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Precision Engineering 40 (2015) 16

Contents lists available at ScienceDirect

Precision Engineering
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/precision

Review

A review on the use of dielectric uids and their effects in electrical


discharge machining characteristics
S. Chakraborty a, , V. Dey a , S.K. Ghosh b
a
b

Production Engineering Department, NIT Agartala, India


Mechanical Engineering Department, NIT Agartala, India

a r t i c l e

i n f o

Article history:
Received 13 September 2014
Accepted 3 November 2014
Available online 11 November 2014
Keywords:
Electrical discharge machining
Dielectric uids
Die sink
EDM characteristics

a b s t r a c t
Electrical discharge machining (EDM) is one of the earliest non-traditional machining processes. EDM
process is based on thermoelectric energy between the work piece and an electrode. In electrical discharge machining (EDM), a process utilizing the removal phenomenon of electrical discharge in dielectric,
the working uid plays an important role affecting the material removal rate and the properties of the
machined surface. Choosing the right dielectric uid is critical for successful operations. This paper
presents a literature survey on the use of dielectric uids and also their effects in electrical discharge
machining characteristics.
2014 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Contents
1.
2.

3.

4.

5.
6.
7.
8.

Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Types of EDM . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.1.
Sinking EDM . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.2.
Wire EDM . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.3.
Micro EDM . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.4.
Powder mixed EDM (PMEDM) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.5.
Dry EDM . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Research trends in EDM . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.1.
Functions of a dielectric uid . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.2.
Types of dielectric uid. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.2.1.
Mineral oils . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.2.2.
Kerosene . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.2.3.
Mineral seal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.2.4.
Transformer oil . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
EDM with water based dielectrics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
4.1.
Pure water . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
4.2.
Water with additives . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Powder additives . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
EDM with gaseous dielectrics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Low-viscosity dielectric oils . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Corresponding author. Tel.: +91 9436158004.


E-mail address: ersujoymech05@gmail.com (S. Chakraborty).
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.precisioneng.2014.11.003
0141-6359/ 2014 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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1. Introduction
The electrical discharge machining (EDM) is one of the major
manufacturing processes widely applied in die and mold making
industry to generate deep and three-dimensional complex cavities
in many different classes of materials under roughing and nishing
operations [1]. This technique has been developed in the late 1940s
[2] where the process was based on removing material from a part
by means of a series of repeated electrical discharges between tools
called the electrode and the work piece in the presence of a dielectric uid [3]. The electrode is moved toward the work piece until the
gap is small enough so that the impressed voltage is great enough
to ionize the dielectric [4]. Short duration discharges are generated
in a liquid dielectric gap, which separates tool and work piece. The
material is removed with the erosive effect of the electrical discharges from tool and work piece [5]. However, it was only in early
1940 that electrical discharge machining started to become a wellknown manufacturing process when Boris and Natalie I. Lazarenko
discovered the decisive role of the dielectric uid [6]. Since then,
EDM has experienced a dramatic evolution. EDM process can be
classied according to the type of dielectric uid used. Dielectric
uid is an extremely important function regarding the quality of the
machined parts. Since different dielectrics have different cooling
rates and compositions, the choice of dielectric plays an important
role in the EDM process. Dielectric media, circulated between the
electrode and work piece, must be carefully selected and applied
to maintain peak performance and control of the electrical spark.
Another key factor is the dielectric media ltration system, which
helps maintain consistent gap performance and dielectric cleanliness. The four basic functions of dielectric oil (specic to sinker
EDMs and specially designed wire EDMs) are: insulation, ionization,
cooling, removal of waste particles. Different kinds of dielectric
uid are available for machining the parts in EDM. Die sink EDM
generally operates with hydrocarbon oil, while wire, micro-EDM
and fast drilling usually work with deionized water [7]. It has
already been observed that pure kerosene, which is used as the
dielectric liquid in most of the conventional EDM systems, creates
several problems while machining, such as degradation of dielectric properties, pollution of air, and adhesion of carbon particles
on the work surface. All these phenomena obstruct the stable discharge between the two electrodes, i.e., tool and work piece and
further result in lower machining efciency. Investigation should
be made to search out the alternative to kerosene dielectric with
other types of dielectrics since the properties of dielectric are the
effective machining parameter, which may overcome the abovementioned problems. This paper will present a review on the use
of different kinds of alternative dielectric uid and their effects for
die sink EDM characteristics.
2. Types of EDM
The EDM process is most widely used by the mold-making tool
and die industries, but is becoming a common method of making
prototype and production parts, especially in the aerospace, automobile and electronics industries in which production quantities
are relatively low. It is also used for coinage die making, metal disintegration machining, etc. There are different types of EDM available
which is briey discussed below.
2.1. Sinking EDM
In the sinking EDM process, a mirror image of tool shape occurs
on the surface of work piece. In this process, copper or graphite is
generally used as electrode material. The numerical control monitors the gap conditions (voltage and current) and synchronously

