The present invention relates generally to an electric discharge
machining ("EDM") fluid and, more particularly, the present invention relates to
an EDM fluid for surface finishing, said fluid being produced by admixing a powder
to a liquid dielectric.
In an electric discharge machine, a liquid dielectric such as oil
or water is generally used as an EDM fluid. It is known to use the EDM fluid which
is produced by admixing conductive or semiconductive powder to the liquid dielectric.
The liquid dielectric mixed with the conductive powder is used for machining a
workpiece by electrical discharge through the conductive powder.
For example, Japanese Patent Publication No. 52-26357 published on
July 13, 1977 discloses a method of adding conductive powder to a liquid dielectric
supplied into a gap between a tool electrode and a workpiece and controlling the
amount of the powder according to a desired machining over size. The conductive
powders to be added are produced by mixing metal powder or graphite powder having
a particle diameter of 5 to 10 micrometres with machined chips such as graphite
and carbon black of 10 to 100 angstroms. The mixed conductive powders are admixed
to the liquid dielectric with a density from 0.05 to 15 g/litre.
Japanese Patent Publication No. 55-27810 published on July 23, 1980
discloses a method of admixing metal powders susceptible of vaporization (i.e.
with high vapour pressure) to a liquid dielectric supplied into a machining gap.
The metal powder is easily vaporized at a high temperature of electric discharge
and the metal vapours are dispersed in the liquid dielectric increasing conductivity
thereof to easily induce electric discharge by applying voltage pulses. Cadmium,
indium, zinc, magnesium, tin, lead, and bismuth are used as the metal powders.
Japanese Laid-Open Patent Publication No. 55-500783 published on
October 16, 1980 discloses that a liquid dielectric mixed with conductive powder,
such as metal powder or graphite of up to 5 micrometres at 0.001 to 1 % by volume,
increases removal rate with reduction of electrode wear rate and improvement of
Japanese Patent Publication No. 54-20718 published on July 25, 1979
discloses an electric discharge machining method in which a paste produced by kneading
a mixture of powder mainly comprising a conductive powder and a liquid dielectric,
is interposed in a desired machining gap. Graphite, brass, tungsten, silver-tungsten,
silver, copper, copper tungsten are used as the conductive powders. Also a paste
may be produced by kneading a mixture of conductive powder and a magnetic powder
of barium ferrite and high carbon steel with a small amount of the liquid dielectric.
Japanese Laid-Open Patent Publication No. 2-83119 published on March
23, 1990 discloses a method of forming a surface layer of a workpiece by electrical
discharge in which the material for forming the surface layer is interposed in
powder form between a tool electrode and the workpiece. An EDM fluid includes
20 g/litre silicon having an average particle diameter of about 20 to 40 micrometres
mixed with a liquid dielectric. Tungsten carbide and a semiconductor such as zirconium
boride can be used as the powder material, for example.
An object of the present invention is to provide an EDM fluid and
a method of electric discharge machining in which a fine and smooth surface of
a workpiece is formed.
It is another object of the invention to provide an EDM fluid and
a method for electric discharge machining in which a powder is distributed uniformly
in a liquid dielectric in order to machine a workpiece into a desired configuration
with a uniformly high machining accuracy, even for large tool electrodes.
Additional objects, advantages and novel features of the invention
will be set forth in the description which follows, and will become apparent to
those skilled in the art upon reading this description or practicing the invention.
The objects and advantages of the invention may be realized and attained by the
invention in the appended claims.
According to the present invention there is provided an electric
discharge machining fluid comprising a mixture of a liquid dielectric and a powder
of silicon mainly composed of polycrystalline silicon and a small amount of inorganic
oxide. Preferably, the powder is present in an amount from 0.1 to 5.0 wt %, more
preferably, from 0.2 to 3.0 wt % of the liquid dielectric. Additionally, the inorganic
oxide includes silicon oxide, iron oxide and/or calcium oxide and is present in
an amount from 0.01 to 10 wt % of the silicon. Further, the silicon has an average
particle diameter of 0.1 to 100 micrometres.
In accordance with the present invention, the EDM fluid is produced
by kneading the powder with a liquid kneading medium dissolvable in the liquid
dielectric to make a liquid concentrate and dispersing this liquid concentrate
in the liquid dielectric. Preferably, the liquid kneading medium includes oils
mainly composed of an aromatic hydrocarbon or aromatic hydrocarbons having a density
of more than 0.93 g/millilitre at 15°C.
