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Journal of Materials Processing Technology 211 (2011) 311

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Journal of Materials Processing Technology
j our nal homepage: www. el sevi er . com/ l ocat e/ j mat pr ot ec
A study on micro-hole machining of polycrystalline diamond by micro-electrical
discharge machining
D. Wang, W.S. Zhao

, L. Gu, X.M. Kang


State Key Laboratory of Mechanical Systemand Vibration, School of Mechanical Engineering, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, 800 Dongchuan Road, Min Hang, Shanghai 200240, China
a r t i c l e i n f o
Article history:
Received 12 January 2010
Received in revised form 24 July 2010
Accepted 30 July 2010
PACS:
81.20.Wk
52.80.Wq
Keywords:
Micro-electrical discharge machining
Polycrystalline diamond
Micro-holes
Micro-machining
a b s t r a c t
Polycrystalline diamond (PCD), with its superior wear and corrosion resistance, is an ideal material for
micro-hole parts in the eld of microfabrication. This study investigated the micro-hole machining per-
formance for PCDs by micro-electrical discharge machining (micro-EDM). A series of experiments were
carried out to investigate the proper machining polarity and the impacts of micro-EDM parameters on
machining performance. Experimental results indicate that negative polarity machining is suitable for
micro-EDM of PCDs because of the protection brought over by the adhesion sticking to the electrode. An
appropriatevolumeof adhesiononthetool electrodecanhelptoincreasethematerial removal rate(MRR)
and reduce the relative tool wear ratio (TWR). By contrast, an excessive volume of adhesion can lead the
machining into a vicious circle in which micro-holes are drilled with overlarge diameters. An optimal
set of machining conditions was chosen among the investigated ranges of nominal capacitance and elec-
trode rotation speed. An exemplary PCD through-hole, machined under the chosen optimal machining
conditions, shows satisfactory machining results.
2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
1. Introduction
Polycrystalline diamond (PCD), produced by sintering selected
diamond particles with a metal matrix together at a high pressure
and a high temperature, has been widely used as dies and cutting
tools in automotive, aerospace and woodworking industries. Due
to its uniformly high hardness, high wear resistance, strong cor-
rosion resistance, good thermal conductivity and many other nice
features, PCD is an ideal material for parts with micro-holes, such
as high pressure injection nozzles, manipulating nozzles or micro-
wire drawing dies. Studies on micro-hole machining of PCDs are
becoming more intensive in the eld of microfabrication.
Presently, the main machining methods for PCDs are grind-
ing machining and electrical discharge machining (EDM). Tso and
Liu (2002) compared the machining effects on a PCD V-cutter
between using EDMand grinding and found that grinding machin-
ing can make a ner PCD surface than EDM with fewer damages.
Low G-ratios, high cutting forces and high wheel costs are, how-
ever, some problems with grinding machining. EDM is a widely
used processing method for PCDs because of its low cost and
processing exibility despite some drawbacks, such as high tool

Corresponding author.
E-mail addresses: yourwangdan@126.com, dwang@sjtu.edu.cn (D. Wang),
zws@sjtu.edu.com (W.S. Zhao), lgu@sjtu.edu.cn (L. Gu), xmkang@sjtu.edu.cn
(X.M. Kang).
wear and low productivity caused by the low electrical conduc-
tivity of PCDs. Combinations of EDM and some other methods
can improve the machining performance. The electrical discharge
grinding process offers a lower cost alternative with inherent
higher accuracy for surface shaping of PCD blanks. Cao and Zhang
(2004) developed a neural network model for an increased explo-
sive electrical discharge grinding process and in their study the
machining performance was improved with the material removal
rate increasedto9.75mm
3
/minandthe depthof diamondtungsten
carbide (WC) interface reduced to 0.03mm. Electrical discharge
milling proposed by Liu et al. (1997) is able to effectively machine
a large surface area on a PCD, where a DC source is employed
and a water-based emulsion is used as the machining uid. Laser
machining is suitable for fabrication of conventional dimension
structures for PCD tools. The laser machining of PCDs conducted
by Harrison and Henry (2006) was rened empirically to improve
cutting edge qualities, reduce surface dross and create com-
plex shapes whilst still achieving a comparatively high cutting
velocity.