controls the different axes and the pulse generator. The dielectric liquid is ltrated to remove debris particles and decomposition
products. In this process electrical energy turns into thermal energy
through a series of discrete electrical discharges occurring between
the electrode and work piece immersed in a dielectric uid [8]. The
thermal energy generates a channel of plasma between the cathode
and anode. When the pulsating direct current supply is turned off,
the plasma channel breaks down. This causes a sudden reduction in
the temperature allowing the circulating dielectric uid to implore
the plasma channel and ush the molten material from the work
piece surface [9].
2.2. Wire EDM
Wire-cut EDM (WEDM) is one of the most favorable variants
owing to its ability to machine conductive, exotic and high strength
and temperature resistive (HSTR) materials with the scope of generating intricate shapes and proles [10]. It uses a thin continuously
traveling wire feeding through the work piece by a micro-processor
eliminating the need for elaborate reshaped electrodes, which are
required in the EDM. The wire-cut EDM process uses a thin copper
wire of diameter about 0.10.3 mm as the electrode and the work
piece is mounted on a controlled worktable, enabling complex two
dimensional shapes can be cut on the work piece by controlled the
movement of the XY worktable [11]. Wire EDM process is widely
applied not only in tool and die-making industry, but also in the
elds of medicine, electronics and the automotive industry [12].
2.3. Micro EDM
The recent trend in reducing the size of products has given
micro-EDM a signicant amount of research attention. Micro-EDM
is capable of machining not only micro-holes and micro-shafts as
small as 5 m in diameter but also complex three-dimensional (3D)
micro cavities [13]. Micro EDM process is basically of four types:
micro-wire EDM, die-sinking micro-EDM, micro EDM drilling and
micro-EDM milling. In micro-wire EDM, a wire which has a diameter down to 0.02 mm is used to cut through a work piece. In
die-sinking micro-EDM, an electrode is used containing microfeatures to cut its mirror image in the work piece. In micro EDM
drilling, micro-electrodes (of diameters down to 510 m) are used
to drill micro-holes in the work piece. In Micro-EDM milling,
micro-electrodes (of diameters down to 510 m) are employed
to produce 3D cavities by adopting a movement strategy similar to
that in conventional milling [9].
2.4. Powder mixed EDM (PMEDM)
The mechanism of PMEDM is totally different from the conventional EDM [14]. A suitable material in the powder form is mixed
into the dielectric uid of EDM. When a suitable voltage is applied,
the spark gap lled up with additive particles and the gap distance
setup between tool and the work piece increased from 2550 to
50150 mm [15]. The powder particles get energized and behave
in a zigzag fashion Fig. 1. These charged particles are accelerated
by the electric eld and act as conductors. The powder particles
arrange themselves under the sparking area and gather in clusters. The chain formation helps in bridging the gap between both
the electrodes, which causes the early explosion. Faster sparking
within discharge takes place causes faster erosion from the work
piece surface.
2.5. Dry EDM
In this process a thin walled pipe is used as tool electrode
through which high-pressure gas or air is supplied. The role of the

S. Chakraborty et al. / Precision Engineering 40 (2015) 16

industrial applications, and was adopted by a number of aerospace


companies as a dielectric uid in the early days of EDM. In fact, it is
still listed as approved aerospace dielectric oil today. Unfortunately,
it has been identied as having some potentially carcinogenic components, and thus its use is no longer recommended [18].