According to another aspect of the present invention, there is provided
a method for machining a workpiece by electric discharge using a tool electrode
comprising; admixing a powder of silicon mainly composed of polycrystalline silicon
and a small amount of inorganic oxide to a liquid dielectric to form an electric
discharge machining fluid, the powder being present in an amount from 0.1 to 5.0
wt % of the liquid dielectric; and supplying said electric discharge machining
fluid into a machining gap between the workpiece and the tool electrode for use
in a finishing process.
Embodiments of the present invention will now be described, by way
of example only, with reference to the accompanying diagrammatic drawings, in which;
- Figure 1 shows a micrograph of a cross-section of a workpiece surface after
a machining process;
- Figure 2 shows a micrograph of a cross-section of a workpiece surface after
a machining process with an EDM fluid of the invention;
- Figure 3 shows a graph of the results of an Auger electron spectroscopic analysis
of the workpiece surface before the machining process;
- Figure 4 shows a graph of the results of an Auger electron spectroscopic analysis
of the workpiece surface after the machining process;
- Figure 5 shows a graph of the results of an Auger electron spectroscopic analysis
of the workpiece surface after the machining process with the EDM fluid of the
- Figure 6 shows a graph of the roughness of the workpiece surface after the
machining process; and
- Figure 7 shows a graph of the roughness of the workpiece surface after the
machining process with the EDM fluid of the invention.
The inventor has experimentally studied the method for forming a
smooth surface of a workpiece required industrially for the finishing process in
detail, taking full advantage of the characteristics of the metal structure of
the workpiece. The inventor has discovered that components of a specific semiconductive
powder dispersed in a liquid dielectric can react with other components (for example,
components in the liquid dielectric and in the workpiece) to form a smooth surface
of the workpiece having a desired metal structure.
The present invention involves the experimental discovery of the
phenomena listed below.
- (a) Even if silicon powder is thermally fused by electric discharge, it is
unlikely to adhere to the workpiece as a coating.
- (b) When performing electric discharge machining using the liquid dielectric
with the polycrystalline silicon powder and a small amount of additional powder
having specific components added, the workpiece of α-iron based material
forms a surface having an alloy of silicon and components not contained in the
- (c) The alloy is a carbon-iron-silicon alloy and the workpiece surface of α-iron
based material having the alloy is remarkably uniform.
- (d) The formed uniform surface of the workpiece has no relation with a certain
physical operation i.e., relative approach movement between the tool electrode
and the workpiece.
In view of these phenomena, the inventor has found the EDM fluid
of the present invention in which the powder of polycrystalline silicon and a small
amount of inorganic oxide is uniformly dispersed in the liquid dielectric.
The silicon which can be used in preparing the EDM fluid of the present
invention is polycrystalline silicon. Although noncrystalline, polycrystalline
and single crystalline silicons are known, polycrystalline silicon is experimentally
selected for forming a smooth surface of the workpiece.
However, not all the silicon powder is required to be polycrystalline
silicon. It was found that the EDM fluid of the present invention can obtain the
expectant advantages even if a small amount of additional silicons such as noncrystalline
silicon and others are contained therein besides the polycrystalline silicon. If
additional silicons are contained in the EDM fluid, their amount is preferably
not more than 2 to 3 wt % of the polycrystalline silicon, although in some cases
their amount can be some 20 wt % of the polycrystalline silicon depending upon
the electrical discharge machining conditions. Therefore, the polycrystalline silicon
is required to be present in amount of more than 80 wt % of the silicon powder.
The silicon powder mainly composed of polycrystalline silicon requires
sufficient particle diameter and particle diameter distribution to be dispersed
in the liquid dielectric. If the powder's particles have an excessively small diameter,
they are liable to cohere and settle. Whereas if the powder's particles have too
large a diameter, they may disturb the stability of the machining process or introduce
a short circuit between a tool electrode and a workpiece resulting in damage of
the workpiece. It was found that the average particle diameter of 0.01 to 100 micrometres
is usable. Preferably, the average particle diameter is 0.1 to 80 micrometres
since the particle surface oxidized through the grinding process impairs the conductivity.
The average diameter of 1.0 to 50 micrometres is more preferable still.
In industrial practice, the powders which are fined by grinding are
conveniently not classified. In this case, with regard to particle diameter distribution,
silicon powder having a particle diameter of about 1.0 to 50 micrometres preferably
holds more than 1/3 to smooth the workpiece surface.
The inorganic oxide which can be used in preparing the EDM fluid
of the invention for forming the surface of an α-iron based workpiece having
a carbon-iron-silicon alloy may be the oxide of metal elements or the oxide of
nonmetal elements. In addition, the inorganic oxide may be composed of one or a
plurality of types. The inorganic oxide may compose powder together with the polycrystalline
silicon or independently.