When the machining size is less than 1mm, the com-
monly used machining methods are laser micro-machining and
micro-electrical discharge machining (Micro-EDM). Laser micro-
machining, besides the high cost, causes localized fusing of
material, consequently making the holes lose their cylindricity
as reported by Kaminski and Capuano (2003). Hashikawa (2004)
drilled a 100m through-hole on a PCD with laser micro-
machining rst, and then nished with EDM.
0924-0136/$ see front matter 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.jmatprotec.2010.07.034
4 D. Wang et al. / Journal of Materials Processing Technology 211 (2011) 311
Table 1
Erosion resistance index of different materials.
Material Erosion resistance index (10
12
J
2
/(ms kg))
Tungsten 2.99
a
Copper 2.79
a
Steel 0.230
a
PCD About 4
a
These values are reported by Reynaerts et al. (1997).
Micro-EDM has been successfully utilized to fabricate PCD
micro-tools for machining hard and brittle materials due to its low
cost and high machining precision. Wada et al. (2002) shaped a
PCD into a 95m tool by EDM and demonstrated the effective-
ness in machining tungsten carbide, electroless plated nickel and
silicon. Morgan et al. (2004) shaped 50m PCD tools by EDM for
machining brittle glass materials.
With small discharge energy, micro-EDM can remove mate-
rials with small volumes (0.05500m
3
) accurately, which can
achieve high machining precision of micro-holes with a high thick-
ness/diameter ratioona PCD. Sheuet al. (2007) machineda 40m
PCD micro-hole with micro-EDM.
In this study, investigations were conducted to study the
impacts of the machining polarity and the micro-EDM param-
eters on machining. The inuences of the adhesion around the
tool electrode on machining performance under different machin-
ing polarities and micro-EDMparameters were discussed. Besides,
the range of desirable machining conditions including nominal
capacitances and electrode rotation speeds were searched for high
material removal rate(MRR) andlowrelativetool wear ratio(TWR).
Finally, an optimal set of machining conditions was chosen to drill
a high quality through-hole on a PCD.
The rest of this paper is organizedas follows: Section2 discusses
the relationship between micro-EDM performance and physical
properties of a PCD. Section 3 introduces the experimental equip-
ment and methods. Experimental results are given in Section 4,
followedbya discussioninSection5. Aexemplarymachiningis car-
ried out in Section 6 and nally the conclusion is given in Section 7.
2. Relationship between micro-EDM performance and
physical properties of a PCD
EDMis a thermoelectric process inwhichmaterials are removed
from a workpiece by a series of discrete sparks between the
workpiece and the tool electrode immersed in a liquid dielectric
medium. Conductivity and erosion resistance index (ERI) of PCDs
are found to be the two major factors affecting the performance of
micro-EDM.
Althoughthe diamondparticles ina PCDare not electrically con-
ductive, themetallic powder of cobalt or nickel llingtheinterstices
of the diamond particles forms an electrically conductive network,
which provides sufcient conductivity for the occurrence of an
electro-discharge machining process.
The erosion resistance index, used to indicate how suitable a
material can be machined by EDM, can be calculated by (Reynaerts
et al., 1997)
C
m
= cT
2
m
(1)
where C
m
, expressed in 10
12
J
2
/(ms kg), is the erosion resistance
index; , expressed in W/(mK), is the thermal conductivity; c,
expressed in J/(kgK), is the specic heat; and T
m
, expressed in K,
is the melting point.
In EDM, materials with high erosion resistance indices are usu-
ally difcult to be machined, resulting inlowmachining speeds and
high electrode wear. The ERI of PCDlisted in Table 1 is calculated by
Eq. (1) withthe properties listedinTable 2. The specic heat of PCDs
Table 2
Properties of the workpiece material.
