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Electrochemical Machining

Electrical energy transported through
metals by conduction of electric charges
salt solutions by migration of ions
In electrolytic cell DC battery sends electric
current through molten NaCl salt
Electron from battery enter melt at cathode
leave melt at anode returning to battery

Electrolysis of molten NaCl salt

Na+ from salt combine with electrons at cathode

Na + + e Na

produce Na metal accumulates at cathode

Cl Cl2 + e


reduced (addition of electrons) at cathode.


migrate towards anode & oxidized (electrons released) to chlorine

For getting sustained flow of current & to avoid accumulation of ions at electrode,
reactions must keep occurring at electrode, to maintain electrical neutrality
External circuit feeds electrons into medium at cathode
These electrons consumed at cathode by cations (since they migrate to cathode)
Electrons released by ve ions (or anions) of medium at anode

Electrochemical Machining (ECM)

electroforming, electropolishing
metal removal by EC dissolution
known long back (1780 AD)
contactless electrochemical
forming process
Electrical energy used to produce
chemical reaction works on principle
of Faraday's laws of electrolysis
small DC potential (5-25 V) applied across
two electrodes, immersed in electrolyte
transfer of electrons between ions &
electrodes completes electrical circuit

Schematic diagram of ECM

2 H 2O + 2e H 2 +2OH
Fe 2e 2 Fe 2+
2 Fe 2+ + 2(OH ) Fe(OH ) 2
Fe + 2 H 2O Fe(OH ) 2 + H 2
4 Fe(OH ) 2 + 2 H 2O + O2 4 Fe(OH )3

metal detached, atom by atom, from anode surface, appears in electrolyte as +Ve ions
Detached metal appears as precipitated solid of metal hydroxides

Application of DC

results in redox reactions, AC

electrodes change their polarities vary fast
half is reversed in later half of cycle.
Inter-electrode gap (IEG, y)

current flow

leads to conduction only

electrode reaction occurs in first

as resistance (py/a)


High current density, in small ieg (~ 0.5 mm or less), promotes rapid generation of reaction products, viz hydroxide solids and gas bubbles
act as a barrier to flow of
electrolyzing current
supply electrolyte at 2 - 35 kg cm-2, pressure
electrolyte flow velocity
20-30 m/s.

acids , basic salts dissolved in water

Functions of electrolyte
dilutes reaction products, removes debris from ieg,
dissipates heat at faster rate, limits concentration of ions at electrode surface
higher machining rate


Electrolyte flow rate (vol.)

Determined based upon the desired flow velocity of
electrolyte, IEG, size of component being machined

Electrolyte properties
composition, concentration, pH value, temperature,
concentration of foreign elements
Electrolyte properties, tool shape

determine anode profile

should be closely

Amount of hydroxides in electrolyte

confined by continuous removal using large
settling tanks, filters, centrifuging pumps
Composition, concentration, pH value of electrolyte solution
water and salt solution.
governs electrical properties of electrolyte
C) by heating or cooling electrolyte in tank

controlled by adding

controlled (within 1

To maintain constant MRR

spacing between electrodes should remains constant
Cathode moved towards anode at the same rate at which work is being dissolved
Smaller IEG

result in higher current density (J)

Selection of electrolyte
Anode profile
cathode shape

higher MRR

inexpensive, easily available

commonly used NaCl

controlling factors can be narrowed down to current density,

Fig. ECM: (a) Initial condition,

(b) Final condition.

Various machining
operations based on
EC dissolution of anode


power source,
electrolyte supply and cleaning system,
tool and tool-feed system,
workpiece and work-holding system.

