Enhancing Your Wire EDM Gear Machining: Part 1

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Are you looking for a new approach to your gear machining processes? In this two-part series of posts, we’ll be sharing some helpful information on the many different forms and programming techniques used in wire EDMing these unique applications. Supported by technical illustrations and best practices, we’ll help get your gears turning, both literally and figuratively.

Involute Gear Form

Involute gears are the most commonly produced type of gear. By arranging gear teeth in a circular configuration, inner-connected gears can rotate together without locking. Each gear tooth, called a spline, contains a continually changing arc. The arc establishes a moving single point of contact and clearance when two gears are paired and rotated together. The spline geometry will vary based upon application, and their geometry MAK1jpgcallouts may require some additional investigation to understand the design and terminology used. This includes the function and value of the pitch diameter, circular pitch, diametrical pitch, pressure angle, and roll and flank values, which are a few of the main spline geometry attributes.

(Illustration courtesy of AGMA)

It is paramount to understand the gear forms that can be produced by the wire EDM process, and those that cannot. A large percentage of gears are wire EDM machined with a straight vertical wall, but some may require an angular or rotated helix profile. Usually, this is where a lot of confusion is initiated. The wire EDM machining of gears, with either internal or external forms, also creates some unique process challenges that need to be addressed from both the programming and machine operation standpoint.

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Micro-gear machined with 0.015mm (0.0006″) wire

Gear Form Programming

Programming gear/spline details on a wire EDM will typically result in some of the largest programs seen. The NC code is longer for two reasons:

  1. The precise changing arc geometry of the spline teeth
  2. The code results in very small increments of movements from interpolation of the unique geometry

Depending on the part requirements and CAM software used to create the NC code, software tolerances should be verified and set for high precision to avoid excessive accumulation of rounding errors in the toolpath calculations. Some CAM software systems also offer special functions for gear profile applications that simplify the drawing and programming of gear details.

Some wire EDM machine controls provide an older-style programming function that simplifies processing of gear profiles, such as a G26 rotation copy command. This function requires only one gear tooth spline to be programmed using an INC (incremental) format as a sub-routine. The geometry is then rotated and copied within the machine control to make the complete profile. This method may improve accuracy, as it can minimize errors that stem from compounded rounding of the geometry.

Another key area for concern is how and where the wire path leads in to and leads off from the gear geometry. This is less of an issue for internal gears, as additional skim-cut processes will remove any tab-stop material or witness lines. An ideal area for lead-in and lead-out is either on the top or bottom of a gear tooth, because these areas are generally used for clearance. External gear forms present a higher challenge, since the tab holding areas will need to be machined after wire EDM machining. Tab placement areas will need to be located on the top outer edge of the gear profile for easy access for post-machine finishing. Depending on an external gear’s size, multiple start holes and holding tab points may be strategically placed to properly hold and secure the part. Remember to adjust the cutoff process offset to minimize the amount of material that will remain for the post-machine finishing operation.

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Where to Find Flush Pots for Sinker EDMs

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If you’re having trouble finding sinker EDM flush pots for sale, don’t get too frustrated, as you’re not alone. Commercially sold EDM flush pots are typically difficult to find because they are commonly made and customized for specific needs. However, the good news is that flush pots are easy to manufacture, with variations limited to the external size and internal opening based on the specific needs or application. Provided below is a simple drawing that outlines the basic construction of a flush pot.Mak2

Flush pots are usually hooked up to the machine’s auxiliary flushing or suction connections that are located in the work tank. Depending on the machine and applications being performed, you may find it useful to add an in-line value to fine-tune the fluid flow.

Flush pots can also be highly customized for specific and exact needs, such as punch machining (workpiece is held in the Z-axis), as this process uses an electrode plate mounted on the worktable. Depicted below is an example showing a custom electrode plate with three stations mounted to a custom flush pot with three separate individual flush cavities.

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Programmable Flushing with Makino Sinker EDMs

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Q: Do Makino sinker EDMs have an option for a programmable flush manifold?

A: Yes, Makino does offer two different options for programmable flushing, which can be controlled (on/off) in the NC program. Makino offers a three-port and a 10-port programmable flush manifold that supports continuous flush and intermittent flush modes. Provided below is the NC program code format:

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M_ _ L_ _ P_ _ _

  • M40  > Valve #1 ON
  • M41  > Valve #2 ON
  • M42  > Valve #3 ON
  • M43  > Valve #4 ON
  • M44  > Valve #5 ON
  • M45  > Valve #6 ON
  • M46  > Valve #7 ON
  • M47  > Valve #8 ON
  • M48  > Valve #9 ON
  • M49  > Valve #10 ON
  • L0  > Continuous Flush Mode
  • L1  > Intermittent Flush Mode
    – 
  • P (2~500) > Intermittent Flush Timing in Seconds
    – 
  • M09 > All Valves OFF

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Purchasing the Right Flush Line Components

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Looking for the best source to purchase flush lines and flush line manifolds? While there are a number of different sources to purchase flush line components, Makino recommends Loc-Line® brand products. These products can be purchased from many industrial supply sources. Loc-Line’s magnetic base manifold kit (Loc-Line part #40463) is a popular and useful kit, and the company has also recently released a new ProStream series of stainless steel flush nozzles. If you’re in need of flush lines and flush line manifolds, we encourage you to look into Loc-Line.

For additional information on Loc-Line products, check out their website at www.loc-line.com.

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Identifying Alternate or Replacement Jet Nozzles for Makino Wire EDMs

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Looking to change or replace an AWT (Automatic Wire Threading) jet nozzle for your Makino wire EDM machine(s)? There are several different nozzle sizes available based on the desired workpiece start hole diameter of your application. Provided below is a quick reference guide that lists the various nozzle sizes that are available for both Split Guide and PICO Round Guide systems, as well as their respective part numbers for ordering.

Split Guide System:

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  • 2.0mm/0.080” Ø AWT Jet (Mark 10) — Part #Z491J0007000
  • 1.5mm/0.060” Ø AWT Jet (Mark 11) — Part #Z491J0005000
  • 1.0mm/0.040” Ø AWT Jet (Mark 12) — Part #Z491J0006000

 

PICO Round Guide System:

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  • 1.2mm/0.047” Ø AWT Jet (Mark 1.2) — Part #33EC085A202
  • 0.7mm/0.030” Ø AWT Jet (Mark 0.7) — Part #23EC085A218
  • 0.5mm/0.020” Ø AWT Jet (Mark 0.5) — Part #23EC085A217

 

For additional service part questions, please visit Makino’s Parts Express Store or call 1-(888)-Makino1 (625-4661).

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