Material Polycrystalline diamond
Composition (wt%) C, 5%Co
Grain size (m) 2
Thermal conductivity (W/(mK)) 540
a
Melting point (

C) 3700
b
a
This value is reported by Harrison and Henry (2006).
b
This value is reported by Cao et al. (2009).
is dependant on the types of PCDs. Since the content of diamond
is above 90% in most types of PCDs, the specic heat of diamond,
which is 0.51210
3
J/(kgK) at 20

C as reported by Pierson (1993),


was usedtocalculatethevalueof theERI of PCDs. Table1alsoshows
the values of some other commonly used materials in EDM which
are reported by Reynaerts et al. (1997).
As shown in Table 1, the ERI of a PCD, which is about
410
12
J
2
/(ms kg), is much higher than that of tungsten, which
is 2.9910
12
J
2
/(ms kg). This means that PCD is more difcult to
be eroded by EDM as compared to tungsten. In the EDM for PCDs,
the discharge power is required to be higher than that in the EDM
for tungsten.
The single pulse discharge energy supplied by a RC-relaxation
pulsed power can be calculated by
W
p
=
1
2
(C
n
+C
d
)U
2
(2)
where W
p
is the single pulse discharge energy; C
n
is the nominal
capacitance; C
d
is the discrete capacitance; and U is the voltage of
the pulsed power.
Theoretically, Eq. (2) shows that the discharge energy can be
increased by increasing the voltage and capacitance of a pulsed
power. Practically, however, in micro-EDM with its average diam-
eter in a magnitude of 200m, the electrode is too thin to accept
high discharge energies. When the discharge energy is higher than
100J, the electrode wear will become unacceptably large. In the
PCD micro-EDM experiments of this paper, the voltage of a RC-
relaxation pulsed power was set to be 106V and the nominal
capacitance was chosen to be between 1500 and 15,200pF for
acceptable electrode wear and processing efciency.
3. Experimental equipment and methods
A high-precision micro-machining machine tool, developed by
Shanghai Jiao Tong University, was used for the machining tests
on PCDs. This machine is energized by a RC-relaxation discharge
pulse generator. The motion system of the EDM machine is made
up of three axial linear-motor-driven stages and a spindle motor.
The maximumtravel range of the machine is 200mm(X) 120mm
(Y) 100mm (Z) with a resolution of 0.1m in the X-, Y- and
Z-directions. Full closed-loop feedback control ensures the posi-
tioning accuracy in terms of sub-micron. Fig. 1 represents the
schematic diagram of the set-up of the machine tool.
In order to investigate the performance of the micro-EDM for
PCDs, a 650m thick piece of PCD without WC substrate was used
as a workpiece in this study. The diamond grain size of the PCD is
2m. The binding material of the PCD is cobalt and the content of
cobalt is 5%. The electrodes were silvertungsten alloy rods with
an original diameter of 500mand were fast shaped to a diameter
of 110m by the block electrode discharge grinding method as
reported by Zhao et al. (2006). The dielectric uid used in this study
was kerosene. The important properties of the workpiece and the
electrode are listed in Tables 2 and 3, respectively.
The micro-holes were machined by feeding the tool electrode
with a distance of 300m under different machining conditions
as listed in Table 4. The surface qualities of the micro-holes, the
D. Wang et al. / Journal of Materials Processing Technology 211 (2011) 311 5
Fig. 1. Schematic diagram of experiment set-up.
Table 3
Properties of the electrode material.
Material Silvertungsten alloy
Composition (wt%) W, 1.5%Ag, 10% others
Density (g/cm
3
) 17.7
Hardness (HB) 270
Melting point (

C) 3400
Electrical resistance (cm) 5
surface shapes of the tool electrodes after machining, the material
removal rate and the relative tool wear ratio were investigated.
Each experiment was repeated three times and their results were
averaged to improve reliability.
The electrode dressing is necessary because the tool electrode is
wornout andis coveredbytheadhesioncomposedof heat-resolved
carbon and graphite after every micro-hole machining. Therefore,
the electrode dressing was carried out after each micro-hole EDM.
