Electric Discharge Machining (EDM) is essential for shaping and cutting tool steel. EDM’s precision in machining difficult materials and tool steel characteristics are well known. EDM efficiency requires reliable performance measurement parameters. The physical shape and mobility of the electrode tool are critical in EDM research. Layer machining is an advanced method that removes material in a sequential manner to produce intricate 3D shapes in tool steel and several other materials. The improvement in layer machining methods with precise toolpath algorithms, adaptive layer thickness management, and real-time monitoring systems is required to maximize precision and efficiency. Response surface methodology, the artificial neural network, and other techniques are necessary to optimize EDM operations and maximize performance. Many researchers experimented with electrode shapes and movement patterns to enhance the removal of material and the quality of surfaces. Investigation of complex electrode structures and innovative tool path strategies has been performed in previous studies. It was very difficult to consider various factors during the EDM operation; hence, the present review summarizes the positive outcomes of previous research. The review emphasizes optimizing pulse duration and discharge current to improve EDM efficiency. The present comprehensive review discusses research on EDM in three main areas: electrode tool geometry and motion, tool steel layer processing, and factors for measuring EDM performance. The objective of the present review is to focus on measuring material removal rates, surface roughness, tool wear, and energy usage. The present review concludes that EDM is crucial to machining tool steel and cutting tool materials. Integrating and hybrid machining technologies can improve performance, and improved optimization techniques are crucial. It also recognizes knowledge gaps and explores new frontiers in this dynamic field.

The utilization of electrical discharge machining (EDM) is very prevalent in the industrial industry owing to its ability to produce complicated geometries and features from materials that possess high hardness and are challenging to create. The technique described herein pertains to the deliberate and regulated elimination of substances by a sequence of electrical discharges occurring between a tool and a workpiece, both of which are submerged in a dielectric liquid. Electrical Discharge Machining (EDM) has seen a significant uptick in popularity in recent years as a result of its efficiency in producing complex geometries and work with hard materials, all while preserving exceptional precision and surface quality.1,2 EDM is especially useful for manufacturing components for the aerospace, medical, and automotive industries, where high precision and surface finish are key requirements.

The qualities of the materials used in the workpiece and the tool, the energy of the pulse, the frequency of the discharge, and the type of dielectric used all contribute to how well EDM works. Many studies have been conducted to determine the best settings for the EDM process and its characteristics while working with different materials. Pulse duration, discharge current, and tool electrode material have all been studied as they relate to machining titanium alloys.3,4 Other studies have examined the efficiency of EDM on tungsten carbide, ceramics, and super alloys.5–7 There is progress in understanding and streamlining the EDM processes, but some challenges still need to be addressed. One of the primary constraints associated with Electrical Discharge Machining (EDM) is its relatively low rate of material removal (MRR). This can lead to longer processing times and higher costs.8 Additionally, the formation of over-molded layers and microcracks on the machined surface can compromise the integrity and performance of the final product.9 To overcome these challenges, researchers have explored various techniques such as powder mixing EDM, ultrasonically assisted EDM, and electrochemically assisted EDM.10–12 

Electrical Discharge Machining (EDM) can be broadly categorized into two primary types: wire Electrical Discharge Machining (EDM) and sinking Electrical Discharge Machining (EDM). Wire electrical discharge machining (EDM) is a machining process that uses a slender wire, which is electrically charged, to effectively sever the workpiece. In contrast, sink electrical discharge machining (EDM) utilizes specially shaped electrodes to generate cavities or distinctive characteristics inside the workpiece.13 

The materials commonly employed in Electrical Discharge Machining (EDM) encompass graphite, copper–tungsten, and copper–tellurium. Graphite is extensively employed as an electrode material owing to its exceptional thermal conductivity, minimal wear rate, and favorable machinability.13 Copper–tungsten and copper–tellurium alloys are utilized in many applications that demand elevated processing velocities and superior surface quality.14 Significant advancements have been made in comprehending and optimizing the electric discharge machining (EDM) process, yet there remain unresolved obstacles that necessitate attention and resolution. One of the primary constraints associated with Electrical Discharge Machining (EDM) is its comparatively low rate of material removal (MRR). This phenomenon has the potential to result in extended processing durations and increased financial expenditures.15 Furthermore, it should be noted that the presence of excess mold layers and tiny cracks on the surface of the machined part has the potential to undermine the overall integrity and performance of the end product.16 Different methodologies have been adopted to address this issue, including powder mixing EDM, ultrasonically assisted EDM, and electrochemically assisted EDM.17–19 A cluster diagram showing the relationship among electric discharge machining of tool steel and other cutting tool materials is depicted in Fig. 1.

FIG. 1.

Cluster diagram showing the relationship among electric discharge machining of tool steel and other cutting tool materials.

FIG. 1.

Cluster diagram showing the relationship among electric discharge machining of tool steel and other cutting tool materials.

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An evaluation of the process parameters in Wire Electrical Discharge Machining (WEDM) for Inconel 718 utilizing the Taguchi method shows the influence of process factors on surface integrity during the erosion of Inconel 718.20 The machining performance can be improved by powder mixing EDM, ultrasonically assisted EDM, and electrochemically assisted EDM.21–25 These procedures have demonstrated the ability to enhance the MRR and surface finish while concurrently mitigating the occurrence of haze layer development and microcracking on machined surfaces. A desire function technique can be employed to optimize the parameters of electrical discharge machining (EDM) for Inconel 718.26 Improving EDM’s machining performance and getting around its restrictions requires optimizing the process’s parameters and employing cutting-edge methods. Further enhancement in total EDM performance is possible by the use of multi-objective optimization techniques, which optimize numerous performance measures simultaneously.

The functionality of the manufactured item is heavily dependent on the standard of the machined surface. Parameters for measuring performance are thus vital for gauging the efficacy of the EDM procedure. Material removal rate (MRR), surface roughness (SR), and tool wear rate (TWR) are just a few of the performance indicators.27–29 The pulse on time, pulse off time, peak current, and spark gap voltage are all process utilized characteristics that might affect MRR and SR.30–32 Performance metrics are also affected by the dielectric fluid type and concentration in the EDM process.33 TWR and surface finish are strongly influenced by the geometry and substance of the tool electrode.34,35 The study recommended several methods for optimizing the EDM process parameters in order to raise the standard of the performance measurements, including the Response Surface Methodology (RSM), the Artificial Neural Network (ANN), and the Genetic Algorithm (GA).36–38 A flow chart depicting the evaluation process of the effectiveness of the EDM process is shown in Fig. 2.