Fig. A schematic diagram of horizontal type ECM m/t

(1) Switch board (2) Linear drive head (3) Tool (4) Perspex box (5) Work piece (6) Rectifier (7) Voltage
regulator (8) Motor (9) Pump (10) Tank (11) Mains (12) Transformer (13) Flat pulley (14) Flat belt (15)
V-pulley (16) Split V-pulley (17) Motor (18) Electrolyte

(i) Power Source

DC current
as high as 40,000 A, electric potential
low value (5-25 V) across IEG
Highest current density
achieved so far around 20,000 A/cm2.
3 phase AC

converted to low voltage, high current DC

using rectifier and

Silicon controlled rectifiers (SCRs)

used for both rectification & voltage regulation
because of their rapid response to changes in process load & their compactness
Voltage regulation of 1% is adequate for most of the precision ECM works
sparking between tool and work
operator's error

Due to lack of process control, equipment failure,

Electrical circuitry detects these events

power is cut off (using SCRs) within 10 s to
prevent severe damage to work and tool

(ii) Electrolyte Supply and Cleaning System

Consists of
pump, filters, pipings, control valves, heating or cooling coils, pressure
gauges, storage tank (or reservoir)

smaller than 1 mm

for achieving high MRR, high accuracy

Electrolyte cleanliness
required to maintain smooth flow of electrolyte, to avoid
blockade of IEG by particles carried by electrolyte
Electrolyte cleanliness
normally done with the help of filters made of SS, monel, or
any other anti-corrosive material
Filters periodically cleaned for their proper functioning
Filters can be placed in the supply pipe just prior to work enclosure
to achieve good
piping system
should not introduce any foreign materials like corroded particles,
scale, or pieces of broken seal material
Piping system
made of SS, glass fibre-reinforced plastics (GFRP), plastic lined mild
steel, or similar other anti-corrosive materials
For metallic piping
metallic parts should be earthed to prevent their anodic corrosion
Tables and fixtures
should be insulated from the anode

minimum capacity of electrolyte tank

500 gallons for each 10,000 A of current.

Reaction products from electrolyte

separated by natural, sedimentation in first
compartment Electrolyte made to go to compartment 2 via a filter Then to last
compartment via a passage between the compartments 2 and 3 Further cleaned by
a filter attached at the exit port of the tank.
Single tank system is not recommended
because of loss of time and wastage of electrolyte during draining, cleaning, mixing,
or filling of new electrolyte in the tank.
It results in higher cost and poor accuracy of electrochemically machined
components and poor control of operating conditions.
Concrete tank or swimming pool type of tank are pleaded because of their low cost,
easy maintenance, and reliability

(iii) Tool and Tool Feed System

tools and fixtures Should be made of anti-corrosive material to work for a long
period of time in corrosive environment of electrolyte
Tool material
Should have high thermal conductivity, high electrical conductivity,
easy machinability to meet dimensional accuracy & surface finish of tool
affect w/p accuracy & surface finish
Tool material

Aluminium, brass, bronze, copper, carbon, SS, monel

Insulation of tool

those areas on the tool where ECM action is not required

Lack of insulation on the sides of a die sinking tool

causes unwanted machining of
work, results in a loss of accuracy of the machined w/p
bit type of tools can be

non-corrosive & electrically non-conducting materials

fixtures and tools should be rigid enough to avoid vibration or deflection under high
hydraulic forces of electrolyte

Fig. Various types of tools: (a) bare

tool, (b) coated tool, (c) bit type of

1. Bare tool, 2. coated tool, 3. bit type of

tool, 4. workpiece, 5. Stagnation zone, 6.
Front zone, 7. transition zone, 8. side zone,
9. tapered side, 10. tool bit, 11. perspex tool
bit holder, 12. connecting wire

(iv) Workpiece and Work Holding System

Only electrically conductive work materials can be machined
The chemical properties of anode (work) material largely govern MRR
Work holding devices
made of electrically non-conductive materials having good
thermal stability, low moisture absorption properties
graphite fibres-reinforced
plastics, plastics, perspex

ECM advantages
Can machine highly complicated & curved shapes in single pass
Tool life in ECM is very high
Single tool to machine large number of w/p
Machinability of w/p material independent of its physical & mechanical properties
Machined surfaces are stress & burr free having good surface finish (0.1 to 1.0 m)
Yields low scrap, reduced inventory expenses
Almost automatic operation
Low overall machining time
Can machine only electrically conductive work-materials
machined components accuracy
depends upon tool design, degree of the process
control imposed, complexity in the shapes produced, etc.
Machining of materials consisting of hard spots, inclusions, sand and scale present
some practical difficulties.
Under certain circumstances incapable of economically producing dimensional
tolerances desired on w/p.
Cant produce sharp corners and edges
Not environment friendly