In this dressing process, the electrode was dressed by a sacricial
block of silvertungsten alloys, and the dressed electrode was then
used as the positive polarity and the sacricial block was used as
the negative polarity.
Material removal rate (MRR), expressed in mm
3
/min, is dened
as the ratio of the average volume of the material removed to the
machining time. Relative tool wear ratio (TWR), expressed in %, is
calculated by
TWR =
L
w
D
m
100 % (3)
where L
w
is the change in the length of the tool electrode in each
machining, and D
m
is the depth of the micro-hole in each machin-
ing. The L
w
was measured after each machining.
In order to obtain the images of the micro-holes for checking
the surface quality, a scanning electron microscope (SEM) (JSM-
6460, JEOL Ltd.) was used. A confocal Raman microscope (Raman)
(LabRam-1B, JOBIN-YVON) was also used to analyze the surface
property changes of the electrode material after a micro-EDMpro-
Table 4
Machining conditions for micro-hole machining on PCD by micro-EDM.
Experimental conditions Value/property
Pulse generator type RC
Polarity Positive polarity, negative polarity
Voltage of pulsed power (U)/(V) 106
Nominal capacitance (Cn)/(pF) 1500, 5700, 7200, 11,000, 15,200
Electrode rotation speed (n)/(rpm) 1000, 3000, 5000, 7000, 9000
Peak current (Ap)/(mA) 320
Resistance (R)/(k) Fixed to 1.2
cess. The changes of the electrode shapes during the micro-EDM
process were monitored using an online vision system.
4. Experiment results
4.1. Polarity experiments
Machining polarity has a great impact on the performance of
micro-EDM. In this study, the proper polarity of the micro-EDMfor
PCDs was chosen by comparing the tool wear length during the
micro-hole machining by feeding the tool electrode a distance of
300m against the PCD under different polarity machining condi-
tions. Fig. 2 shows the tool wear length after positive and negative
polarity machining. It can be found from Fig. 2 that the tool elec-
trode wear length is more than 240m in the positive polarity
machining where the workpiece is used as the anode and the elec-
trodeas thecathode. Bycontrast, inthenegativepolaritymachining
where the workpiece is used as the cathode and the electrode as
the anode, the tool wear length is less than 120m, which is about
half of the value in the positive polarity machining. The negative
polarity machining is, therefore, more favorable in micro-EDM for
PCDs. Hence, the following experiments in this paper were carried
out in negative polarity machining.
In addition, the electrodes before and after different polarity
machining have been measured by the SEM as shown in Fig. 3.
Compared with the tool electrode with a diameter of 110m
before machining as shown in Fig. 3(a), the electrode after negative
polarity machining is adhered with a large volume of adhesion as
shown in Fig. 3(b). By contrast, Fig. 3(c) shows an electrode after
micro-EDM on the PCD in positive polarity machining, and it can
be seen that there are little volume of adhesion on the forepart of
the electrode.
In order to analyze the composition of the adhesion on the elec-
trode produced during the machining, points A and B on the same
electrode as shown in parts (a) and (b) of Fig. 3 were measured by
Raman spectroscopy and the results of spectroscopy are shown in
Fig. 4. Raman spectroscopy is commonly used in studying changes
in chemical bonding since it can identify the chemical bonds and
symmetry of molecules. For instance, Raman spectroscopy was
used to probe the microstructure of diamond lms by Bennett et
al. (2004).
In Fig. 4, curve (B) has a band centered at 1334cm
1
denoting
amorphous carbon (a mixture of sp2- and sp3-bonded carbon),and
Fig. 2. Tool electrode wear length vs. machining polarity (other machining condi-
tions: U=106V, R=1.2k, Ap =320mA.).
6 D. Wang et al. / Journal of Materials Processing Technology 211 (2011) 311
Fig. 3. SEM images of the electrode before and after different polarity machining.(a) The electrode before micro-EDM. (b) The electrode after micro-EDM of PCD in negative
polarity machining. (The forepart of the electrode is adhered with a large volume of adhesion.) (c) The electrode after micro-EDMof PCDin positive polarity machining. (Little
volume of adhesion is adhered on the top of the electrode.)