FIG. 2.

Flow chart depicting the evaluation process of the effectiveness of the EDM process.

FIG. 2.

Flow chart depicting the evaluation process of the effectiveness of the EDM process.

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In EDM research, machined surface characteristics have improved significantly. Low MRR and high TWR persist in EDM techniques for new industrial materials, despite encouraging findings. These concerns need more research. Most reports indicate that the discharge current is the primary factor affecting MRR while cutting various stainless steel grades on the EDM. However, pulse duration time, gas pressure, and electrode tool rotation speed also affect MRR, and strip-EDM can improve MRR over wire-EDM.

In order to increase the efficiency of EDM, the evaluation places an emphasis on properly adjusting the pulse duration and discharge current. This present thorough review examines research on EDM in three primary areas: the geometry and motion of the electrode tool, the processing of the tool steel layer, and the criteria that are used to measure effective EDM performance. Measurement of material removal rates, surface roughness, tool wear, and energy consumption are the primary focuses of the present review. For the purpose of machining tool steel and cutting tool materials, the present review comes to the conclusion that EDM is essential. There is potential for performance enhancement through the integration and hybridization of machining methods, and enhanced optimization approaches are essential. Moreover, it acknowledges the existence of knowledge gaps and investigates new horizons in this rapidly evolving science.

The basic details of the EDM process parameters are shown in Sec. I. The details of the different materials and methods required for the EDM process are covered in Sec. II. The performance measures for the EDM process are explained in Sec. III. The performance measures of layer machining, combined machining, and hybrid machining are described in Secs. IV and V. Various improvement techniques to improve EDM performance are shown in Sec. VI. Section VII contains challenges, possible solutions, and future directions in the EDM of cutting tool materials. At the end, some conclusions are drawn.

Most tool materials can be put into two groups: traditional and modern. High-speed steel, cemented carbide (WC–Co), and tool steel are all materials that are often used to make cutting tools. Ceramics, cermets, polycrystalline cubic boron nitride (PCBN), and diamonds are some of the more advanced materials for cutting tools.39,40 EDM-related features of materials used for cutting: The choice of material for EDM cutting rests on several aspects of the EDM process. Some features are as follows:

  • Melting point: The melting point is an important feature of cutting tool materials that affects how well they work during EDM. To keep the cutting tool material from melting too quickly and wearing away, it needs to have a high melting point, like, cermets, and diamonds.

  • Conductivity of heat: The ability of cutting tool materials to move heat is another important feature that affects how well they work during EDM. To get rid of the heat generated by the EDM process and keep the cutting tool material from being damaged by heat, the material needs to be good at transferring heat. Copper–tungsten (Cu–W) and copper–molybdenum (Cu–Mo) metals are often used as electrodes for spark erosion41 because they are good at moving heat.

  • Hardness: Another important feature that affects how well cutting tools work during EDM is how hard they are. During the EDM process, it is best to have a material that is hard enough to fight wear and erosion. Materials like HSS and WC-Co that have been used for cutting for a long time are hard, but newer materials like diamond and PCBN are even harder.42 

  • Wear resistance: Another important feature that affects how well cutting tools work during EDM is how well they do not wear down. A tool with high resistance to wear will last longer and cost less to make. WC-Co and ceramics have a high resistance to wear and are often used as spark erosion cutting materials.43  Table I depicts the properties of tool materials.

TABLE I.

Properties of tool materials.

PropertyDescriptionExamplesReferences
Melting point High melting point is desirable to avoid premature Ceramics, cermets. diamond 44  
  melting and erosion of the cutting tool material   
Thermal conductivity EDM heat must be removed with high thermal  Copper–molybdenum(Cu–Mo) alloys, 41  
 conductivity to safeguard cutting tool material  Copper–tungsten(Cu–W)  
Hardness High hardness is desirable to resist wear HSS.WC-Co. Diamond. PCBN 42  
 and erosion during the EDM process   
Wear resistance High wear resistance is desirable to prolong WC-Co. Ceramics 43  
  the tool life and reduce machining costs   
PropertyDescriptionExamplesReferences
Melting point High melting point is desirable to avoid premature Ceramics, cermets. diamond 44  
  melting and erosion of the cutting tool material   
Thermal conductivity EDM heat must be removed with high thermal  Copper–molybdenum(Cu–Mo) alloys, 41  
 conductivity to safeguard cutting tool material  Copper–tungsten(Cu–W)  
Hardness High hardness is desirable to resist wear HSS.WC-Co. Diamond. PCBN 42  
 and erosion during the EDM process   
Wear resistance High wear resistance is desirable to prolong WC-Co. Ceramics 43  
  the tool life and reduce machining costs   

EDM tool material selection depends on several criteria specific to the EDM process. The criteria are as follows:

  • The rate of waste disposal: Efficiency in electrical discharge machining (EDM) is significantly impacted by the material removal rate (MRR). For faster machining and more efficiency, high MRR grades are recommended. Typically employed as electrodes in electrical discharge machining,45 copper–tungsten (Cu–W) and copper–molybdenum (Cu–Mo) alloys have high MRR.