Fig. 1. Principle of powder mixed EDM [16].

gas is to remove the debris from the gap and cooling of the inter
electrode gap. The technique was developed to decrease the pollution caused by the use of liquid dielectric which leads to production
of vapors during machining and the cost to manage the waste [9].
3. Research trends in EDM
The researches have classied the numerous EDM research
interests referred in the papers into four different major areas as
shown in Fig. 2. Many researchers have worked in this eld about
the study of various aspects of EDM process. In this section, discussion is only about different types of dielectric uid and their effects
for die sink EDM characteristics.
3.1. Functions of a dielectric uid
The sinker EDM process has primarily used oil for the dielectric uid. The dielectric uid in a sinker EDM serves a number of
functions [18]:
(1) The dielectric uid works as a medium through which controlled electrical discharges occur.
(2) The dielectric uid works as a quenching medium to cool and
solidify the gaseous EDM debris resulting from the discharge.
(3) The dielectric uid works as a medium used to carry away the
solidied EDM debris from the discharge gap to the lter system.
(4) The dielectric uid works as a heat transfer medium to absorb
and carry away the heat generated by the discharges from both
the electrode and the work piece.
3.2. Types of dielectric uid
3.2.1. Mineral oils
According to Wikipedia Mineral oil or liquid petroleum is a byproduct in the distillation of petroleum [18].
3.2.2. Kerosene
Kerosene was one of the rst popular dielectric oils. Its primary benet is that it has very low viscosity and ushes very well.
Unfortunately, it has many drawbacks:
(1)
(2)
(3)
(4)

Low ash point


High volatility
Odor
Skin reactions

In the old days, there were numerous EDM res and explosions
attributed to the use of kerosene [18].
3.2.3. Mineral seal
Mineral seal oil takes its name from the fact that it originally
replaced oil derived from seal blubber for use in signal lamps and
lighthouses. Mineral seal is petroleum based product that has many

3.2.4. Transformer oil


Transformer oil is another mineral oil based product that was
tailored for use in EDMs due to its dielectric properties. Earlier
generations of transformer oil were compounded with PCBs. Transformer oil has no current application in EDM [18].
4. EDM with water based dielectrics
Water as dielectric is an alternative to hydrocarbon oil. The
approach is taken to promote a better health and safe environment
while working with EDM. This is because hydrocarbon oil such as
kerosene will decompose and release harmful vapour (CO and CH4 )
[19]. Research over the last 25 years has involved the use of pure
water and water with additives [20].
4.1. Pure water
The rst research paper about the usage of water as dielectric
was published by Jeswani [21] in 1981. He compared the performances of kerosene and distilled water over the pulse energy range
72288 mJ. Machining in distilled water resulted in a higher MRR
and a lower wear ratio than in kerosene when a high pulse energy
range was used. With distilled water, the machining accuracy was
poor but the surface nish was better [21]. While investigating
white surface layer, Kruth et al. [22] found that the use of an
oil dielectric increases the carbon content in the white layer and
appears as iron carbides (Fe3 C) in columnar, dendritic structures
while machining in water causes a decarbonization. Tariq Jilani
and Pandey [23] investigated the performance of water as dielectric in EDM using distilled water, tap water and a mixture of 25%
tap and 75% distilled water. The best machining rates have been
achieved with the tap water. Konig and Siebers [24] discussed the
inuence of the working medium on the removal process. They
indicated that working medium has a sustained inuence on the
removal process. The erosion process in water-based media consequently possesses higher thermal stability and much higher power
input can be achieved especially under critical conditions, allowing
much greater increases in the removal rate. A considerable difference between conventional oil-based dielectrics and aqueous
media is specic boiling energy of aqueous media which is eight
times higher and boiling phenomena occur at a lower temperature level. During investigation on the inuence of kerosene and
distilled water as dielectric on Ti6A14V work pieces Chen et al.
[25] found that carbide is formed on the work piece surface while
using kerosene where as oxide is formed on the work piece surface
while using distilled water. The debris size of Ti6Al4V alloy in
distilled water is greater than that in kerosene and compared to
kerosene, the impulsive force of the discharge in distilled water is
smaller but more stable. Sharma et al. [26] investigated the potential of electrically conductive chemical vapor deposited diamond
as an electrode for micro-electrical discharge machining in oil and
water. Ekmekci et al. [27] presented an experimental work to measure residual stresses and hardness depth in EDM surfaces. Stresses
are found to be increasing rapidly with respect to depth, attaining to
its maximum value around the yield strength and then fall rapidly
to compressive residual stresses in the core of the material since
the stresses within plastically deformed layers are equilibrated
with elastic stresses. Kang and Kim [28] investigated the effects
of EDM process conditions on the crack susceptibility of a nickelbased super alloy and revealed that depending on the dielectric

