Choosing the right EDM machine tooling system is a bit like getting married: you will live with your decision for a long time. It takes getting used to and you need to learn the ins and outs of your particular system, EDM machine and application.
The global competition has pushed the technology far forward so that the tooling is totally reliable, accurate, robust, versatile and quite expensive. Like most things, the difference between good and excellent is huge.
A common problem with implementing a new electrode holding system is the change in shop culture that is required. This was especially a problem in the past.
You might need to change your shop culture
One of the best ways to do this is to designate two mold makers as the team to study and develop the idea. They will feel personally responsible and take ownership of the project, which will influence the rest of the shop.
Make sure your mold makers understand what you are doing and why. Change is always difficult and injection mold making is no exception. They often see this new system as a waste of money and unnecessary, at least until they see it in action.
Nobody likes to have things imposed upon them
Time spent discussing the change, and showing how and why things will improve will go a long way. Very soon, everyone will easily see the rationale behind the decision and be “on-board.” A demonstration of the repeatability is a great way to convince the skeptics. Educational programs for plastics are a good way to expose employees to new and different ideas.
Once your mold makers can see the labor savings and ease of use, they will be enthusiastic. Very few people really like making electrodes the “old school” way. For one thing, it is very tedious and messy.
The old way worked well at the time; back when lead times were long, the pace was slower and the competition was not ruthless on a global scale.
Features to look for in EDM tooling
- Repeatability. In real life can it repeat within the tolerances claimed by the manufacturer?
- Ease of set up and use. Does it take a lot of time and labor to mount electrodes and set it up in the EDM and CNC machining center?
- Is it cost effective? Take some time to analyze the cost savings as well as the “headache” savings. Any EDM tool holding system is expensive, but, over time, the savings can be dramatic.
- Does the system have compatible fixtures for various sizes of electrodes? You should be able to use different size holders interchangeably.
So, maybe you don’t need EDM machine tooling
Sure, there will always be the odd time when you need to use a “stick” electrode, maybe even often on certain applications. But any serious mold making shop today is crazy to still be using angle blocks, vee-blocks and so on. It is so incredibly inefficient to make tedious set-ups by hand, over and over again. This is one of those industrial supplies you simply must have to compete.
Yet, this is precisely the case in the newly emerging areas, such as China. It is quite common to find a box of stick electrodes with the mold that they have just delivered. They figure that their labor is so cheap that they can afford to operate this way.
Most likely, it is just a matter of time before they figure out that this is a foolish way to operate. It just makes sense to have an integrated system that is reliable and that eliminates the need to constantly be checking for alignment and location. EDM supplies are key to success in any shop using electrical discharge machining.