  • Roughness of the surface: An essential parameter that impacts the standard of excellence achieved by the final product is the surface roughness of the surface to be machined. Materials for cutting tools are preferred if they leave a clean cut. The surface polish of ceramics and cermets is generally higher than that of traditional cutting tool materials.46 

  • Electrode wears: The wear of electrodes is a significant factor that influences the precision of machining, the quality of the surface finish, and the lifespan of the tool.47 Throughout the course of the procedure, the electrodes undergo erosion due to the presence of high-energy sparks, leading to a decrease in both their dimensions and overall form. The pace at which electrode depletion occurs is influenced by various parameters, including discharge current, pulse duration, gap distance, electrode material, and cleaning conditions.48 The wear rate can be decreased by optimizing the settings to decrease the discharge energy and the number of sparks per unit area.49 Moreover, the use of electrode materials with superior quality and resistance to wear, such as copper–tungsten, graphite, and copper–chromium–zirconium alloys, leads to an extended lifespan of the electrodes and a decrease in the expenses associated with machining.50,51 In order to mitigate the wearing of electrodes, scholars have additionally devised several methodologies, such as rotating-electrode Electrical Discharge Machining (EDM), multi-electrode EDM, and adaptive EDM.52–54 Through the process of distributing wear across a larger surface area and implementing automatic electrode changes, these technological advancements serve to prolong the lifespan of tools and enhance the productivity of machining operations. Cutting material selection criteria are depicted in Table II.

TABLE II.

Cutting material selection criteria.

CriteriaEffects on EDM processExamples
Material removal rate Efficiency productivity Copper–tungsten/ 
(MRR)45   copper–molybdenum alloy 
Surface roughness46  Quality Ceramics cermets (produce 
   smoother surface finish) 
Electrode wear47–54  Machining accuracy surface finish Copper–tungsten graphite 
 tool life machining cost copper–chromium–zirconium alloys 
CriteriaEffects on EDM processExamples
Material removal rate Efficiency productivity Copper–tungsten/ 
(MRR)45   copper–molybdenum alloy 
Surface roughness46  Quality Ceramics cermets (produce 
   smoother surface finish) 
Electrode wear47–54  Machining accuracy surface finish Copper–tungsten graphite 
 tool life machining cost copper–chromium–zirconium alloys 

The performance and quality of the machined surface are greatly influenced by the qualities of the electrodes used in the EDM process. To get the optimum processing efficiency and surface smoothness, choosing the right electrode material is crucial. Copper, graphite, tungsten, and their alloys are common electrode materials in electrical discharge machining. Because of its high ability to conduct heat and its good ability to be machined,55 copper is frequently utilized as an electrode material. However, graphite electrodes have good electrical conductivity and are resistant to degradation.56 Tungsten and its alloys are favored because they are strong, tough, and resistant to wear.57 The recast layer and microcracks formed on the surface of the coating are shown in Fig. 3.

FIG. 3.

Recast layers and microcracks formed on the surface of the coating.57 (“Reproduced with permission from Mohanty et al., J. Manuf. Processes 37, 28–41 (2019). Copyright 2018, Elsevier Ltd. on behalf of The Society of Manufacturing Engineers.”)

FIG. 3.

Recast layers and microcracks formed on the surface of the coating.57 (“Reproduced with permission from Mohanty et al., J. Manuf. Processes 37, 28–41 (2019). Copyright 2018, Elsevier Ltd. on behalf of The Society of Manufacturing Engineers.”)

Close modal

In traditional materials like high-speed steel and cemented carbide, as well as advanced alternatives such as ceramics and diamond, various characteristics impact their suitability for EDM. Factors such as melting point, thermal conductivity, hardness, and wear resistance influence material selection. Materials having high melting points, good thermal conductivity, high hardness, and wear resistance are preferred in EDM applications as they can endure high temperatures, effectively dissipate heat, and maintain tool integrity.

EDM’s precision surface production relies on precision, and polishing electrode design is essential. The desired form, dimensions, and configuration of the machined features, the kind of material, and the EDM process parameters all affect the electrodes’ shape, size, and configuration. Cylindrical, spherical, and intricate geometries, like conical and threaded electrodes, are typical electrode shapes.58 The feature size, removal rate, and other EDM process variables all play a role in determining the electrode size. Additionally, electrode configuration may impact EDM process performance. Electrode wear can be decreased and removal rates can be increased with multi-electrode systems.59 

For the EDM process to deliver the desired performance and quality, the electrode production process is equally crucial. Conventional machining, electrical discharge machining, and additive manufacturing are common processes for producing electrodes. In conventional machining, the electrode material is cut using a CNC machine into electrodes of the required size and shape. Additionally, electrodes with intricate shapes and dimensions are made by galvanic corrosion from conductive materials like copper and graphite.60 Considering their capacity to create intricate shapes and structures with great precision, additive manufacturing processes like 3D printing are becoming more and more common in the electrode manufacturing industry.61 There are several facets of electrode production and design for EDM. These include the use of selective laser melting, the impact of electrode geometry on tool wear rate,62 and the impact of electrode material and manufacturing method on tool wear and material removal rate.63 They created electrodes with effective flushing in EDM utilizing micro-EDM electrode fabrication techniques,64 mixed powder EDM analysis of electrode wear rate and surface roughness,65 and topology optimization.66 Electrode design and manufacturing techniques. The flow chart is shown in Fig. 4.

FIG. 4.

Electrode design and manufacturing techniques.

FIG. 4.

Electrode design and manufacturing techniques.

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The electrode design in electrical discharge machining is based on the specificity of the feature material and process parameters to achieve precise production surfaces. Most designs are, however, not precise. Cylinders, spherical, conical, and threaded are all common shapes of the electrode. Performance is influenced by the size and configuration of the electrodes, with multi-electrode systems being more effective in reducing wear and increasing material removal rates. Conventional machining galvanic corrosion and additive manufacturing are all methods used to produce electrodes. The use of multiple techniques, including selective laser melting and optimization of topology, contributes to effective electrode design and improves EDM performance.

High speed steel is a popular choice for cutting tools because of its high hardenability, resistance to wear, and toughness even when heated to high temperatures.67 Iron, carbon, and alloying elements such as tungsten, molybdenum, and vanadium are the main components of HSS.68 Different tool grades have different compositions and physical traits that make them appropriate for particular cutting tasks.

Tool steel variety, grades.

The three most common kinds of tool steel are as follows:

  • Steels for cold-work tools.

  • Steels for hot-work tools.

  • Tools made from high-speed steels.

