Hence. and in automotive and aerospace R&D areas [144]. The most popular and highly effective arrangement includes the USM delivering ultrasonic vibration to the electrode. EDM developments The different advances made at the EDM machine have jointly progressed with the growing applications of EDM process. HSM process is just as capable as the EDM process in machining hardened materials with 40–60 HRC.2. 6. which generate strong research interests and prompt EDM machine manufacturers to improve the machining characteristics. Concluding remarks The introduction of EDM to the metal cutting has been a viable machining option of producing highly . the traditional EDM will gradually evolve towards MEDM by further manipulating the capability of CNC but the MRR will remain a prime concern in fulfilling the demand of machining part in a shorter leadtime. HMP involving EDM will continue to draw intense research interests seeking innovative ways of improving the machining performance and expanding the EDM applications. machining capacity and auxiliary facilities of EDM machine. which accounts for over 50% of the total machining cost [143]. Taylan et al. As a result. [145] noted that the current trend in tool and die manufacturing is towards replacing the EDM process with new machining techniques such as HSM. Therefore. One of the unique options of improving the machining performance involves the HMP combining EDM process with other material removal processes. These applications demand stringent machining requirements. EDM has long been employed in the automotive.1296 K.1. TWP and metallurgy of the EDMed surface will continue to grow with the intention of offering a more effective means of improving the performance measures. the potential of using simple tooling to generate complex 3D cavity without employing a costly 3D profile electrode was reported and mentioned in Section 4. mould. which assists the sparking and flushing operations. aerospace. tool and die making industries. The authors have classified the EDM machine into the various physical characteristics as shown in Fig. such as the machining of HSTR materials. However. 3. Ho. which clearly distinguishes the different types of machine features affecting performance measures. a constant drive towards appreciating the MRM. Such a technique greatly benefits the EDM process by reducing the large proportion of cost and the time factor of producing the electrode. Newman / International Journal of Machine Tools & Manufacture 43 (2003) 1287–1300 Fig. optical. dental and jewellery industries. the short product development cycles and growing cost pressures have forced the die and mould making industries to increase the EDM efficiency [98].1. the SQ of the EDMed part has been the main research focus generating a huge number of improvement methods varying from surface alloying and modification techniques to the addition of powder additives. In addition. Furthermore. 3.4. It has also made a significant inroad in the medical. In addition. Classification of Die-Sinking EDM machine. 5. S.T.

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