The inorganic oxide preferably comprises silicon oxide, iron oxide
and/or calcium oxide. In this case, it was found that when a small amount of such
inorganic oxide is included in the powder, a smooth surface of the workpiece can
be obtained under a wide variety of machining conditions.
Further, a small amount of inorganic oxide is acceptable. Said small
amount means an amount effective to realize the above-mentioned workpiece surface
through an electric discharge machining process when the powder of the polycrystalline
silicon and the inorganic oxide is dispersed in the liquid dielectric. To be specific,
the inorganic oxide is preferably 0.01 to 10 wt % of the silicon mainly composed
of polycrystalline silicon.
The liquid dielectric in which the polycrystalline silicon and the
inorganic oxide are dispersed can be a water based dielectric or an oil based
dielectric. For the water based dielectric, water or water including water soluble
substances such as a water-soluble oligomer and a water-soluble high polymer is
generally used. A mineral oil is generally used as the oil based dielectric and
oil soluble matter may be dissolved therein. However, oil composed of components
with a molecular structure having a number of carbon atoms is preferable to obtain
the advantages of the present invention. For example, oil composed of an aromatic
hydrocarbon or aromatic hydrocarbons, or oil to which aromatic hydrocarbons are
added, can be used.
Preferably, in preparing the EDM fluid, the powder is admixed to
the liquid dielectric with 0.1 to 5.0 wt % of the liquid dielectric, and more preferably
0.2 to 3.0 wt %. As long as the above-mentioned mix ratio is adopted in preparing
an EDM fluid, it is within the scope of the invention even if the EDM fluid is
supplied to a machining gap between the tool electrode and the workpiece in the
machining process and later part of the powder settles in an electrical discharge
As long as they do not impair the advantages of the invention, additives
such as machining efficiency improvers, dispersants, redispersion promoters, antioxidants,
and antifoamers may be added to the EDM fluid.
Any means for dispersing the powder of the polycrystalline silicon
and the inorganic oxide in the liquid dielectric can be employed. A dispersant
such as a surface active agent may be used. Particularly, ethylene oxide colloidal
dispersant is effective.
Further, the inventor has discovered an advantageous method for dispersing
the powder uniformly. In this method, the powder and a liquid kneading medium
dissolvable in a liquid dielectric are kneaded together by shearing force to make
a liquid concentrate. Then, the liquid concentrate is dissolved in the liquid dielectric.
The amount of the powder to be mixed with the liquid kneading medium
is from about 10 to 80 wt % of the total weight, depending on the particle diameter
and the particle diameter distribution.
A liquid dielectric may serve as a liquid kneading medium. However,
when the oil based dielectric is used, the oil mainly composed of an aromatic
hydrocarbon or aromatic hydrocarbons is preferable. More preferably, the oil mainly
composed of an aromatic hydrocarbon or aromatic hydrocarbons is a high density
oil having a density of 0.93 g/millilitre at 15°C and a kinematic viscosity of
more than 100 cSt at 40°C because it can prevent the powder from settling by weakening
the mutual cohesive force thereof. In this case, it is not entirely necessary
that the oil dielectric and the oil kneading medium are of the same degree in kinematic
Any means for kneading the powder and the liquid kneading medium
under shearing effect can be used. The kneading device is well known and generally
used in processing high-molecular compounds, and in producing paints and paper.
For example, in processing high-molecular compounds, a roll, a kneader, a Banbury
mixer and an extruder are used having a mechanism for kneading high molecular
compounds by a high shearing force in a two- or three-dimensional direction.
The concentrate is a liquid rather than a paste even when the above-mentioned
high density oil is used although its kinematic viscosity depends on the amount
of the powder. It is found that when preparing an EDM fluid using this concentrate,
the powder will not form a mass in the liquid dielectric saving the powder material
and not expanding the machining gap uselessly in machining process.
A use of the EDM fluid of the present invention allows the workpiece
to form a very smooth surface having the above-mentioned metal compositions by
employing the EDM conditions generally used for finishing the workpiece. For example,
the EDM conditions on machining power for finishing is given below:
Workpiece is poled positive
ON pulse time
1 to 20 microseconds
OFF pulse time
2 to 80 microseconds
0.1 to 10 amperes (in short circuit)
In addition, there is no limitation on an EDM apparatus equipped
with a fluid supply device for carrying out the method of the invention.