Due to its remarkable mixture of resistance to wear, toughness, and heat, the degree of hardness M2 is the most often used tool steel grade. It contains 4%–6% molybdenum, 4%–6% vanadium, and 6%–10% tungsten.69 Another popular tool steel grade with 8%–10% cobalt is M42, which enhances hot hardness and wear resistance.70 M35 is a grade of tool steel with 5% cobalt that has better toughness and wear resistance than M2.71 

The specific cutting application and unique combination of qualities determine the best tool steel grade. For instance, M2 is used for all-purpose cutting tools, whereas M42 is used to cut tough materials like metals made of stainless steel and nickel-based alloys. M35 is frequently used in applications like milling cutters and broaches72 that call for high cutting speeds and great impact resistance. Table III shows the grade of HSS, composition properties, and applications.

TABLE III.

Grade of HSS, composition propertiesm and applications.

Grade of HSSCompositionPropertiesTypical applicationsReferences
M2 6%–10% tungsten, 4%–6% Excellent wear resistance, toughness, General-purpose cutting tools 69  
 molybdenum, and and high-temperature hardness  
  4%–6% vanadium    
M42 8%–10% cobalt Improved wear resistance Cutting hard materials such as stainless 70  
  and high-temperature hardness  steel and alloys composed primarily of  
M35 5% cobalt Improved toughness and wear resistance. nickel Milling cutters and broaches 71 and 72  
  High-speed cutting and high shock resistance  
Grade of HSSCompositionPropertiesTypical applicationsReferences
M2 6%–10% tungsten, 4%–6% Excellent wear resistance, toughness, General-purpose cutting tools 69  
 molybdenum, and and high-temperature hardness  
  4%–6% vanadium    
M42 8%–10% cobalt Improved wear resistance Cutting hard materials such as stainless 70  
  and high-temperature hardness  steel and alloys composed primarily of  
M35 5% cobalt Improved toughness and wear resistance. nickel Milling cutters and broaches 71 and 72  
  High-speed cutting and high shock resistance  

Recent years have seen a lot of research into tool steel EDM with the goal of optimizing its performance and surface quality. Metal removal rate (MRR) and surface roughness were systematically explored in relation to specific parameters.73 Increasing the discharge current and extending the pulse-on time positively influenced MRR, while a higher peak current was associated with a reduction in surface roughness. The study also investigated the impact of graphite electrodes on the efficiency of electrical discharge machining (EDM) for tool steel, revealing that both MRR and surface roughness exhibited enhancements with larger graphite electrode sizes.74 The impact of process parameters on EDM performance in tool steel was investigated. A greater material removal rate (MRR) was observed with higher discharge currents and longer pulse-on times, while lower surface roughness was noted at shorter pulse-off times and higher peak currents, as shown in Fig. 5.75 

FIG. 5.

Main effect plot for the factor for MRR.75 [“Reproduced with permission from Yadav et al., Mater. Manuf. Processes 34(7), 779–790 (2019). Copyright 2019 Informa UK Limited.]

FIG. 5.

Main effect plot for the factor for MRR.75 [“Reproduced with permission from Yadav et al., Mater. Manuf. Processes 34(7), 779–790 (2019). Copyright 2019 Informa UK Limited.]

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The impact of various electrode materials on the EDM efficiency of tool steel indicates that graphite electrodes outperformed copper and brass in terms of material removal rate (MRR).76 A comparison of three electrodes with MRR in graphene-mixed dielectric is depicted in Fig. 6.

FIG. 6.

Comparison of three electrodes with MRR in graphene-mixed dielectric.76 [“Reproduced with permission from Ishfaq et al., Materials 14, 23 (2020). Copyright 2020 MDPI (Basel, Switzerland)].

FIG. 6.

Comparison of three electrodes with MRR in graphene-mixed dielectric.76 [“Reproduced with permission from Ishfaq et al., Materials 14, 23 (2020). Copyright 2020 MDPI (Basel, Switzerland)].

Close modal

Before the EDM process, the workpiece is heated to increase material removal rates (MRR) and smoothness. In tool steel EDM applications, this approach improves machining efficiency and surface quality.77 Objectives and findings from some literature on EDM performance are shown in Table IV.

TABLE IV.

Objectives and findings of the literature on EDM performance.

ReferencesFindingsObjectives
73  The effects of process parameters on tool steel While increasing peak current lowered surface roughness, 
  EDM MRR and surface roughness were studied  increasing discharge current increased MRR and pulse-on time 
74  Examined its influence graphite electrode size Higher MRR and lower surface roughness were 
 on tool steel’s electro-oxidation performance  produced by larger graphite electrodes 
75  Examined how process variables affected the Higher discharge current and pulse-on 
 EDM performance of tool steel duration increased MRR, but shorter pulse-off time 
  and peak current lowered surface roughness 
76  Investigated how electrode material affected Comparing graphite electrodes to copper and brass 
 titanium tool steel's performance in EDM electrodes, the latter provided a greater MRR 
77  Proposed new technique to enhance Prior to EDM, preheating the workpiece increased 
 tool steel's EDM performance MRR and decreased surface roughness 
ReferencesFindingsObjectives
73  The effects of process parameters on tool steel While increasing peak current lowered surface roughness, 
  EDM MRR and surface roughness were studied  increasing discharge current increased MRR and pulse-on time 
74  Examined its influence graphite electrode size Higher MRR and lower surface roughness were 
 on tool steel’s electro-oxidation performance  produced by larger graphite electrodes 
75  Examined how process variables affected the Higher discharge current and pulse-on 
 EDM performance of tool steel duration increased MRR, but shorter pulse-off time 
  and peak current lowered surface roughness 
76  Investigated how electrode material affected Comparing graphite electrodes to copper and brass 
 titanium tool steel's performance in EDM electrodes, the latter provided a greater MRR 
77  Proposed new technique to enhance Prior to EDM, preheating the workpiece increased 
 tool steel's EDM performance MRR and decreased surface roughness 

Measurement parameters such as MRR, Ra, and TWR are employed in Electrical Discharge Machining (EDM) to attain the desired quality and performance.

