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Precision Electrochemical Machining (PECM) Enables Shaping and Finishing in Single Operation

Precision Electrochemical Machining (PECM) is a non-conventional machining process that can really help deliver high-quality components productively. For specifics, Kennametal Precision Surface Solutions Product Manager Patrick Matt explains more about the process.

Q: What is PECM?

A: Precision electrochemical machining (PECM) is an electrochemical cavity-sinking erosion process with oscillating electrodes and a regulated working gap. It applies a pulsed direct current between the electrode and the workpiece. The workpiece dissolves anodically in accordance with the geometry of the subsequent electrode. This gives rise to complex geometrical shapes in practically all electrically conductive metals, e.g. in highly-tempered steel, rolling bearing steel, powder-metallurgy steel and super-alloys. PECM thereby also taps applications which could not be manufactured feasibly or at all in the past.

Shaping, drilling, or micro structuring on external or internal areas are typical applications PECM can achieve efficiently. Regarding tolerances, the process the process is able to achieved quality in a 2 to 5µm range. Roughing, finishing, and polishing are typically combined into one operation. Feed rate of cathode between 0,1mm/min -- 2 mm / min (application related).Typically multiple parts are machined within one cycle to achieve an attractive cost per part.

Q: What is the background with this technology?

A: Historically speaking, PECM technology first emerged in the 1990's, exclusively associated with adding fine details to razor blade manufacturing. Machines appeared on the market in 2006, and for the past three years, Kennametal Precision Surface Solutions and PEMTEC became partners to provide PECM Centers to global regions, including China.

Q: What are the key features that drive the adoption of PECM?

Q: What are the benefits of using PECM versus conventional machining processes?

Q: What is the key production criterion and limits to leverage a successful PECM adoption?

Q: What is the potential of PECM technology in the market?

A: PECM has the ability to become more than a niche technology, as it delivers precise products with almost no post-processing effort (deburring, finishing) independent from material hardness, which is the base for lower-cost part production compared to traditional machining.

There is obviously a market demand for such technology for hard-to-machine materials as well as cost pressures forcing the market to nurture innovations. As most of the markets look for higher efficiency, we will see more and more engineered parts coming up (higher stress loaded, smaller, more precise, exotic material hard to machine, etc.). To produce these parts, PECM could become a key process as it ensures the economic competitiveness of their users on the global market.

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