S. Chakraborty et al. / Precision Engineering 40 (2015) 16

Fig. 2. Classication of major EDM research areas [17].

uid and the post-EDM process such as solution heat treatment,


cracks that existed in recast layer could propagate into substrate
when a 20% strain tensile force was applied at room temperature.
When kerosene was used as dielectric, it was observed that carburization and sharp crack propagation along the grain boundary
occurred after the heat treatment. However, using deionized water
as dielectric the specimen after heat treatment underwent oxidation and showed no crack propagation behavior. While doing a
comparative study on the surface integrity of plastic mold steel,
Ekmekci et al. [29] found that the amount of retained austenite
phase and the intensity of micro cracks have found to be much less
in the white layer of the samples machined in de-ionized water.
A new application in EDM power supply was designed to develop
small size EDM systems by Casanueva et al. [30]. The proposed control achieves an optimum and stable operation using tap water as
dielectric uid to prevent the generation of undesired impulses and
keep the distance between the electrode and the work piece within
the optimum stable range.
4.2. Water with additives
Leao and Pashby [7] found that some researchers have studied the feasibility of adding organic compound such as ethylene
glycol, polyethylene glycol 200, polyethylene glycol 400, polyethylene glycol 600, dextrose and sucrose to improve the performance
of demonized water. Koenig and Joerres [31] found that a highly
concentrated aqueous glycerine solution has an advantage as compared to hydrocarbon dielectrics when working with long pulse
durations and high pulse duty factors and discharge currents, i.e.
in the roughing range with high open-circuit voltages and positive
polarity tool electrode The surface of titanium has been modied
after EDM using dielectric of urea solution in water [32]. The nitrogen element decomposed from the dielectric that contained urea,
migrated to the work piece forming a TiN hard layer resulting in
good wear resistance of the machined surface after EDM.
5. Powder additives
Powder mixed EDM (PMEDM) has a different mechanism from
conventional EDM, which can improve the surface roughness and
is now applied in EDM nish machining. Fine abrasive powder is
mixed into the dielectric uid. The hybrid material removal process
is called powder mixed EDM (PMEDM) where it works steadily at
low pulse energy [33] and it signicantly affects the performance
of EDM process. A little research work has been carried out to

study PMEDM in rough machining. Electrically conductive powder


reduces the insulating strength of the dielectric uid and increase
the spark gap between the tool and the work piece. EDM process
becomes more stable and improves machining efciency, MRR and
surface quality (SQ). Most studies were conducted to evaluate the
surface nish since the process can provide mirror surface nish
which is a challenging issue in EDM. The characteristics of the powder such as the size, type and concentration inuence the dielectric
performance [34].
Machining efciency and surface roughness of rough PMEDM
in rough machining were studied by Zhao et al. [13] using Al with
40 g/l and 10 mm granularity and they discovered that machining efciency improved from 2.06 to 3.4 mm3 /min. The machining
efciency can be highly increased along with better surface nish
by selecting proper discharge parameters (increasing peak current
and reducing pulse width) in comparison to conventional EDM
machining. Ming et al. [35] indicated that some conductive powder
and lipophilic surface agents can lower the surface roughness and
the tendency of cracks in middle nish and nish machining. Yan
and Chen [36] describes the effect of dielectric mixed with electrically conductive powder such as Al powder on the gap distance,
surface roughness, material removal rate, relative electrode wear
ratio, and voltage waveform. It is shown that the dielectric with
suspended electrically conductive powder can enlarge the gap distance and can improve the energy dispersion, surface roughness,
and material removal rate. Jeswani [37] examined that the addition of about 4 g/l of ne graphite powder in kerosene increases
MRR by 60% and tool wear by 15%. Tzeng and Lee [38] indicated that
the greatest MRR is produced by chromium and 7080 nm of grain
size. Kansal et al. [39] established optimum process conditions for
PMEDM in the rough machining phase using the Taguchi method
with graphite powder and found out that addition of an appropriate
amount of the graphite powder into the dielectric uid caused discernible improvement in MRR and reduction in tool wear as well as
in surface roughness. While investigating the surface modication
of SKD-61 steel (die steel) with PMEDM, Yan et al. [40] investigated that the corrosion resistance and surface hardness were
improved by adding the proper powder into dielectric. Wong et al.
[41] compares the near-mirror-nish phenomenon using graphite,
silicon (Si), aluminum (Al), crushed glass, silicon carbide (SiC) and
molybdenum sulphide with different grain size. Al powder has been
reported to give mirror nish for SKH-51 (high speed steel) work
pieces, but not on SKH-54 (high speed steel) work pieces. They
suggested that it is important to have the correct combination of
powder and work piece materials and an understanding of the

