Wire EDMs and Laser Cutters are both good choices for processes that require tight tolerances. They both use fine-point thermal technology to cut and shape work materials. However, there are some differences between EDMs and lasers that may make one machine a better option for your particular business requirements.
For example, Wire EDM is more suitable for cutting thick steel than a laser cutter which is limited to precision cutting thinner materials. Ultimately, choosing the right solution depends largely on your requirements. Here are some of the differences you should know about.
Laser cutting is a precision manufacturing method of cutting metals and a variety of other materials. A high powered beam, known as a laser, is created by an external source that agitates electrons through an optical resonating chamber. The energized electrons emit photons or light that reflects back and forth within the resonator, amplifying the photons through further stimulation. These photons from a laser machine is emitted as a very small, highly concentrated beam of light.
A laser beam is so powerful that everything in its path is instantly melted, vaporized, or burned, creating a precise cut. Tolerances as small as ±0.002″ in very thin materials, otherwise ±0.005″ is more typically achieved on a laser cutting system. The 3 kW of power produced will easily cut through materials of up to a quarter of an inch thick, including aluminum, stainless steel, copper, and brass.
The speed and precision associated with laser cutting often make it an extremely cost-effective and efficient option for manufacturing. Especially on thin materials, it dramatically reduces lead times and cuts down on material scrap while producing high quality, low-cost products. But there is a trade-off – laser cut pieces can suffer from slag and burrs, and the thicker the material the messier the cut will appear.
- Cutting sheet metal
- Formed parts
- Flat blanks
- Signs and stencils
Wire Cut Electrical Discharge Machining is a metal working process where electrical erosion is utilized to separate material from a conductive work piece. Wire EDM services are typically used to cut hard metals that are sometimes difficult to manipulate using other cutting methods.
Perfectly straight, burr-free machining can be achieved by using Wire EDM machining. By eliminating the cutting stresses on the material, extremely thin metal sections can be produced without distortion. The ability to machine tool materials in such conditions enables a higher accuracy of up to ±.0001″ as well as closer tolerances.
Any hard or difficult to cut materials can be cut using this process. Wire EDM utilizes less machining time compared to other conventional processes and any contour sections and varying tapers can be machined up to 30-degree precision in our shop.
Applications of Wire EDM Services
Wire EDM services allow companies to get products manufactured which can be extremely intricate with elaborate designs, including 3-D shapes, from various types of metals. This process is widely used in industries such as aerospace prototyping, electronics, and manufacturing of parts. Other industries include jewelry designers, metal shops, automotive manufacturers, and the companies that supply parts to a variety of industries.
EDM machining is ideal for cutting in tight areas and for rigid tolerances. It is also good for cutting hard materials that are difficult to be machined by other methods or could be deformed by manual cutting. EDM is a solid choice for parts that need to be machined very smoothly without any burrs on an internal shape. Smoothness is also achieved on external shapes by grinding down the 0.005″ bump that occurs when the piece falls away from the wire.
Comparison of Laser Cutting and Wire EDM CNC Machines
- Laser cutters utilize a thermal beam that cuts materials by melting, vaporizing, or burning.
- Wire EDM utilizes an energized, super thin wire to cut through work materials.
- Laser cutters have tolerances of up to 0.002 inches or 0.05 millimeters in very thin materials. These tolerances decrease as the material gets thicker.
- Wire EDM can achieve tight tolerances when needed, being able to achieve precision accuracy in the 0.0001 inch range.
- A laser cutter is good for cutting light, mild, non-reflective materials.
- Since Wire EDM uses electricity to cut, materials must be conductive.
- Lasers produce fast cutting of materials up to 0.25 inches or 96.35 millimeters thick. Thicker cuts will need higher power lasers and gas tubes and will require larger tolerances.
- Wire EDM cutting is slower but more accurate than laser cutting. In our shop we are currently capable of cutting materials up to 12 inches thick, but EDM machines for 16″ thicknesses are also available.
Each machine has its own benefits and advantages, however, Wire EDM services are most preferred when compared to other conventional machining processes. We invite you to take a look at our Wire EDM capabilities for your next job.