The Material Removal Rate (MRR) is a significant performance metric used to assess the machining efficiency of the Electrical Discharge Machining (EDM) process. There are various parameters that can exert an influence on the Material Removal Rate (MRR), such as pulse current, pulse duration, gap voltage, and electrode material. For instance, it has been observed that elevated pulse currents and reduced pulse durations have the potential to enhance the material removal rate (MRR). However, it is important to note that these conditions may also lead to an increase in tool wear rates and a decrease in surface quality, as stated in Ref. 78. Comparisons of MRR and REWR between MRR and REWR are depicted in Fig. 7, while the effects of electrode polarity on compound machining and EDM are shown in Fig. 8.

FIG. 7.

Comparisons of MRR and REWR between MRR and REWR.78 [“Reproduced with permission from Wang et al., J. Mater. Process. Technol. 214, 531 (2014). Copyright 2013 Elsevier.”]

FIG. 7.

Comparisons of MRR and REWR between MRR and REWR.78 [“Reproduced with permission from Wang et al., J. Mater. Process. Technol. 214, 531 (2014). Copyright 2013 Elsevier.”]

Close modal
FIG. 8.

Effects of electrode polarity on compound machining and EDM.78 [“Reproduced with permission from Wang et al., J. Mater. Process. Technol. 214, 531 (2014). Copyright 2013 Elsevier.”]

FIG. 8.

Effects of electrode polarity on compound machining and EDM.78 [“Reproduced with permission from Wang et al., J. Mater. Process. Technol. 214, 531 (2014). Copyright 2013 Elsevier.”]

Close modal

TWR is another important way to measure performance. It shows how quickly the tool wire wears out throughout the process of EDM. If the TWR is high, the tool will wear out faster, which could affect its accuracy and finish. TWR can be changed by things like the machining settings, the material of the electrode, and the material of the workpiece being machined. For example, using longer pulses or higher voltages can increase TWR, while using copper electrodes can lower EWR, as shown in Fig. 9.79 

FIG. 9.

Comparison between the EWR in copper and brass electrodes.79 [“Reproduced with permission from Aghdeab et al., IOP Conf. Ser.: Mater. Sci. Eng. 881(1), 012077 (2020). Copyright 2020 IOP Publishing.”]

FIG. 9.

Comparison between the EWR in copper and brass electrodes.79 [“Reproduced with permission from Aghdeab et al., IOP Conf. Ser.: Mater. Sci. Eng. 881(1), 012077 (2020). Copyright 2020 IOP Publishing.”]

Close modal

Ra is a surface quality metric that plays a significant role in assessing how well machined parts perform in use. In addition to the gap voltage and electrode material, pulse duration and current also play a role in determining Ra. Ra is decreased while TWR is increased when the pulse width is shortened and the pulse current is increased.80 The electrode wear rate (TEW) of a cutting tool is affected by the pulse duration, pulse current, electrode material, and machining parameters. Increases in TEW can have negative effects on accuracy, surface quality, machining time, and cost. Adequate electrode materials and processing settings improve EDM processing efficiency and quality.81 

The effectiveness of EDM with tool steel is assessed using a variety of performance metrics. The most commonly used metrics are surface roughness (SR), tool wear rate (TWR), and material removal rate (MRR).82 The rate of material removal (MRR) is influenced by a number of variables, including current, pulse duration, electrode material, and gap distance.83 On the other hand, TWR, dependent on the electrode material, current density, pulse duration, and rinsing conditions,84 is the rate at which the electrode material wears out throughout the EDM process. SR is a crucial indicator of the quality of a machined surface and is impacted by a number of variables, including the electrode material, gap distance, pulse duration, and discharge energy, as shown in Fig. 10.85 

FIG. 10.

Plot of the main effect of the SN ratio for MRR.82 [“Reproduced with permission from Choudhary and Singh, Mater. Today: Proc. 5, 6313 (2018). Copyright 2017 Elsevier Ltd.”]

FIG. 10.

Plot of the main effect of the SN ratio for MRR.82 [“Reproduced with permission from Choudhary and Singh, Mater. Today: Proc. 5, 6313 (2018). Copyright 2017 Elsevier Ltd.”]

Close modal

Microstructure and surface integrity are additional EDM tool steel performance metrics. Surface integrity describes characteristics of machined surfaces such as residual strains, microscopic fissures, and heat-affected areas. On the other hand, the term “microstructure” describes modifications made to the workpiece’s microstructure as a result of the EDM process. These assessments are crucial for determining whether EDM is appropriate for a certain application and for fine-tuning process variables to get desired outcomes.86 

The influence of pulse current and pulse duration on material removal rate (MRR), tool wear rate (TWR), and surface roughness (SR) in tool steel EDM. The results showed that increasing both the pulse current and pulse length not only increased the material removal rate (MRR) but also enhanced the surface roughness (SR) and tool wear rate (TWR).87 Irrigation settings and electrode materials affect tool steel EDM performance. It was found that copper–tungsten electrodes using deionized water and graphite powder as a dielectric liquid had the highest MRR, lowest TWR, and lowest SR.88 Factors affecting the various performance measures are depicted in Table V. The global effect of the input parameter on (a) Ry, (b) Pe, and (c) Te is shown in Fig. 11.

TABLE V.

Factors affecting the various performance measures.

Performance measureDefinitionFactors affecting measureStudies referenced
MRR = Material reduction ratio Rate of workpiece material removal Pulse current, pulse duration, electrode material, and gap distance 78, 82, 87, and 88  
Tool wear ratio (TWR) Wear rate of the tool electrode Electrode material, workpiece material, current density, pulse duration, and flushing conditions 78, 79, 82, 84, and 88  
Surface roughness (Ra) Measure of surface finish quality Pulse duration. Pulse current gap voltage. Electrode material. discharge energy 78, 80, 82, 85, and 87  
Tool electrode wear (TEW) Measure of tool electrode wear Pulse duration, pulse current, electrode material, and machining parameters 78, 81, 82, and 88  
Surface integrity Properties of machined surfaces (residual stresses, micro-cracks, and heat-affected zones) Surfactant type, concentration, on/off pulse, and electrode material 86  
Microstructure Changes in the microstructure of workpiece material Surfactant type, concentration, on/off pulse, and electrode material 86  
Performance measureDefinitionFactors affecting measureStudies referenced
MRR = Material reduction ratio Rate of workpiece material removal Pulse current, pulse duration, electrode material, and gap distance 78, 82, 87, and 88  
Tool wear ratio (TWR) Wear rate of the tool electrode Electrode material, workpiece material, current density, pulse duration, and flushing conditions 78, 79, 82, 84, and 88  
Surface roughness (Ra) Measure of surface finish quality Pulse duration. Pulse current gap voltage. Electrode material. discharge energy 78, 80, 82, 85, and 87  
Tool electrode wear (TEW) Measure of tool electrode wear Pulse duration, pulse current, electrode material, and machining parameters 78, 81, 82, and 88  
Surface integrity Properties of machined surfaces (residual stresses, micro-cracks, and heat-affected zones) Surfactant type, concentration, on/off pulse, and electrode material 86  
Microstructure Changes in the microstructure of workpiece material Surfactant type, concentration, on/off pulse, and electrode material 86  
FIG. 11.