S. Chakraborty et al. / Precision Engineering 40 (2015) 16

fundamental mechanisms affecting such combinations will promote the applications of PMEDM to feasibly produce superior
surface nish and properties of components using EDM. Silicon powder was used by Pecas and Henriques [34] to assess
improvement through quality surface indicators and process time
management over a set of different processing area. The result
shows that 2 g/l of Si concentration, smooth and high reective craters were achieved with average surface roughness (Ra)
depends on the area and varies between 0.09 mm for 1 cm2 and
0.57 mm for 64 cm2 electrode. The polishing time has a greater
effect on decreasing the surface roughness. Yih-fong and Fu-Chen
[42] investigates the effect of powder properties on surface quality (SQ) of SKD-11 (die steel) work piece using Al, chromium (Cr),
copper (Cu), and SiC powders. The smallest particle (7080 nm)
generates best surface nish and Al powder produces the best
surface nish. Furutani et al. [43] studied a deposition method
of lubricant during nishing EDM to produce parts for ultrahigh
vacuum such as space environment using PMEDM. Smoother surface can be obtained by adding aluminum powder to the mixture
of molybdenum disulde (MoS2 ) powder and working oil and it
has smaller friction coefcient than that with normal working
oil.

6. EDM with gaseous dielectrics


Electrical discharge machining (EDM) can be achieved in gas.
With the help of a high-pressure gas ow supplied through a
thin-walled pipe electrode, the molten work piece material can be
removed and ushed out of the working gap without being reattached to the electrode surfaces. The greatest advantage of this
technique is that the tool electrode wear ratio is almost zero for
any pulse duration. Hence a 3D shape can be machined very precisely using a special NC tool path which can supply a uniform
high-velocity air ow over the working gap [44]. A high velocity
gas jet from a pipe tool electrode enhances the removal of molten
and evaporated work piece material, and therefore plays the part
of the rapidly expanding bubble of vapor from a dielectric liquid.
The gas jet also cools and solidies the removed material and prevents them from adhering onto the surfaces of the tool electrode
and the work piece. Furthermore, during the pulse interval, the
gas jet blows off the plasma formed by the previous discharge
and decreases the temperatures of the discharge spots on the tool
electrode and the work piece due to heat transfer, thus guaranteeing the recovery of the dielectric strength of the gap. The greatest
advantage of EDM in gas is that the tool electrode wear ratio is
very low independent of the pulse duration, compared with that
for the conventional EDM in liquid [44]. The machine can be made
compact and the machining direction can be selected arbitrarily
regardless of the direction of gravitational force because a tub of
dielectric liquid is unnecessary. No concern is needed concerning
re or the generation of hazardous gas and waste from the dielectric
liquid.
Kunieda and Yoshida [44] observed that the performance of
EDM using gas (air and O2 ) can be better than that with a dielectric liquid under some especial situations, i.e., the use of a tubular
electrode with very thin wall (<0.3 mm), negative polarity of the
electrode, rotation/planetary motion of the electrode and highspeed gas ow. Material removal rate achieved with oxygen was
higher than that achieved with air and EDM oil. The greatest
advantage of EDM in gas is the very low level of electrode wear
(almost zero), which was reported to be independent on the
pulse duration [7]. The material removal rate of EDM with gas
can be improved using ultrasonic vibrations of the work piece,
as it helps the ushing of the molten metal from the craters
[45].