An EDM fluid was prepared using the following powder material:
Polycrystalline silicon (particle diameter of 1 to 80 micrometres)
95.5 wt %
Silicon dioxide (SiO&sub2;)
3.0 wt %
Iron oxide (Fe&sub2;O&sub3;)
1.0 wt %
Calcium oxide (CaO&sub2;)
0.5 wt %
500 g of powder of this composition, 20 g of ethylene oxide colloidal
dispersant, and 5 g of 2,6-di-tert-butyl were added to 500 g of an aromatic hydrocarbon
having a kinematic viscosity of 930 cSt at 40°C and a density of 0.98 g/millilitre
at 15°C to make a concentrate. They were gradually mixed at 60°C by stirring for
one hour. Then, the mixture was kneaded by means of two rolls having different
rotation rates until it became a homogeneous concentrate. The concentrate was
a liquid substance having a fluidity. The liquid concentrate was added to a mineral
oil based dielectric having a kinematic viscosity of 2 cSt at 40°C with 1 wt %
of the dielectric, and was stirred for 30 minutes to prepare an EDM fluid.
Using this EDM fluid, electric discharge machining was performed
under the following conditions:
Electric discharge machine model:
Sodick A35 MARK 21
30 mm &phis;
(Japanese Industrial Standards)
Workpiece poled positive
5 amperes (in short circuit)
Figure 1 is a micrograph with a magnification of X1000 showing the
cross section of the workpiece surface when the electrical discharge machining
was performed on the same workpiece using the same mineral oil based dielectric
under the same EDM conditions as used in the above example but without the powder
being added to the dielectric. In Figure 1, a layer is formed on the workpiece
surface, however, it is thin and uneven.
Figure 2 is a micrograph with a magnification of X1000 showing the
cross section of the workpiece surface finished in the above example. In Figure
2, a relatively fine, thick and very smooth layer is formed on the workpiece surface.
In addition, the X-ray analysis of the workpiece surface was carried
out as follows:
20 to 80 degrees
According to the X-ray analysis, α-iron was detected from a
workpiece before the machining process, whereas α-iron, γ-iron and
a carbon(C)-iron(Fe)-silicon(Si) alloy were detected from the workpiece surface
after the machining process. Therefore, when using the EDM fluid of the invention,
it was found that some of the α-iron on the workpiece surface had been shifted
to γ-iron due to heat transformation, and a carbon-iron-silicon alloy had
been produced. Further, when such an alloy is produced, a fine, thick and smooth
layer is formed on the workpiece surface, as shown in Figure 2.
Additionally, workpiece surfaces before and after the machining process
were analyzed using Auger electron spectroscopic analysis. Figure 3 is a diagram
showing the results of the Auger electron spectroscopic analysis of the workpiece
surface before the machining process. In Figure 3, the point "0" on the abscissa
represents the top surface of the workpiece and the points "5" and "10" represent
surface depths of 5000 and 10000 angstroms, respectively. Further, the ordinate
represents the strength of elements. As shown in Figure 3, the same amount of
iron(Fe), carbon(C), and oxygen(O), and a small amount of chromium(Cr), silicon(Si)
and molybdenum(Mo) are detected on the top surface before the machining process.
From the detection of oxygen(O) it may be estimated that the top surface is covered
with oxides. However, in the range from the top surface to a surface depth of 5000
angstroms, iron(Fe) suddenly increases while carbon(C) and oxygen(O) suddenly
Figure 4 is a diagram showing the results of the Auger electron spectroscopic
analysis of the workpiece surface after the machining process with a mineral oil
based dielectric not using the powder. It is recognized that carbon(C) has entered
into the workpiece in the machining process.
Figure 5 is a diagram showing the results of the Auger electron spectroscopic
analysis of the workpiece surface after the machining process with the EDM fluid
of the invention. As shown in Figure 5, a large amount of carbon(C) and a small
amount of iron(Fe) are detected on the top surface after the machining process.
In the range from the top surface to a surface depth of 5000 angstroms, carbon(C)
suddenly decreases while iron(Fe) suddenly increases and silicon(Si) correspondingly
Figures 6 and 7 are diagrams showing the measured roughnesses of
the workpiece surfaces shown in the micrographs of Figures 2 and 3, respectively.
Referring to Figures 6 and 7, it is found that the workpiece surface finished
with the EDM fluid of the invention is very smooth.
The foregoing example has been presented for purposes of illustration
and description. It is not intended to be exhaustive or to limit the invention
to the precise form disclosed, and obviously many modifications and variations
are possible in the light of the above teaching. It is intended that the scope
of the invention be defined by the claims appended hereto.