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Is your EDM wire the issue or is it you?

Wire EDM machines have become an integral part in the metal removal industry for more than 30 years. Once found primarily in Tool & Die shops, new industries have acquired EDM machines and implemented them into medical, aerospace, and energy manufacturing processes. Since their invention, wire EDM machines have seen significant increases in cutting speeds and technology. They now run unattended with the addition of a automatic-threader and robots. Wire EDM machines are now an key part of manufacturing. Increased demand and usage of equipment often results in neglect of the simplest requirements of operation, preventative maintenance (PM). Without strict PM discipline, problems arise, and blame is associated with the consumable.

  1. Your EDM wire is dirty.
  2. Your EDM wire is not threading properly.
  3. Your EDM wire is breaking.

With over twenty years distributing EDM consumable products these assertions come up too frequently. EDM’ers are under pressure to operate multiple machines, reduce downtime, and increase profitability. This leads to deviation from scheduled PM’s directly affecting an EDM machines performance. When this occurs, a phone call or email often follows with blame attributed to the wire. It is only too easy to blame the wire as the sole contributing factor. Consumable suppliers are there to assist and gather information about wire issues. We ask questions to determine the root problem and delineate if the wire is at fault, the machine, or preventive maintenance. The most common response from an understandably agitated operator: “this did not happen with my other brand of EDM wire”. As a consumable supplier, the answers to these questions are critical. Your supplier needs to know if they have a specific lot of deficient wire to rectify your issue as well as fellow EDM’ers we distribute product to. All EDM wire manufacturers have occasional product issues. The best reduces the number of issues by maintaining a strict PM schedule on their equipment. The equipment used to manufacture EDM wire has made significant advancements. Advancements in automation and improvements to drawing/spooling equipment, reduction of paraffin, and raw material have been critical to producing a consistent EDM wire. It may not be the wire!

The movie Jerry Maguire made the following phrase famous: “help me help you”.

Dirty EDM wire:

Recently a long-term customer contacted us about dirty wire. They have purchased the same product for numerous years and stated the issue began recently. In addition, the issue was not with every spool. Our first question: Have you replaced your felt pads? Our customer felt secure with the maintenance of their EDM machine. Secondly, we requested our customer log the spool lot numbers to track. Upon follow up, our customer informed us, “I changed what I do for PM each time and it seems to be working well. I found out I wasn’t cleaning and rotating the felts often enough, so you were right on that one”. What a great customer! By re-examining PM’s, his problem was solved.

Wire is not threading:

Last year a customer experienced threading issues and believed the wire was maintaining memory from the spool. An in-person visit to check the wire for retained memory was performed. The wire fell within the guidelines. My suggestion, clean all the parts the wire touched with an ultra-sonic cleaner and try again. Another great customer, he went to a local store, purchased a cleaner, and started the process. Once the parts were cleaned the wire threaded perfectly.

Wire is Breaking:

Your EDM wire keeps breaking and I have a deadline! This phone call came on a Friday morning four or five years ago. The EDM wire was bouncing off the roller and breaking, he firmly believed the spool was cross thread. As I drove to his facility to resolve the issue, he tested spools from different lots to no avail. Then we tested a product from a different manufacturer and the issue continued. My suggestion was to check the bearings and rollers. The customer, so convinced it was our products, ordered wire from another supplier and the problem continued. His last resort was to follow my suggestion and he found a bearing was freezing up and once replaced the wire breakage was alleviated. He missed the deadline waiting for wire from the other supplier and apologized profusely.

Yes, it could be the EDM wire! No manufacturer produces a perfect product every time. This may upset many EDM operators, but it is not the wire! The most likely problem is the thoroughness of preventative maintenance and how often it is performed.  Below are some additional tips for better EDMing.

Here is how we can help you:

  1. Routinely use an ultra-sonic cleaner and clean any part the wire touches.
  2. Index your power feed contacts as suggested by your OEM.
  3. Rotate your felt pads.
  4. Check and/or replace your bearings and rollers.
  5. Power cables should be replaced every 3-5 years.
  6. Clean your worktable. We offer wire EDM cleaner on our website

Here is how you can help yourself:

Consumable distributors are here to assist you with product and answer questions. Our suggestions may not always be correct, but they are worth the effort. Don’t blame the wire first! You may just be wasting precious time. Perform a thorough PM when problems arise and think through possible reasons for the issue your EDM machine is experiencing. Contact us and contact your OEM. We are both here to help.

Chris Cornish


Advanced CNC Technologies, Inc.