Should I buy an edm?
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    Default Should I buy an edm?

    So a little background on me:

    This is really for fun and giggles and not production work. I have a 1500ft2 shop on my property and I love metal working as a hobby. I have 2 VMCs (a late 90s fadal and late 2000s haas) and love them because they both paid for themselves within 2 years.

    So my question is.... will a edm machine pay for its self with side jobshop work (I plan on getng a good deal on a used late 2015 makino). And really besides crazy hard materials and 2d parts, where does a edm really have an advantage over one of my vmcs?


    And one last bit of info... I mostly just
    Wanna mess around and make fun cubes with fun close tolerance cut outs that when you slide them back together, the seem is invisible... and yes I might spend $$$ to make some paperweights as long as it will eventually pay for itself

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    Following... would eventuality like a plunge EDM for making swage dies.


    Check out my website!
    The Ballistic Assistant

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    If this is just for fun then yes, you should absolutely get one. If you are asking if you can make a profit from it then who knows.

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    Hi Jesse_92683:
    I presume you're talking about a wire EDM, is that correct?

    If it is, then yes you will find many uses for it, but it is kind of an expensive hobby, so come at it with the expectation that it will be spendy (not quite as bad as a racing hobby, but substantial nonetheless.)

    Will it pay for itself?...mine did, but I run a commercial shop doing mostly product design and prototyping but also a smattering of low volume production and custom builds, mostly of miniature and micro sized parts that other shops don't want to try.
    I use it because it's far and away the best tool for certain operations but I operated my business until 2008 without ever having even seen one run, and I was just as profitable before it than I am now, so do you NEED one...probably not.

    But if you can spare the cash and have a big boner for one, I can certainly think of worse ways to spend your money.

    I use my machine constantly now that I have it, but it's usefulness is as part of a package of capability that sets me apart to my customers.
    When I set up, I tried to gather a diverse suite of toys, so I have CNC milling and turning, wire and sinker EDM, surface and cylindrical grinding, laser welding, and a full set of manual milling and turning too, and it's the whole package that gives me my market position, not any one machine tool.

    But if you're hoping to run the machine as a stand-alone production cell, you will have to pursue those contracts and there are expectations that come from that position:

    Wire EDM is considered by most engineers to be a super precision process, so the expectation is that you can deliver to within microns, and without the metrology to certify your work, you can't play in that turf.
    I don't use my machine that way, although I certainly have taken on low volume precision production with it from time to time.

    But for playing about it's lots of fun if you can afford it, and as part of a capability package it's been very good to me indeed.

    Cheers

    Marcus
    Implant Mechanix • Design & Innovation > HOME
    Vancouver Wire EDM -- Wire EDM Machining

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jesse_92683 View Post
    as long as it will eventually pay for itself
    Just my thought:

    If you live by that method then you limit yourself. At the extreme low end are the tightwads that keep places like Harbor Freight in business.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rons View Post
    Just my thought:

    If you live by that method then you limit yourself. At the extreme low end are the tightwads that keep places like Harbor Freight in business.
    Lol, it’s a hobby for me but I learned a few years ago that this hobby can actually be pretty cheap as long as you trade a little of you free time for legal tender...

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    And yes, I was thinking of getting a wire edm and not a sinker edm as for some reason that doesn’t excite me as much.

    Lots of good info here, thanks for the reply.

    The main thing for me is I have no customer base. I don’t really want one. I have payed for my other machines just doing Xometry jobs. That way I can do the work when I want and not do shit when I get a fun idea and try to build a liquid nitrogen generator or whatever fancies me at the moment.

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    I have a prototype and short run production CNC shop. I do not have a wire EDM. My largest expenditure (excluding medical insurance) many months is sending stuff out for wire EDM. Very hard material, square corners, gears and splines. I definitely need a wire EDM for cost savings and because EDM shops around me always seem to deliver late and charge a premium.

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    Quote Originally Posted by implmex View Post
    Hi Jesse_92683:
    I presume you're talking about a wire EDM, is that correct?

    If it is, then yes you will find many uses for it, but it is kind of an expensive hobby, so come at it with the expectation that it will be spendy (not quite as bad as a racing hobby, but substantial nonetheless.)

    Will it pay for itself?...mine did, but I run a commercial shop doing mostly product design and prototyping but also a smattering of low volume production and custom builds, mostly of miniature and micro sized parts that other shops don't want to try.
    I use it because it's far and away the best tool for certain operations but I operated my business until 2008 without ever having even seen one run, and I was just as profitable before it than I am now, so do you NEED one...probably not.

    But if you can spare the cash and have a big boner for one, I can certainly think of worse ways to spend your money.

    I use my machine constantly now that I have it, but it's usefulness is as part of a package of capability that sets me apart to my customers.
    When I set up, I tried to gather a diverse suite of toys, so I have CNC milling and turning, wire and sinker EDM, surface and cylindrical grinding, laser welding, and a full set of manual milling and turning too, and it's the whole package that gives me my market position, not any one machine tool.

    But if you're hoping to run the machine as a stand-alone production cell, you will have to pursue those contracts and there are expectations that come from that position:

    Wire EDM is considered by most engineers to be a super precision process, so the expectation is that you can deliver to within microns, and without the metrology to certify your work, you can't play in that turf.
    I don't use my machine that way, although I certainly have taken on low volume precision production with it from time to time.