Machining of hard and tough materials, specially with complex contours
ECM employed for
turning, trepanning, broaching, grinding, fine hole drilling, die
sinking, piercing, deburring, plunge cutting, etc.
Widely used in industries related to
vehicles, automobiles, turbines, etc.

aeronautics, nuclear technology, space

Typical ECM applications

o Machining of turbine blades made of HSTR alloys
o Copying of internal and external surfaces
o Cutting of curvilinear slots
o Machining of intricate patterns
o Production of long curved profiles
o Machining of gears, production of integrally bladed nozzle in diesel locomotives
o Production of connecting rods
o Machining of thin large diameter diaphragms

Mechanical properties of ECM'd parts

No hydrogen embrittlement

hydrogen evolved at cathode not at anode

No effect of ductility, yield strength, ultimate strength, micro-hardness

Surface layers damaged during conventional machining can be removed by ECM
o Improvement in properties of the work material
o reduces fatigue strength of conventionally m/ced component having compressive
residual stress
ECM m/ced surface

better wear, friction, corrosion resistance properties

Faraday's Laws of Electrolysis

(i) The amount of chemical change produced by an electric current (or the amount of
substance deposited or dissolved) is proportional to the quantity of electricity passed.
(ii) The amounts of different substances deposited or dissolved by the same quantity of
electricity are proportional to their chemical equivalent weights.


I (amperes), t (seconds), E = gram equivalent weight of W/p (or A/Z, where A is atomic
weight and Z is valency of dissolution), F is Faraday's constant (96500 As), m = mass in
Does not account for
Change in valency during EC dissolution
Gas evolution and bubble formation
k of electrolyte's changes
temp. variation
along electrolyte flow path
Presence of passivation film (Formation of protective film on w/p surface depending on
chemical and EC behavior of metals)

Electrochemical equivalent of alloy (A/z)a

(i) percentage by weight method
(A/Z)a calculated by multiplying (Ai/Zi) of individual elements by their respective
proportions by weight Xi and then summing them up as

1 n Ai
( )a =
( )Xi

100 i =1 Z i
n = number of the constituent elements
(ii) superposition of charge method
Total electric charge required to dissolve 1g of alloy [(Z/A)a F ] Coulombs
= electrical charge required by each element to dissolve their individual mass
X i Zi
( )a F = F
( ) ( )a =
i =1 100 Ai


Xi ( )

i =1

Material Removal Rate in ECM

K of electrolyte in IEG constant i.e. remain unchanged in the Z direction
Electrical conductivities of tool and w/p very large (1,00,000 -1Cm-1) as compared
to electrolyte (< 1.0 -1Cm-1)
Electrodes surface considered equipotential
Effective voltage across electrodes
(V-V), is constant
Anode dissolves at one fixed valency of dissolution
Plane parallel electrodes normal to feed direction considered

Material removal rate (MRRg or MRRV):

m( MRRg ) = IE / F
MRRv = IE / F a


At equilibrium, feed rate (f) of tool is equal to rate at which the thickness of the anode
is being reduced (MRRl)
Dividing both sides of Eqn. (2) by common area 'A' through which current is flowing:

MRRl =
= current efficiency, J = I/A (A/mm2),

F a
= density (g/mm3) of anode material

Current density during ECM

function of shapes of the electrodes (work and tool),
their distance apart (y), voltage applied across them (V-V) , electrical conductivity
of electrolyte (K) flowing through IEG

(V V )k

((V-AV)/y = potential gradient in IEG,

MRRl = penetration rate or rate of change of IEG, i e. dy/dt

dy JE
dt F a
During ECM, tool is moved towards the w/p at a rate of f units/s.
Effective rate of change of IEG is given by

dy JE
dt F a

Under equilibrium conditions,


Equilibrium inter-electrode
gap (ye) can be achieved
provided f, V are constant
throughout machining

(V V )k E
(V V )k E
= f
= f ye =
F a
F a
F a