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Thermal processes find new fans.

Thermal processes find new fans

"After years of hesitancy, I think US manufacturers are starting to realize the benefits of applying thermal-process machining to their production requirements. Since 1985, we have doubled our US sales of EDM and laser machines." That's how Harry Moser, president of Charmilles Technologies and Raycon Corp, assesses the EDM and laser markets.

"The US business complements already strong sales in both Europe and Japan, where the technology is more accepted," Mr Moser states. "Three years ago we invested $70 million in a new plant in Geneva, Switzerland, and we are having a tough time meeting the market demand."

Mr Moser points to tougher pollution-control and fuel-efficiency standards being sought by the government as the strongest driving factors behind the increased demand for production systems. "With these new standards, the automotive and aerospace industries, which are our two biggest customers, are having to design more-efficient engine components. These companies have found that traditional chip-making techniques are often not as effective or efficient as thermal processes.

"A recent Raycon system at a major automotive manufacturer combines EDM and laser. Fuel-plate orifices, which were historically conventionally drilled and burred, are now EDM'd burr free. The plates are then laser welded to the fuel-injection body," Mr Moser says.

Thermal processes also offer a range of application solutions to jet-engine manufacturers.

An example cited by Mr Moser is the application of EDM in cutting small, precise holes in aircraft engine components: "Our system machines small holes in the blades and vanes to allow the outside air to pass through and cool these components. In this case, the application is driven by the need to make the engine more fuel efficient."

Moser claims using an EDM process instead of a traditional chip-making operation offers many benefits. "EDM is a noncontact process, so there is no deformation caused by cutting forces applied to the workpiece. And many secondary operations, such as deburring, grinding or polishing, can be eliminated. As manufacturing engineers learn more about the capabilities and benefits of EDMs and lasers, these processes will have a greater impact on how they design parts," says Mr Moser.

While past efforts have been directed at increasing operating speeds, today, automation is the focus. "While we may achieve somewhat faster cutting speeds in the future, much of our focus is aimed at automating and enhancing machines to make them more suitable to production environments," says Mr Moser. "Tool changers, simultaneous multiaxis machining capabilities, and adaptive controls are areas we are concentrating on to expand our product capabilities."

Realizing EDM and lasers are still finding their niches, the industry is investing to help educate manufacturers about thermal-machining processes. "Education is probably the biggest challenge facing manufacturers today," says Mr Moser. Charmilles is introducing a new, in-house operator training program and offers special terms and prices for educational institutions.

Raycon and Charmilles are part of the George Fischer Group. Raycon builds production EDM and production laser systems in Ann Arbor and Owosso, MI, and imports Brother wire EDM machines from Japan. Charmilles Technologies Corp has its North American headquarters in Mt Prospect, IL. Charmilles offers a complete line of wire EDM machines and die sinkers manufactured at its plants in Switzerland and Germany. "In addition, we are assembling Charmilles Form 20 manual EDM machines at Raycon's Owosso facility. We shipped ten units in April," Mr Moser says. "Currently, we are bringing kits from Switzerland, but we are going to start US sourcing and Americanizing the Form 20 and also producing CNC die sinkers to meet the growing demand in this country."

Harry Moser President Charmilles Technologies Corp MI Prospect, IL Raycon Corp Ann Arbor, MI
COPYRIGHT 1990 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Metalworking Product Guide
Publication:Tooling & Production
Article Type:Interview
Date:Aug 1, 1990
Previous Article:Grinding & abrasive-process machines.
Next Article:EDM, lasers, other thermal-process machines.

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