Jun 19, 2015 | By Simon

Although it may sound very familiar to “FDM” - or, Fused Deposition Modeling - EDM is, in fact very different.  

EDM, which is short for Electro-Discharge Machining or “spark erosion”, is a unique and specialized technique of manufacturing that uses sparks to fuse metal together.  

In most cases, if a user wants to machine hardened materials like steel, the materials are often machined while in a softer state before being sent to be heat-treated and finished.  Alternatively, the EDM process is a thermal-based process and because it is not a force-bearing mechanical process, the density or hardness of a material has nearly no effect on the rate of cutting; users can jump straight into cutting materials without the need to worry about softening.  

Among other uses for the process include the fabrication of stamping dies - which involves machining a graphite or copper electrode design before burning it into a workpiece - and tap-burning, which is when a tap is eroded out of a workpiece after it’s been broken off into a piece of working material.  

So how does this process work?  In EDM, electric power is pulsed on and off to the point where microscopic bits of dust are vaporized from a different point every time.  Because the last part vaporized is further away due to the bit that was last eroded, the next-closest point becomes the next to be vaporized on a flat surface.  During the process, this repeats hundreds or thousands of times per second until a final result is created.  Ultimately, the constant and repeated bursts of electrical plasma vaporize the material material on the impacting side.  

Considering that a majority of Makers and startup hardware developers have access to 3D printers but often lack access to industrial shop tools that are commonly used for fabricating metal parts, an ideal situation would be to have an EDM head for an existing 3D printer; similar to 3D printing, EDM doesn’t require any mechanical forces because the sparks do all of the cutting - albeit they are subtracting rather than adding material.

Aiming to capitalize on this powerful modification, YouTube user ArduinoVsEvil (AKA Piet Hein) has created an EDM 3D printer head that enables makers and hardware developers to have all of the conveniences of traditional EDM processes directly on their 3D printer.   

“Because conventional machining requires highly rigid machine tools, it is not suitable for 3D printers,” says Hein. “The beauty of EDM is it is a non-contact process; the cutting tool does not touch the workpiece; that makes any 3D printer a perfect platform for installing an EDM subtractive print module.”

"I'm pleased to publicly disclose my novel "invention" (I hate that word): an Electric Discharge Machining print head module for 3D printers," added Hein. "This has been a LOT of work and expense. It CONTINUES to be a lot of work and expense!  This module will allow you to cut metal parts on any 3D printer. It will also bolt on to existing CNC machine tools as well as stand alone as a small scale Ram EDM."

You can check out his video below:



Posted in 3D Printer Accessories



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Annoyed parent wrote at 6/21/2015 5:00:57 PM:

Second video starts with the f-word. Thanks for the warning...

Julio wrote at 6/19/2015 5:01:14 PM:

EDM doesn't fuse metal together. It removes material.

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