Tapping EDM's innovation potential

The company’s innovations continue to demonstrate the vast potential of the EDM process first demonstrated 70 years ago. That tradition of innovation continues, with improvements in machine efficiency, ease of use and process chain integration on the horizon

EDM_InnovationIn just 12 years, GF Machining Solutions has made impressive strides to improve EDM performance

The source of innovation Inputs for innovation at GF Machining Solutions come from market research, customer needs and demands, surveys of alternative and complementary technologies, internal and external research, and brainstorming among R & D team members.

“On a regular basis, our innovation cluster organizes an Innovation Days event where market representatives, product managers, R & D team members and application specialists get together in closed session,” said Marco Boccadoro, Head of EDM Research and Innovation with GF Machining Solutions Research and Development. “The core team formulates problems that constitute the main topic of the sessions. Using creativity tools like brainstorming, Metaplan and morphological analysis, ideas are collected, structured and prioritized.”

In subsequent discussions, those ideas are harmonized withGF Machining Solutions’ corporate strategy, and innovation portfolios are established.

Sergei Schurov, Head of EDM Research and Development, pointed out that innovation should not be limited to the technology alone. Its true potential is ultimately measured by the commercial success of the products it enables. This implies that even breakthrough ideas have to find their way to the market. That’s why GF Machining Solutions applies a ranking method based on objective selection criteria.

“It is important to consider both factors – feasibility and attractiveness – in the evaluation phase. In this context, we examine feasibility as a function of risk, affinity with core competencies, and product cost impact, and we look at attractiveness as a function of return on investment, business strategy affinity, and added value,” he explained. “The product of these two factors gives the score that we use to rank our projects.”

Projects requiring applied research draw on GF Machining Solutions’ network of university partners across Europe: the Laboratory for Machine Tools and Production Engineering at RWTH Aachen University in Germany, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium, University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom, University of Leoben in Austria and, in Switzerland, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich and Inspire AG (the Swiss competence center for production technology), the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, University of Geneva, Haute école du paysage, d'ingénierie et d'architecture, University of Applied Sciences of Western Switzerland, and University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland.

The innovation cluster coordinates new projects up to the feasibility stage, where they flow into the R & D product development roadmap.

EDM_InnovationGF Machining Solutions’ EDM milestones: 1993-2011

“Our approach to innovation has yielded some important achievements not only for GF Machining Solutions, but for EDM as a field of applied research. This procedure made it possible for us to develop artificial intelligence using fuzzy logic and neural networks, bring to market our Hyperspark technology to double material removal rates in die-sinking EDM and pioneer lowest wear on graphite and copper electrodes,” Schurov said. “It paved the way for us to invent a new orbiting strategy for die-sinking machines and achieve a record surface quality of 26 nanometers, perfect our Cut and Coat technology to perform surface treatment with WEDM and DS EDM, perfect in-process optical measuring for high-precision WEDM, and lead the way in high-precision drilling with special pulses.”

Measurable results

GF Machining Solutions’ approach to innovation and product development yields measurably improved performance in die-sinking, wire-cutting, and drilling EDM, Boccadoro said. In the past 12 years in WEDM, GF Machining Solutions has reduced form tolerance by 50 percent, reduced surface roughness by 66 percent, and decreased internal radii by 40 percent. On the die-sinking side, the Group has reduced the spark gap from 20 micrometers to 5 micrometers, decreased surface roughness by 75 percent, achieved a 75 percent reduction in internal radii, and virtually eliminated wear on copper and graphite electrodes. In the same period, GF Machining Solutions’ human machine interface has become more user friendly, machine precision has improved, and generator efficiency increased from 20 percent to 80 percent.

The innovation horizon Schurov and Boccadoro agree that EDM will remain a key technology for global progress well into the future due to sociological factors spurring growth in medical technologies, environmental factors boosting the market for energy-efficient lighting, machinery and materials, and technological factors like miniaturization, new materials, and information and communications technology requiring micro EDM, greater precision and self-correcting machines.

“Innovation also will come from the improvement of consumables including new wires, electrode materials and technological liquids,” said Boccadoro. “GF Machining Solutions is already ahead of the innovation curve in terms of anticipating trends and needs and bringing to market innovations that improve the EDM process. EDM as a basic technology is nearly 70 years old, but it still represents fertile ground for discovery and innovation. GF Machining Solutions will be on the cutting edge of both.

Marco Boccadoro
GF Machining Solutions
Via dei Pioppi 2
CH-6616 Losone

marco dot boccadoro #at# georgfischer dot com

Sergei Schurov
Head of EDM R&D
GF Machining Solutions
Rue-du-Pré-de-la-Fontaine 8
1217 Meyrin

sergei dot schurov #at# georgfischer dot com

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