Fig. 4. The comparison of the Raman spectra of the tool electrode before and after
negative polarity machining.
two bands centered at 1580cm
1
and 1597cm
1
both denoting
graphite as illustratedbythe arrows inFig. 4, respectively. The simi-
lar bands, however, cannot be foundincurve (A). The bands incurve
(B) indicate the existence of amorphous carbon and graphite on the
electrode after machining while curve (A) indicates that there is no
amorphous carbon and graphite on the electrode before machin-
ing. This indicates that the adhesiononthe tool electrode, produced
during the negative polarity machining, is a mixture of amorphous
carbon and graphite.
4.2. Characteristics of micro-EDM in negative polarity machining
In order to nd the inuences of the electrode rotation speed (n)
and the nominal capacitance (C
n
) on the machining performance,
a series of experiments were carried out by negative polarity
machining under various electrode rotation speeds and nominal
capacitances as shown in Table 4.
4.2.1. Quality of the micro-holes
Fig. 5 shows the SEMimages of the entrances of the micro-holes
obtained at different nominal capacitances of 1500pF, 5700pF
and 11,000pF as well as different electrode rotation speeds from
D. Wang et al. / Journal of Materials Processing Technology 211 (2011) 311 7
Fig. 5. SEM images of the entrance of the micro-holes obtained by micro-EDM. The diameters of the micro-holes machined at the nominal capacitance of 1500pF are much
larger than those machined at other nominal capacitances: (a) at 1500pF and 3000 rpm, (b) at 1500pF and 5000 rpm, (c) at 1500pF and 7000 rpm, (d) at 1500pF and 9000
rpm, (e) at 5700pF and 3000 rpm, (f) at 5700pF and 5000 rpm, (g) at 5700pF and 7000 rpm, (h) at 5700pF and 9000 rpm, (i) at 11,000pF and 3000 rpm, (j) at 11,000pF and
5000 rpm, (k) at 11,000pF and 7000 rpm and (l) at 11,000pF and 9000 rpm.
3000rpmto 9000rpm. It can be observed fromFig. 5 that the aver-
age diameter of the micro-holes is approximately 130m, while
the micro-holes, machined at the nominal capacitance of 1500pF
and the electrode rotation speed of 3000rpm, have a maximum
diameter of about 200m. Moreover, although the diameters of
the micro-holes machined at the nominal capacitance of 1500pF
decline slightly with the increase of the electrode rotation speed,
the diameters of these micro-holes are still much larger than
those machined at other nominal capacitances and result in higher
machining geometrical errors. Therefore, the nominal capacitance
should be larger than 1500pF for high machining precision.
4.2.2. Adhesion on tool electrodes after machining
The photos in Fig. 6, which were obtained by the online vision
system, show the tool electrodes after micro-EDM at different
nominal capacitances of 1500pF, 5700pF and 11,000pF as well as
different electrode rotation speeds from 3000rpm to 9000rpm. It
can be seen that there is some adhesion sticking to the electrodes
after machining and the volumes of the adhesion on the electrodes
in Fig. 6(a) through Fig. 6(d) are much larger than those in parts (e)
through (l) of Fig. 6.
4.2.3. Impacts of electrode rotation speed and nominal
capacitance on MRR
The inuences of the electrode rotation speed and nominal
capacitance onMRRwiththe electrode rotationspeedranging from
1000rpm to 9000rpm and the nominal capacitance ranging from
1500pF to 15,200pF are shown in Fig. 7. It can be found that with
theincreaseof theelectroderotationspeed, thecurves of MRRshow
a general upward trend until reaching a maximumat the electrode
rotation speed of 7000rpm and then decrease afterwards. Mean-
while, Fig. 7presents that the curves of MRRshowa general upward
trendwiththe increase of the nominal capacitance, withone excep-
tion where the MRRs at the nominal capacitance of 15,200pF are
lower thanthevalueat 11,000pFwhentheelectroderotationspeed
is above 5000rpm.