The global effect of the input parameter on (a) Ry, (b) Pe, and (c) Te (%).88 [“Reproduced with permission from Vu et al., Meas. Control 54, 820 (2020). Copyright 2020 by SAGE Publications Ltd.”]

FIG. 11.

The global effect of the input parameter on (a) Ry, (b) Pe, and (c) Te (%).88 [“Reproduced with permission from Vu et al., Meas. Control 54, 820 (2020). Copyright 2020 by SAGE Publications Ltd.”]

Close modal

The efficiency of electrical discharge machining is determined by the material removal rate (MRR), which can be altered by adjusting parameters such as pulse current, pulse duration, electrode materials, and dielectrics.89–92 Optimizing MRR involves creating mathematical models and utilizing advanced optimization techniques.93–95 One further important feature of EDM is surface roughness (SR). Impacts include the discharge energy, pulse duration, electrode material, and dielectric.96–106  Figure 12 depicts variation in EWR with (i) discharge current, (ii) pulse on time, and (iii) pulse off time.

FIG. 12.

Variation in EWR with (i) discharge current, (ii) pulse on time, and (iii) pulse off time.107 [“Reproduced with permission from Walia et al., Mater. Res. Express 6, 086520 (2019). Copyright 2019 IOP Publishing.]

FIG. 12.

Variation in EWR with (i) discharge current, (ii) pulse on time, and (iii) pulse off time.107 [“Reproduced with permission from Walia et al., Mater. Res. Express 6, 086520 (2019). Copyright 2019 IOP Publishing.]

Close modal

Another significant performance indicator in EDM is the electrode wear rate (EWR). EWR is the ratio of the electrode’s mass before and after being machined. Pulse current, pulse duration, electrode material, and workpiece material can all influence the rate of electrode wear.107–110 In addition, cutting-edge methods such as artificial neural networks (ANN) and response surface methodology (RSM) have been used to improve EDM performance.110–112 The effect of the interaction on the microstructure and surface dependability of the machined workpiece is one of the key aspects of EDM. The heat and mechanical energy generated during the EDM process might affect the microstructural alterations and surface integrity of the machined workpieces. Surface integrity, such as surface roughness, microcracks, and residual stress, can also be influenced by EDM process parameters such as pulse current, pulse duration, and electrode material.113–115 

The enhancement of microstructure and surface integrity in machined workpieces, specifically titanium composites and nickel-based superalloys, involves the application of various models and advanced methods.116–125 Moreover, the EDM cycle can be utilized in combination with different cycles, for example, electrochemical machining and mechanical cleaning, to additionally work on the microstructural and surface integrity of the machined workpiece.126,127 The increased peak current and pulse duty cycles lowered material removal and surface roughness.128 Copper and tungsten electrodes have better surface quality than graphite electrodes for machining.129 Dielectrics impact the performance of tool steel machining, EDM oil, and deionized water in tool steel EDM dielectric fluid. EDM oil exhibited more material removal and produced a smoother finish compared to deionized water.130  Figure 13 shows closed-cell aluminum foam cut with WEDM-HS and AWJ, whereas the microstructure of closed-cell aluminum foam cut with AWJ is displayed in Fig. 14.

FIG. 13.

Closed-cell aluminum foam cut by WEDM-HS and AWJ.131 

FIG. 13.

Closed-cell aluminum foam cut by WEDM-HS and AWJ.131 

Close modal
FIG. 14.

Microstructure of closed-cell aluminum foam cut by AWJ.131 [“Reproduced with permission from Naveen et al., Mater. Manuf. Processes 25(10), 1186–1197 (2010). Copyright 2010 Informa UK Limited.”]

FIG. 14.

Microstructure of closed-cell aluminum foam cut by AWJ.131 [“Reproduced with permission from Naveen et al., Mater. Manuf. Processes 25(10), 1186–1197 (2010). Copyright 2010 Informa UK Limited.”]

Close modal

Utilizing combined and hybrid processes for machining tool steel, such as EDM and abrasive water jet machining, revealed that, when compared to using EDM alone, the combined process produced a surface with superior polish and reduced surface roughness.131 The shape and movement of the electrode tool impact the process of tool steel degradation. Rotating electrode tools enhance machining efficiency and decrease electrode erosion.132 A cone angle electrode tool that improves surface quality and reduces tool wear.133 Tungsten and copper electrodes are also used to improve the tool steel EDM cycle by using powder-blended dielectric liquids to increase material removal rates and decrease tool wear and ultrasonic vibrations to improve surface finish.134–140 

The effective utilization of parameters such as MRR, Ra, and TWR is essential to achieving optimal quality and productivity in Electrical Discharge Machining (EDM). By carefully adjusting parameters like pulse current, duration, electrode materials, and dielectrics, significant improvements can be made in MRR, TWR, and surface finish. Promising solutions include carefully selecting materials, adopting advanced techniques to boost efficiency, and exploring innovative methods like combination processes to optimize results. These ongoing efforts aim to streamline EDM operations, increase material removal rates, and improve surface integrity, ultimately elevating machining capabilities in industries.

