NEW YORK—Electrical discharge machining (EDM) is a subtractive method that removes material from a workpiece using repeated electrical discharges, or sparks. The approach is commonly used to process refractory metals and others that are difficult to machine using traditional methods. It can, for example, remove metallic materials such as titanium alloys, hardened steel, and superalloys quickly and without the need for pretreatment.

Electrical discharge machining has also been used to erode ceramic materials, PCBN (polycrystalline cubic boron nitride), and PCD (polycrystalline diamond).

The global market for EDM machines was valued at nearly $5.91 billion in 2021 and is expected to rise to nearly $8.21 billion by 2028, according to a recent study by the market research firm Zion Market Research. Between 2022 and 2028, the EDM machine market is projected to increase annually at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 7.2 percent, the company said in a release.

One of the benefits of EDM is that it doesn’t introduce stresses into the component because the tool doesn’t make contact with the workpiece. According to Zion Market Research, this is one of multiple factors that strongly support the use of EDM in medical device manufacturing and could lead to increased demand from manufacturers in the industry.

The process can be used by medical device makers to create slots, grooves, and eyelets in machined parts while putting the least amount of stress on them. Another advantage is a high-quality finish, as wire EDM produces smooth, burr-free surfaces while maintaining tight tolerances. Wire EDM can also be used to manufacture tiny eyelets and through-slots in medical devices that are impossible to machine via conventional means, the company said.

One of the challenges to greater adoption of EDM, however, is that it remains a more expensive process than turning or milling. Its slower rate of material removal adds cost, as does the time needed to produce electrodes for sink or Ram EDM. Electrode wear can also make it difficult to reproduce sharp corners on a workpiece, the company said.

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