4.2.4. Impacts of electrode rotation speed and nominal
capacitance on TWR
The inuences of the electrode rotation speed and nominal
capacitance onTWRwiththe electrode rotationspeedrangingfrom
1000rpm to 9000rpm and the nominal capacitance ranging from
1500pF to 15,200pF are shown in Fig. 8. It is noted that the TWR
declines to a minimum along with the electrode rotation speed up
to 7000rpm and then rises slightly with the increase of the elec-
trode rotation speed. It is also noticed from the curves at various
nominal capacitance from top to bottom in Fig. 8 that the TWR
decreases as the nominal capacitance increases, and the rate of
decline, however, slows down when the nominal capacitance is
more than 7200pF.
5. Discussion
This sectionrst discusses the inuences of the adhesionaround
the tool electrode on the machining performances under different
8 D. Wang et al. / Journal of Materials Processing Technology 211 (2011) 311
Fig. 6. Tool electrodes after micro-EDM on PCD. The volumes of the adhesion on the electrodes in Fig. 6(a) through Fig. 6(d) are much larger than those in parts (e) through
(l) of Fig. 6: (a) at 1500pF and 3000 rpm, (b) at 1500pF and 5000 rpm, (c) at 1500pF and 7000 rpm, (d) at 1500pF and 9000 rpm, (e) at 5700pF and 3000 rpm, (f) at 5700pF
and 5000 rpm, (g) at 5700pF and 7000 rpm, (h) at 5700pF and 9000 rpm, (i) at 11,000pF and 3000 rpm, (j) at 11,000pF and 5000 rpm, (k) at 11,000pF and 7000 rpm and (l)
at 11,000pF and 9000 rpm.
Fig. 7. MRR vs. electrode rotation speed and nominal capacitance.
machining polarities and micro-EDM parameters, then the inu-
ences of micro-EDM parameters on MRR and TWR, and nally the
choice of the optimal machining conditions.
5.1. Inuence of the adhesion on machining performances under
different machining polarities
Referring to Section 4.1, where the content of the adhesion is
analyzed by Raman spectroscopy, the adhesion on a tool electrode
during machining is mainly produced from two sources. Firstly, a
large volume of graphite in the adhesion is converted fromthe dia-
monds in a PCD owing to a high energy density and a very high
temperature (up to 10,000

C) caused by the spark discharges in


micro-EDM. Secondly, the carbon in this adhesion is generated
through the breakdown of the dielectric during the micro-EDM
process in kerosene.
This adhesion, mainly composed of graphite and heat-resolved
carbon, usually adheres around the anode under the electric eld
between the electrode and the workpiece. In negative polarity
machining, the electrode wear length is short because the elec-
trode can be protected by the adhesion. By contrast, in positive
polarity machining, the adhesion attaches to the PCD workpiece,
instead of the electrode, under the electric eld between the elec-
D. Wang et al. / Journal of Materials Processing Technology 211 (2011) 311 9
Fig. 8. TWR vs. electrode rotation speed and nominal capacitance.
trode and the workpiece. This adhesion on the PCDcan prevent the
PCD from being eroded as well as causes extremely high electrode
wear. Based on the analysis above, negative polarity machining
gives much better performance in the micro-EDM of PCD.
5.2. Inuence of the adhesion around the tool electrode on
machining performance with different micro-EDM parameters
The volume of adhesion attaching to the tool electrode varies
under different machining conditions as shown in Fig. 6. An appro-
priate volume of adhesiononthe tool electrode canhelpto increase
the MRR and reduce the TWR, due to the protection to the elec-
trode provided by the adhesion. This protection is effective only if
the adhesion is sufcient.
Conversely, anexcessivevolumeof adhesionstickingtotheelec-
trode has an adverse effect on the machining process in such a way
that the discharge gap is made too small to remove the debris away
fromthe machined zone. The deteriorated machining environment
brings over an increase of abnormal discharges and short-circuits,
thus resulting in poor machining performance, such as a low MRR
anda highTWR. AlowMRR, inturn, leads to a prolongedmachining
time, which makes it easier for the carbon and graphite to contin-
uously accumulate on the electrode during the machining process.