Using a cylindrical electrode with negative polarity has been discovered to improve the efficiency of machining and the surface roughness of tool steel.141 Using a spinning electrode within a helical tool path leads to a significant reduction in electrode wear and a noteworthy improvement in machining efficiency.142 Moreover, using several electrodes improves the rate of material removal and reduces electrode wear.143  Figure 15 shows the various shapes of orifices created by holes treated using different tube electrodes. Figure 16 displays the comparison of roundness errors using various tube electrodes.

FIG. 15.

Orifice morphologies of holes processed with different tube electrodes: (a) Cylindrical tube electrode and (b) helical tube electrode.143 [“Reproduced with permission from Zhang et al., Micromachines 10, 634 (2019). Copyright 1996–2024 MDPI (Basel, Switzerland).”]

FIG. 15.

Orifice morphologies of holes processed with different tube electrodes: (a) Cylindrical tube electrode and (b) helical tube electrode.143 [“Reproduced with permission from Zhang et al., Micromachines 10, 634 (2019). Copyright 1996–2024 MDPI (Basel, Switzerland).”]

Close modal
FIG. 16.

The comparison of roundness errors by different tube electrodes.143 [“Reproduced with permission from Zhang et al., Micromachines 10, 634 (2019). Copyright 1996–2024 MDPI (Basel, Switzerland) unless otherwise stated.”]

FIG. 16.

The comparison of roundness errors by different tube electrodes.143 [“Reproduced with permission from Zhang et al., Micromachines 10, 634 (2019). Copyright 1996–2024 MDPI (Basel, Switzerland) unless otherwise stated.”]

Close modal

The performance of the EDM process is also impacted by the movement of the electrode tool. Adopting a helical tool path decreased the overmolded layer and enhanced the machined surface’s surface quality.144 In contrast to a straight tool path, a round trip tool path demonstrated improved tool steel surface finish.145 The efficiency, precision, and surface polish of the machined workpiece are all influenced by the electrode tool shape selection. Cylindrical, tapered, spherical, and complicated geometries such as threaded electrodes are typical electrode tool shapes.146 There is an impact of electrode tool geometry on the EDM process, including cambium production and surface roughness. The use of tapered electrodes decreased the thickness of the haze layer and enhanced the surface finish of machined tool steel.147 

Electrode tool movement affects material removal rate, tool wear, and the final surface. Different motion techniques for electrode tools are used, including linear tool motion and continuous and intermittent tool rotation. The intermittent tool rotation improved surface roughness and decreased tool wear when eroding tool steel.148 A linear tool movement results in a smoother surface finish than a circular tool movement.149  Table VI depicts the research findings based on electrode tool shape/movement.

TABLE VI.

Research findings based on electrode tool shape/movement.

Electrode tool shape/MovementResearch findings
Cylindrical electrode with negative polarity Increases tool steel’s surface roughness 
 and machining effectiveness141  
Rotating electrode on helical tool path Significantly reduces electrode wear 
 and improves machining efficiency142  
Multiple electrodes Increases material removal rate 
 and reduces electrode wear143  
Helical tool path Reduces the recast layer and improves the 
 surface quality of the machined surface144  
Reciprocating tool path Improves the surface finish of tool steel 
 compared to a straight-line tool path145  
Electrode tool shape/MovementResearch findings
Cylindrical electrode with negative polarity Increases tool steel’s surface roughness 
 and machining effectiveness141  
Rotating electrode on helical tool path Significantly reduces electrode wear 
 and improves machining efficiency142  
Multiple electrodes Increases material removal rate 
 and reduces electrode wear143  
Helical tool path Reduces the recast layer and improves the 
 surface quality of the machined surface144  
Reciprocating tool path Improves the surface finish of tool steel 
 compared to a straight-line tool path145  

Optimizing performance and surface quality for tool steel processing is challenging due to complex parameter selection and electrode considerations. Solutions include using cylindrical electrodes with negative polarity for enhanced effectiveness, employing rotating electrodes on helical paths to reduce wear and improve efficiency, and adopting multiple electrodes to boost material removal rates while minimizing wear. Helical tool paths can enhance surface quality, while reciprocating paths offer an improved finish. Further research is needed to refine electrode design and motion for enhanced EDM outcomes.

The effects of EDM techniques on tool steel have increased significantly in recent years. The effects of EDM on the fast steel’s microstructure, hardness, and wear resistance demonstrated that the material’s microstructure was fundamentally altered by the EDM cycle, which impacted the machined surface’s hardness and resistance to wear. The EDM procedure affected high-speed steel’s residual stresses. The high compressive residual stresses created by material fatigue life can be extended by EDM on the machined surface.150  Figure 17 depicts the EDM performance comparison of Cu–W/TiC.

FIG. 17.

EDM performance comparison of Cu–W/TiC.151 [“Reproduced with permission from Li et al., J. Mater. Process. Technol. 113, 563 (2001). Copyright 2001 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.”]

FIG. 17.

EDM performance comparison of Cu–W/TiC.151 [“Reproduced with permission from Li et al., J. Mater. Process. Technol. 113, 563 (2001). Copyright 2001 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.”]

Close modal

A hybrid method that includes EDM with laser or mechanical milling improves machining performance. These hybrid techniques may improve tool steel machining efficiency and surface quality.152–154 Copper–tungsten electrodes provide smooth machined surfaces and reduce electrode wear.151 Reciprocating electrode motion increases surface quality and reduces tip wear in EDM.155 

EDM techniques for tool steel machining are yielding promising results. A focus has been made on microstructure alterations and wear resistance that aim to enhance machining efficiency and surface quality. Hybrid methods like EDM combined with laser or mechanical milling show potential for further advancements. Additionally, the use of copper–tungsten electrodes and reciprocating electrode motion are proving effective in improving surface finish and reducing wear.

