Electrode is the “cutter” of EDM (Electrical Discharge Machining) machine. Its importance to EDM machine is the same as a cutter to the CNC machine. Because usually this “cutter” can only be used once, making electrodes as fast as we can is a constant pursuit of all the electrode designers. However, many troubles and headaches are also waiting in front:
- Omit to create electrodes for some hidden or unobservable areas after EDM is done;
- Repeat simple modelling steps even for those very simple electrodes;
- Repeat cut steps when getting an electrode from a complicated cutout;
- Deal with a mass of electrodes one by one, which seems to be endless;
- Find that the machined surface is not accurate after EDM is done.
Do you have the above headaches? Don’t worry, here I will introduce to you an electrode design application. You will love it after you know it.
The application is Electrode Focus, which has been integrated into ZW3D. The main process is shown below. Checking -> electrode modeling -> operations to improve EDM productivity -> electrode inspection. Same with most designers’ workflow, these four main steps are easy to learn and understand. Now let’s go deeper into it.
Figure 1. The workflow of Electrode Focus for ZW3D
Step 1: Interference Check
When a workpiece which needs to be done by EDM is put on your table, you may print out its 2D drawing and open its 3D model, to check the areas that need to do EDM, check the size of cutter you have, etc. Even if it takes a lot of efforts, but still, you may miss some areas after EDM is done, or misuse a cutter. Similar mistakes happen almost every day. How to prevent?
In Electrode Focus for ZW3D, Check electrode face will help you solve the above headaches:
- Tool adaptability check, which will help you decide whether the area needs EDM or not;
- Holder interference check, which will help you select a proper cutter for CNC;
- Interference check on bottom and corner areas with minor sloping surface, which will do you a big help, because those areas are very difficult to check by eyes.
Figure 2. EDM face checking
After checking electrode face, now you can start electrode modeling without worries.
Step 2: Electrode Modeling
- Electrode Extraction
Usually, to create an electrode, you’ll need to create a block, use it to cut out an electrode from the model of a component, separate the cutouts one by one if needed, and edit it step by step, which takes you too much time. Now in Electrode Focus for ZW3D, two extraction methods are provided to simplify your design process, which are Auto mode and Block mode.
For those target areas with sharp and clear boundaries, you can select Auto mode and click these faces, then an electrode will be created automatically without separating and editing it. Or you can switch to block mode to design electrode.
Figure 3. Electrode Modeling with Auto mode
Compared with the traditional electrode design process, in Block mode, there are many options for you to deal with those complicated electrode models.
Figure 4. Electrode Modeling with Block mode
- Editing Tools
What’s more, there are two powerful tools for you to edit electrodes, one is Smart trim to face, the other is Split Shape.
With Smart trim to face, you only need to pick the face which you want to keep, then it will be trimmed directly by intersecting curves, as shown in the picture below.
Figure 5. Smart trim to face
There are four types to split shape here: face, curve, two points and position, which help you split shape in seconds.
Figure 6. Split shape with curve and face
Now you may understand that no matter how you design electrodes, you will do it faster with Electrode Focus in ZW3D.
- Electrode Blank
After electrode head design is done, now we are going to create the electrode blank. In Electrode Focus for ZW3D, you only need to select the bottom face of the electrode head, then a blank will be created immediately. Also, you can select the blank types as you need.
Figure 7. Create electrode blank
- Text Engraving
Next, we can engrave the electrode text on the blank easily and quickly by the Text engraving function.
Figure 8. Engrave text on electrode blank
After the above steps, normally we can enter the machining stage. It’s necessary to make it clear that the electrode is not like other products. We make it, not because of the market demand, but the EDM process requirement. So we need high productivity of electrode machining to speed up the machining of the whole component.
Step 3: Functions for Productive Electrode Machining
Electrode Focus for ZW3D provides almost all the functions which you could think of to improve electrode machining productivity. With these functions, you can pattern electrodes, create electrode BOM, create setting sheet for both CNC and EDM, replace electrodes in order, etc.
- Pattern Electrode
If there are two or more same features need EDM, you’ll need to pattern them in assembly. Pattern Electrode can help you in two ways, one is Move copy, and the other is Mirror copy.
Figure 9. Move copy or Mirror copy to pattern electrodes
- Electrode BOM
You can export electrode material sheet and part list. Also you can export electrode models separately to deal with them flexibly.
Figure 10. Electrode BOM
- Electrode Sheet
For CNC/EDM operators, a clear and accurate setting sheet is so important since it decides how smoothly electrodes will be machined and EDM process will go. In Electrode Focus for ZW3D, you can create sheets for both CNC and EDM.
Figure 11. Electrode sheet
- Electrode Replacement
When machining a mass of electrodes, their different sizes will make a big trouble when you try to sort and replace them. With Electrode replacement, now you do so easily by one click.
Figure 12. Sort and replace electrodes by Electrode replacement
With these four functions, I think your electrode machining productivity will be hugely improved!
Step 4: Electrode Inspection
How accurate the component will be, in many situations, depends on how accurate the electrode is, especially for those electrodes with 3D surface. Inspecting electrodes before EDM and CNC machining is a key step to guarantee the accuracy. Is there an easy way to get the position data of these surface points? The answer is yes, Inspection point will help you make it – you can click any point you want to measure and export the data to Excel or .txt formats.
Figure 13. Electrode Inspection
Now we’ve finished designing an electrode and make it ready for EDM with Electrode Focus for ZW3D. I hope it can help you improve efficiency of electrode design. Download ZW3D 2020 and Electrode Focus with 30-day free trial>> Give it a try and get surprised.