For precision cutting processes, both wire EDM and laser cutting offer ideal solutions. However, there are certain distinctions between each method that may make one a better fit for your specific application. Choosing the best option usually depends on your requirements. Here, we will discuss the differences between wire EDM and laser cutting to help you choose the best option for your needs.
Electrical discharge machining, or wire EDM cutting, is an electro-chemical cutting technique. Using a specially designed tool that emits thousands of sparks, this process removes materials using fast, frequent, and controlled electrical charges. Only electrically conductive materials, such as metals, are suitable for this process.
Advantages of Wire EDM
Wire EDM advantages include:
- No Impact Cutting. Unlike other processing methods, wire EDM cutting can cut hard, thin, and fragile materials without impacts that can lead to stress, bending, or warping.
- Wide Processing Range. Wire EDM is ideal for cutting any conductive metal, from copper to the hardest metals, such as molybdenum and tungsten. Its products are unaffected by material hardness, so it can process materials that other processes can’t.
- High Tolerance. Wire cutting is a more precise procedure than laser, flame, or plasma cutting. Because it applies no force to the pieces, wire EDM may achieve extremely tight tolerances for accurate dimensions and fit. This eliminates the requirement for post-machining and polishing of items.
Disadvantages of Wire EDM
Wire EDM disadvantages include:
- Slow cutting speed
- Only works with materials that are electrically conductive
- Not ideal to cut tubing
Wire EDM is ideal for a variety of applications:
- Small or fragile parts that other traditional processes may damage
- Larger items requiring a high-quality polish or precision
- Complicated forms
- Parts that need a narrow slot
- Large components with tight tolerances
- Materials that are delicate, hard, expensive, or uncommon
This is a fabrication technique that involves cutting materials into specific designs, patterns, and forms using a thin, focused laser beam that can heat, melt, or vaporize material. Many materials, including wood, paper, glass, plastic, metal, and gemstones, are ideal candidates for this non-contact, thermal-based production process. Laser cutting is often combined with CNC technology and can make a range of complex parts without using a custom-designed tool.
Advantages of Laser Cutting
Advantages of laser cutting include:
- Precision cuts and high accuracy. Laser cutting makes use of a small but powerful laser that emits a focused beam of light for optimal accuracy and precision. Laser cutting can achieve tolerances of 0.003 to 0.006 mm.
- Speed. Laser cutting does not require any custom-built or changed tooling for your project. This translates to low lead time and maintenance costs.
- Can handle complex tasks. The high-powered laser can tolerate very complex tasks, such as working on a very thin segment of material while causing little or no warping and distortion to the cut region.
- Ideal for almost any material. Laser cutting can be used with a range of materials, including both non-ferrous and ferrous metals, plastic, wood, composites, and even some types of textiles.
Disadvantages of Laser Cutting
Laser cutting has the following disadvantages:
- The thicker the material, the higher the risk of burrs, slag, and messy cuts
- Can produce dangerous fumes
Laser cutting is often used in applications such as:
- Silicon manufacturing
- Ceramic manufacturing
- Medical device manufacturing
- Jewelry industry
- Automotive industry
- Die, mold, and tool industries
Laser Cutting vs Wire EDM Services
Both laser cutting and wire EDM have their own unique advantages and drawbacks, so it’s important to consider your application when choosing the best method for your needs. The key differences between the two process include:
Laser cutters are ideal for cutting mild, light, and non-reflective materials. Because Wire EDM cuts using electricity, the materials used must be conductive.
In very thin materials, laser cutters can achieve tolerances up to 0.002 inches. As the material becomes thicker, these tolerances decrease. When you require tight tolerances, wire EDM cutting can attain precise accuracy with tolerances at about 0.0001 inches.
Laser cutting offers fast cutting speeds on materials up to 0.25″ in thickness. Wire EDM is often slower than laser cutting but offers increased precision.
Although both procedures create residue, the wire EDM process can wash it away in dielectric water, whereas laser cutting produces slag that can bake onto the material.
Wire EDM Services from Astro Machine Works
While both wire EDM and laser cutting are both beneficial processes, it’s important to understand the benefits and drawbacks of each to ensure you choose the right process for your application. At Astro Machine Work we offer precision wire EDM services for a wide range of industries, including manufacturing, medical, electronics, aerospace, pharmaceuticals, food processing, government, energy, and telecommunications.
To learn more about our wire EDM capabilities, or to work with us on your next project, contact us today.