This accumulated adhesion once again slows down the MRR. The
machining is, thus, stuck into a vicious circle.
Examples of the vicious machining circle with large volumes
of adhesion on the electrode are found in a series of micro-EDM
experiments shown in Fig. 6. It can be seen that the volumes of
adhesion on the electrodes in parts (a) through (d) of Fig. 6, where
the nominal capacitance is at 1500pF, are much larger than those
in parts (e) through (h) of Fig. 6, where the nominal capacitance is
at 5700pF, as well as those in parts (i) through (l) of Fig. 6, where
the nominal capacitance is at 11,000pF. Accordingly, by referring to
Figs. 7 and 8, it is noticed that, when the nominal capacitance is at
1500pF, the MRR is lower than 210
4
mm
3
/min and the TWR is
higher than 60%. These facts indicate that the machining gets stuck
into a vicious circle under these machining conditions.
Besides its effect on MRR and TWR, the adhesion is also found
to have a relationship with the diameter of mirco-EDM holes, as
demonstrated by the comparison between Figs. 5 and 6. In Fig. 5,
the diameters of the micro-holes in the rst row, where the nom-
inal capacitance is at 1500pF, are much lager than those in the
second and third rows. Correspondingly, in Fig. 6 under the same
machining conditions where the nominal capacitance is at 1500pF,
Fig. 9. Contour plot of MRR (mm
3
/min) vs. electrode rotation speed and nominal
capacitance.
the adhesion on the electrodes is overmuch after machining. This
adhesion, composed of amorphous carbon and graphite, is conduc-
tive and becomes a part of the tool electrode to drill holes. Thus the
micro-holes with overlarge diameters are undesirable machining
results when the electrode is adhered by an excessive large volume
of adhesion.
5.3. Inuences of micro-EDM parameters on machining
performance
It canbe seenfromFigs. 7and8that the electrode rotationspeed
and the nominal capacitance affect the machining performance
simultaneously. On one hand, with the increase of the electrode
rotation speed, the MRR rises and the TWR reduces due to a higher
discharge frequency caused by a faster transfer of discharge points.
However, when the electrode rotation speed is at the value of
9000rpm, the MRR falls and the TWR rises accordingly because
the high owrate of the dielectric uid can diminish the protective
effect of the adhesion on the electrode by ushing the adhesion
away.
On the other hand, as the nominal capacitance becomes larger,
the MRRincreases and the TWRgoes down as a result of more pow-
erful explosions and faster removal of debris. One special situation
is that, when the nominal capacitance is as high as 15,200pF and
the electrode rotation speed is larger than 5000rpm, the discharge
situation is worsened because an excessive volume of carbon and
debris are produced by a high discharge energy at a high discharge
frequency. As the machining environment deteriorates, the MRR
at the nominal capacitance of 15,200pF is lower than the value at
11,000pF.
In order to have an overall picture on howthe MRR and TWR are
affected by the electrode rotation speed and the nominal capaci-
tance, according to the experimental results in Figs. 7 and 8, the
contour plots of MRR and TWR with respect to electrode rota-
tion speed and nominal capacitance are drawn in Figs. 9 and 10,
respectively. Linear interpolation is used when the contours are
plotted between experimentally recorded points. These two g-
ures clearly show that both MRR and TWR can be considered as
a function of electrode rotation speed and nominal capacitance. It
can be found fromFigs. 9 and 10 that good machining performance
can be achieved when the nominal capacitance is in a range from
7200pF to 15,200pF and the electrode rotation speed is in a range
from5000rpmto 9000rpm. Under these ranges of machining con-
10 D. Wang et al. / Journal of Materials Processing Technology 211 (2011) 311
Fig. 10. Contour plot of TWR (%) vs. electrode rotation speed and nominal capaci-
tance.
ditions, onone hand, the MRRis higher than310
4
mm
3
/minand
theTWRis lower than50%; ontheother hand, themicro-holes, with
a diameter about 130mas shown in Fig. 5, showgood machining
qualities.
