Since its introduction in 1969, wire-ED cutting with a continuous wire electrode has achieved a monopoly position in toolmaking as well as in series production of aerospace components. The process allows virtually force-free fully-automated processing of electrically conductive materials. Remaining weak spots are the lenghty processing times involved and the poor coatability of wire-ED processed surfaces.
The objectives of the project is partly to achieve a drastic reduction in wire-EDM processing times, in order to open up completely new applications for the process, and partly to sophisticate wire-EDM and TIN-coating technologies to a point at which wire-cut surfaces can be coated with a high-adhesion TIN film without complicated post-processing.
An advanced super-finish Wire-EDM and coating technology for improved pressing and punching tool production has been realized. Through these developments Wire-EDM super-finished tools can directly be coated without the necessity of any mechanical pretreatment. A final industrial application of coated fine blanking tools has proved this. This means a great advance for both, Wire-EDM and PVD coating since its efficiency for the application of tool making has increased. The results of the WECAT project might encourage a lot of companies, working in the field of pressing and punching tool making or users of these tools, for a more intensive use of the PVD coating technology in order to produce high-quality tools in terms of performance and tool life. The new, so called Arc Bond Sputtering (ABS) technology which can fulfil requirements from the market is at the moment on an industrial production standard and continuously in development.
The development of two new machine prototypes incorporating a generator for high-speed and super-finish machining, an expert process control and features like automatic wire threading and a multi-wire system can be regarded as a big increase in efficiency of Wire-EDM.
The requirements for the wire electrode depending on the specific application could also be determined within the project so that it is possible to choose the optimal wire electrode for each operation.
Moreover, the WECAT project may be evaluated as really positive for another reason: all involved partners are able to benefit from the project since they could advance widely and deeply in their technologies. In particular, the machine manufacturer ONA is now planning further developments to be launched to the market in short or medium term, which have their origin in the studies of the Project.
Finally, the interaction between the partners has given to them a better knowledge of Wire EDM complementary technologies, like wire composition and production methods, theoretical studying methods and workpieces surface coating necessities, enabling a better understanding of market needs and more ways to solve them.
In order to attain these objectives, it will be necessary to develop a high-speed and a super-finish generator, together with suitable wire electrodes. In addition, a real-time expert system with integrated wire break prevention strategy will need to be realized and the machine will have to be equipped with a multi-wire head. The associated Physical Vapour Deposition (PVD) coating technology will have to be adapted to the characteristics of wire-cut surfaces by means of special process combinations andodifications.
5916 PB Venlo