Electrical Discharge Machining

Electrical discharge machining (EDM), also known as spark machining, spark eroding, burning, die sinking, wire burning or wire erosion can be seen as a series of breakdown and restoration of the liquid dielectric in-between the electrodes. However, caution should be exerted in considering such a statement because it is an idealized model of the process, introduced to describe the fundamental ideas underlying the process. Yet, any practical application involves many aspects that may also need to be considered. For instance, the removal of the debris from the inter-electrode volume is likely to be always partial. Thus the electrical properties of the dielectric in the inter-electrodes volume can be different from their nominal values and can even vary with time. The inter-electrode distance, often also referred to as spark-gap, is the end result of the control algorithms of the specific machine used.

The control of such a distance appears logically to be central to this process. Also, not all of the current between the dielectric is of the ideal type described above: the spark-gap can be short-circuited by the debris. The control system of the electrode may fail to react quickly enough to prevent the two electrodes (tool and workpiece) from coming into contact, with a consequent short circuit. This is unwanted because a short circuit contributes to material removal differently from the ideal case. The flushing action can be inadequate to restore the insulating properties of the dielectric so that the current always happens in the point of the inter-electrode volume (this is referred to as arcing), with a consequent unwanted change of shape (damage) of the tool-electrode and workpiece. Ultimately, a description of this process in a suitable way for the specific purpose at hand is what makes the EDM area such a rich field for further investigation and research