    But for playing about it's lots of fun if you can afford it, and as part of a capability package it's been very good to me indeed.

    Cheers

    Marcus
    Implant Mechanix • Design & Innovation > HOME
    Vancouver Wire EDM -- Wire EDM Machining
    Making money with it or not, like marcus said is entirely dependant on alot of other factors. That said, a wire edm will do things other machines won't (just like a sinker will do things others can't *ahem* sharp corners everywhere engunears LoL). It can also save you alot of aggravation because you don't get tool wear/deflection (although there are settings to make an edm cut square and not bellmouth holes and profiles) anyways, an example I want to share-

    My first job in a die shop we used to put all our dowels in before heat treat, then grind to them after heat treat, what a pita! We didn't have access to a cnc mill or jig grinder or anything at that point. After we got our wire edm it allowed us to put dowels in undersize, just measure the part and grind approximately half (total grind stock) off each face and then into the wire. Faster process in the long run, saved alot of scrap, and the wire allowed us to easily determine between a press fit and slip fit dowel without jacking around with different reamers and however they felt like cutting that day.

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    One question I would put to Marcus and other EDM operators, is does an EDM cost money sitting idle? The ideal hobby machine, but this applies to R&D lab machines as well, doesn't mind sitting still for days or weeks now and then. Any machine with consumables that expire or that are subject to problems from not being regularly lubricated are tiresome to operate on an intermittent basis. For example everyone agrees that running an anodizing setup as a side project doesn't work. (And don't even get me started about DNA sequencers!)

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    Hi Robin:
    That is a good question and I've seen several different opinions.
    I can talk only of my own experience.

    I have found that leaving the machine idle for longer periods of time is not the big problem it was presented to be when I first considered it for my shop.
    My machine gets fairly frequent use, but it does sit idle for stretches of weeks when there's no real work for it, and it's occasionally asked to be the super cutoff bandsaw where it sits for a stretch, then runs for an hour than sits again for a stretch again.
    It has its share of maintenance problems but I have never seen a direct correlation between idleness and problem frequency or of problem characteristics.

    If you look at it from a business finance perspective however, you can make an argument that it's not cost effective compared to farming out wire work to specialist companies, unless you can keep the investment generating profit.
    New Wires cost anywhere from 100 grand for a basic Chevy to half a million and more for a tricked out Bugatti.
    That's an expensive piece of kit to have around doing nothing and most accountants go all funny when you argue other values than profitability to justify a purchase of such a pricey toy.

    The budget for "stuff" to keep it able to work on a super short timeline are comparable to any other piece of tech toy.
    I have to buy wire and resin...you have to buy cutters and coolant.
    I have to maintain my machine on a pretty rigorous schedule to keep it happy... but you probably should too.
    The difference is that my wire will barf its guts faster and shit the bed more enthusiastically than a lathe or mill even over little things.
    My mill will still run even if there are some things wrong with it but my wire has to be in good shape all around or it will be monumentally pissy about even doing ANYTHING
    It's like a four year old...it'll kick off its boots and sit in the middle of the road screaming if you don't coddle it with thorough and timely maintenance.

    But if it's well looked after it'll run and run and run, doing cool things and making money.

    Typically if I leave my machine for two months and then fire it up I will have to top up the water (We have super soft water up here in Vancouver so it's a lot easier for me than for many others) and then just push the green button.
    That's also about what I have to do to fire up the mill if I leave it for two months.

    Specifically to your query about consumables that expire, no, there are no issues...resin lasts indefinitely, wire lasts indefinitely new filters last indefinitely.
    The machine has an auto oiler, the pumps all appear to be super robust...there's really nothing to sweat.

    Cheers

    Marcus
    Implant Mechanix • Design & Innovation > HOME
    Vancouver Wire EDM -- Wire EDM Machining

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    One other thing to consider is the cost to run it vs a mill or lathe, or whatever machine. Lots of time, IME, wire programs run for quite a stretch un-attended. Of course it depends on the work, but having run one for 10 years or so at a job shop... We did alot of punches and die steels that would run for hours at a time, just basically making money. This was many moons ago, but I was told by my boss our wire cost about 10-12$ hour to run for electricity, wire, filters, etc. Now think if you are burning work that will rough for 2-3 hours at your shop rate of 60-70-80-$ hour without anyone there having to man it like a "typical" cnc... $$$

    As Marcus said though, a wire can be finicky. Getting a contact error, or ground fault and not being able to see what is causing it can be maddening!! Might be a little sliver of a slug jammed somewhere, might be a piece of wire stuck somewhere, might be a software error... who knows!?!? But the upside to that, is a wire won't (well not that I have seen) crash and wreck your spindle and toolholder and/or vise. If it does "crash" it basically faults out and the upper head might be out of alignment, which on a charmilles is a simple "ral" command and boom uv are lined back up and off you go.

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    Riffing on MIke1974's question - one of Bryan's CNC Questions applies - "can you turn your back on it?" - so should OP (or anybody else) buy an EDM, to some degree, comes down to "can you get it started, preferably on something that's very difficult to do any other way, and then go do something else". It's just like well debugged CAM work flows, well proven production part programs, etc. Being reliable is often more important than being fast.


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