It’s alright if you don’t know what EDM stands for because you certainly aren’t alone.  For much of the population, there isn’t much thought put into what it takes to make the products people use every day. Consumers are mostly concerned with whether a product is available, the benefit of ownership and how much that benefit will cost them. Even people who are generally familiar with the product development process get a bit of a glazed look in their eyes when we get into the weeds on specifics. If you happen to fall somewhere within that description, then this blog is for you!

Let’s Get Into The Weeds A Bit.

There’s a huge gap between using unlimited imagination to conceive of a new product and actually grinding through all the issues to make it a reality. To be honest, that’s where Catalyst shines. We live in the grey area between complete fiction and real-life science.  That sounds a bit dramatic, but it’s true. For the most part, if you can dream it up then we can make it real.

Since replicators won’t be invented until sometime in the 23rd century, Catalyst has focused our approach on current industry-standard manufacturing techniques. One of our main goals is to design and engineer products that are innovative, yet readily manufacturable. That’s proven to be a successful approach for us over the last 25 years. Catalyst also recognizes one major factor as the key to successful innovation.

Captain Picard orders tea on the Enterprise.

Use The Right Tool For The Job.

A Hammer Sits On a Workbench just behind a bolt and a nut.
Trying to tighten a nut with the wrong size wrench.

Obviously, a hammer won’t help much if you need to tighten a bolt. Taken a step further, a box wrench isn’t  much use on that same bolt if it’s the wrong size. That’s why we continue to invest in equipment that enables better outcomes for our clients. Since our design and engineering team is always pushing the envelope, we continuously upgrade our mold making abilities in the tooling department to keep up with design innovation.

CNC Tool
Plastic injection mold featuring square corner cuts.

Machining techniques took a great leap forward with the advent of CNC (computer numerical control) in the 1950’s. Catalyst has used a combination of manual milling and CNC to build high quality molds for decades now. But it was obvious that products were advancing and their design becoming more of a challenge to accommodate with our long-established toolset. CNC and manual milling use a cutting tool that resembles a drill bit.  A round, rotating bit isn’t the ideal tool to use if a product design calls for a mold with deep, thin grooves or sharp inside corner. In order to accomodate a product designed with these features, we need a highly specialized tool.

Enter The EDM.

Here to save the day is a completely different technique of sculpting metal to a very tight tolerance known as Electrical Discharge Machining. EDM uses a high-voltage electric spark to erode metal with very high accuracy without ever touching the mold. Catalyst has two types of machines to perform different EDM tasks known as Sinker and Wire. A Sinker EDM uses specially shaped electrodes to plunge down into the mold to create the desired cavity. While it’s perfect for deep, thin pockets or intricate shapes, producing the electrodes adds an additional step. Our Wire EDM slices all the way through metal much like a cheese cutter. Wire EDM can be used to create highly accurate cuts for mechanical mold features like side actions or custom ejection pins. We’ve produced a video that highlights the basics of these two different EDM machines to illustrate a bit further.

Video Thumbnail for EDM Video

A Complete Game Changer!

EDM unlocks product features and geometry that are not possible with traditional CNC machining. Admittedly, there is a cost associated with sinker and wire EDM processing to take into consideration during the design and engineering phase. Catalyst is committed to producing products without sacrificing the original design intent. And while the process is not yet as easy as ordering hot tea on a star ship, our clients can take confidence in the fact that we do everything possible to turn dreams into reality.

EDM is just one way Catalyst helps clients along their product development journey. For more information on our capabilities, simply Contact Us.

Catalyst Product Development Group