7. Low-viscosity dielectric oils


Using specially formulated low-viscosity dielectric oils can lead
to signicant operating improvements. John W. Bradford [46]
investigated the performance of micro-EDM operation by using
low viscosity dielectric uid, where they have prepared the tests to
quantify dielectric ow characteristics and their impact on machining cycle time. Using a high-pressure ushing device, uid was
forced through a pipe electrode to determine how long it takes to
ll a test tube to a certain volume. The high-viscosity oil took longer
than the low-viscosity oil to ll the test tube to the same volume,
thus conrming total ow rate differences. Both tests used identical pipe electrodes and identical registered back pressures on the
ushing pump.
The tests indicate, choosing the right dielectric media can greatly
improve micro-EDM efciency. Both the cases use of lower viscosity dielectric reduced machining time by 46 percent and 34 percent.
The small diameter electrode requires a dielectric medium that
provides efcient and safe dielectric properties and low kinematic
viscosity. Proper dielectric provides adequate ushing to remove
debris and cool the discharge contact point on the electrode. In
other micro-EDM applications, lower-viscosity dielectric oils have
also provided superior results, especially when electrode features
are smaller, more fragile and thus more susceptible to hydraulic
deection. As each pin is used in a sinker EDM, it will experience
certain uid dynamic effects as it moves either laterally, during
orbital movement, or vertically, during pulse-type machining. This
electrode must displace a certain volume of oil as it approaches the
work piece and must withstand certain vacuum forces as it moves
away from the part. These hydraulic forces are reduced as the oils
kinematic viscosity decreases, thus applying less outside force and
inuence on the electrode features.

8. Conclusion
Many researchers have worked in this eld about the study of
various aspects of EDM process. The contribution of EDM to industries such as cutting new hard materials make EDM technology
remains indispensable. The review of the research trends in EDM
in different kinds of alternative dielectric uid and their effects in
the characteristics of die sink EDM is presented. As we know hydrocarbon oils results better in die sink application, but machining in
distilled water also resulted in a higher MRR and a lower wear ratio
than hydrocarbon oils when a high pulse energy range was used.
With distilled water, the machining accuracy is poor but the surface nish is better. The best machining rates have been achieved
with the tap water. Machining with water as dielectric has the possibility to achieve zero electrode wear while using copper tool is
connected to the negative polarity. Work piece surface roughness
is also dependent on the type of dielectric uid. Surface roughness
produced with deionised water is generally lower than that with
hydrocarbon oils.
Many authors have studied the feasibility of adding organic
compounds to deionised water. Performance of such operation is
found to be higher in terms of material removal rate than that
obtained with hydrocarbon oils. The feasibility of adding organic
compound such as ethylene glycol, polyethylene glycol 200, polyethylene glycol 400, polyethylene glycol 600, dextrose and sucrose
to improve the performance of deionized water have also been
studied. It has been found that deionised water with organic compounds has an advantage over hydrocarbon dielectrics during
discharges using long pulse duration and high pulse duty factor
current.
PMEDM can also improve machining efciency in roughing
operations. Electrically conductive powder reduces the insulating

S. Chakraborty et al. / Precision Engineering 40 (2015) 16

strength of the dielectric uid and thus increases the spark gap
between the tool and the work piece. EDM process becomes more
stable and improves MRR and SQ also.
Electric discharge machining can also be achieved with gaseous
dielectrics such as air and oxygen. It is found that gaseous dielectric
can provide higher material removal rates than that with hydrocarbon oil.
During micro-EDM, lower viscosity dielectric oils can improve
the efciency. The low-viscosity dielectric oil inuence the machining cycle time more than the hydrocarbon oils. As the role of
dilectricin EDM is highly complex, much research is needed to come
out with newer hybrid dielectrics which will give quality machined
surface at commercially viable prices.
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