By examining the maximal MRR as indicated by the small cir-
cle in Fig. 9 and the minimal TWR as indicated by a small circle
in Fig. 10, a set of optimal machining conditions, which include a
nominal capacitance of 11,000pF and an electrode rotation speed
of 7000rpm, was chosen for maximizing the MRR and minimizing
the TWR. Under this combinationof machiningconditions, the MRR
can reach a maximum of 5.1610
4
mm
3
/min as shown in Fig. 9
and the TWR can reach a minimum of 27% as shown in Fig. 10.
6. Machining example
In order to test the micro-through-hole machining perfor-
mance under the optimal machining conditions chosen in Section
5, a machining example was carried out on a 650m-thick PCD
workpiece. The group of optimal machining conditions and their
machining results are listed in Table 5. The SEM images in Fig. 11
show both the entrance and exit side of a micro-hole machined
under this group of machining conditions. FromTable 5 and Fig. 11,
it can be seen that the difference between the entrance and exit
diameters of this micro-hole is as small as 3mand the machining
quality of this hole is satisfactory. Fig. 12 shows the image of the
electrode after the machining for this micro-hole. It is noticeable
Table 5
Optimal machining conditions and their results of the micro-hole micro-EDM.
Machining conditions and results Value
n (rpm) 7000
Cn (pF) 11,000
Electrode diameter (m) 100
Hole diameter of Entrance side (m) 145
Hole diameter of Entrance side (m) 142
Machining time (min) 18
Electrode wear length (m) 183
U=106V; R=1200; Ap =320mA.
Fig. 12. SEMimage of the electrode after micro-EDMon the PCD. A volume of adhe-
sion produced in the machining process sticks to the forepart of the electrode and
covers the prole of the electrode.
that the adhesion produced during the machining process sticks to
the forepart of the electrode and covers the prole of the electrode.
7. Conclusions
In this study the machining performance of micro-hole machin-
ing on PCDs by micro-EDM has been studied. A series of
experiments were carriedout to investigate the impacts of machin-
ing polarity, electrode rotation speed and nominal capacitance on
the material removal rate (MRR) and the relative wear ratio (TWR),
as well as to discuss the inuence of the adhesion around the tool
electrode on machining performance.
It is demonstrated that favorable machining performance of
micro-EDMonPCDs canbeachievedinnegativepolaritymachining
as compared to positive polarity machining. This can be explained
that the electrode in negative polarity machining can be protected
by the adhesion composed of heat-resolved carbon and graphite.
An appropriate volume of adhesion on the tool electrode can
help to increase the MRR and reduce the TWR by protecting the
electrode. Conversely, an excessive volume of adhesion sticking to
the electrode has an adverse effect on the machining process and
Fig. 11. SEM images of the micro-EDMed hole on a 650m-thick PCD piece: (a) entrance side and (b) exit side.
D. Wang et al. / Journal of Materials Processing Technology 211 (2011) 311 11
can lead the machining into a vicious circle in which micro-holes
are drilled with overlarge diameters.
The electrode rotation speed and the nominal capacitance affect
the machining performance simultaneously. With the increase of
the electrode rotation speed, the MRR increases rst until peaking
at a maximum and then decrease afterwards, and meanwhile, the
TWR declines to a minimum and then rises slightly.
With the increase of the nominal capacitance, on one hand, the
MRR shows a general upward trend, on the other hand, the TWR
shows a general downward trend and the rate of decline slows
down.
An optimal set of machining conditions was chosen among the
investigated ranges of nominal capacitance and electrode rotation
speed. An exemplary PCD through-hole, machined under the cho-
sen optimal machining conditions, shows satisfactory machining
results.
Acknowledgments
This research is nancially supported by the National Natural
ScienceFoundationof Chinaas akeyproject withthegrant number:
50635040, and the Ministry of Science and Technology of China
with the grant number: 2006AA04Z332.
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