EDM requires dielectric strength, viscosity, and thermal conductivity. It is interesting to know how dielectric liquids like kerosene, deionized water, and mineral oil affect tool steel process performance. Dielectric fluids affect electrode wear, material removal, and surface roughness. Kerosene and mineral oil damage electrodes more than deionized water dielectrics.156 To increase processing performance, dielectric fluid contains graphite, copper, and SiC particles to remove material and reduce electrode wear. Material removal and surface smoothness improve with copper powder in dielectric fluids157 by optimizing dielectric properties. Machine and surface quality improve with gap voltage, flushing pressure, and pulse time. Some research optimized tool steel EDM dielectric settings. Machined surface roughness and material removal rate improved with roller pressure and flash pressure optimization.158 Dielectric deionized water enhances machined surface microstructure and corrosion resistance over kerosene and mineral oils.159 

The results of how different electrode types and dielectric fluids affect machining performance, including material removal rate, surface roughness, and tool wear, are shown in Table VII. The optimized EDM parameters based on the experimental analysis are presented.160  Table VII depicts the L18 experimental matrix and output results of the signal-to-noise (S/N) ratio.

TABLE VII.

L18 experimental matrix and output results of signal-to-noise (S/N) ratio.160 [“Reproduced with permission from Chandrashekarappa et al., Metals 11, 419 (2021). Copyright 1996–2024 MDPI (Basel, Switzerland)”.]

Input variablesOutputs
Exp. No.Dielectric fluidsPeak current (A)Pulse on time (μs)Electrode materialsMRR (g/min)SR (um)TWR (g/min)
Distilled water 50 Graphite 0.0452 6.89 0.030 
Distilled water 75 Copper 0.0154 3.60 0.050 
Distilled water 100 Brass 0.0077 5.96 0.012 
Distilled water 50 Graphite 0.0365 4.76 0.025 
Distilled water 75 Copper 0.0040 5.20 0.012 
Distilled water 100 Brass 0.0153 4.59 0.010 
Distilled water 50 Copper 0.0614 1.65 0.015 
Distilled water 75 Brass 0.0170 4.48 0.010 
Distilled water 100 Graphite 0.0450 2.90 0.014 
10 Kerosene 50 Brass 0.0045 1.34 0.010 
11 Kerosene 75 Graphite 0.0294 2.89 0.022 
12 Kerosene 100 Copper 0.0026 3.87 0.045 
13 Kerosene 50 Copper 0.0049 2.95 0.017 
14 Kerosene 75 Brass 0.0146 2.98 0.019 
15 Kerosene 100 Graphite 0.0153 4.59 0.016 
16 Kerosene 50 Brass 0.0152 6.06 0.014 
17 Kerosene 75 Graphite 0.0410 3.16 0.018 
18 Kerosene 100 Copper 0.0015 3.89 0.021 
Input variablesOutputs
Exp. No.Dielectric fluidsPeak current (A)Pulse on time (μs)Electrode materialsMRR (g/min)SR (um)TWR (g/min)
Distilled water 50 Graphite 0.0452 6.89 0.030 
Distilled water 75 Copper 0.0154 3.60 0.050 
Distilled water 100 Brass 0.0077 5.96 0.012 
Distilled water 50 Graphite 0.0365 4.76 0.025 
Distilled water 75 Copper 0.0040 5.20 0.012 
Distilled water 100 Brass 0.0153 4.59 0.010 
Distilled water 50 Copper 0.0614 1.65 0.015 
Distilled water 75 Brass 0.0170 4.48 0.010 
Distilled water 100 Graphite 0.0450 2.90 0.014 
10 Kerosene 50 Brass 0.0045 1.34 0.010 
11 Kerosene 75 Graphite 0.0294 2.89 0.022 
12 Kerosene 100 Copper 0.0026 3.87 0.045 
13 Kerosene 50 Copper 0.0049 2.95 0.017 
14 Kerosene 75 Brass 0.0146 2.98 0.019 
15 Kerosene 100 Graphite 0.0153 4.59 0.016 
16 Kerosene 50 Brass 0.0152 6.06 0.014 
17 Kerosene 75 Graphite 0.0410 3.16 0.018 
18 Kerosene 100 Copper 0.0015 3.89 0.021 

The addition of graphite powder increased the material removal rate and decreased surface roughness, thereby enhancing machining performance.161 The vegetable oil-based dielectric fluid led to an improved surface finish and reduced tool wear compared to mineral oil-based fluids.162 The effect of peak discharge current on (a) MRR and (b) Ra EDM is shown in Fig. 18.

FIG. 18.

Effect of peak discharge current on (a) MRR and (b) Ra EDM.161 [“Reproduced with permission Sahu and Datta, Proc. Inst. Mech. Eng., Part E 233(2), 384–402 (2019). Copyright 2019 by Institution of Mechanical Engineers.”]

FIG. 18.

Effect of peak discharge current on (a) MRR and (b) Ra EDM.161 [“Reproduced with permission Sahu and Datta, Proc. Inst. Mech. Eng., Part E 233(2), 384–402 (2019). Copyright 2019 by Institution of Mechanical Engineers.”]

Close modal

When boron carbide is added to the dielectric fluid with other additives, it improves surface roughness and reduces tool wear more effectively than aluminum powder.163 The impact of dielectric fluids on EDM performance is crucial. Different fluids, like kerosene, deionized water, and mineral oil, affect electrode wear, material removal, and surface roughness differently. To enhance processing, dielectric fluids are often supplemented with materials like graphite, copper, and SiC particles. Optimal EDM parameters, including peak current, pulse duration, and electrode material, significantly influence material removal rate and surface finish.

Cemented carbide is robust and wear-resistant for high-speed cutting. Mainly tungsten carbide (WC) and cobalt (Co), or additional binder metals like nickel (Ni) and chromium (Cr).164,165 Figure 19 depicts SEM images of fabricated aluminum (7075) B4C nanocomposites.

FIG. 19.

SEM images of fabricated aluminum (7075) B4C nanocomposites.166 [“Reproduced with permission Arunnath et al., Adv. Mater. Sci. Eng. 2022, 1. Copyright 2022 Arunnath et al.”]

FIG. 19.

SEM images of fabricated aluminum (7075) B4C nanocomposites.166 [“Reproduced with permission Arunnath et al., Adv. Mater. Sci. Eng. 2022, 1. Copyright 2022 Arunnath et al.”]

Close modal

Higher pulse current and longer pulse-on time result in a rise in MRR and less tool wear.166–170 Newly cemented carbide materials offer enhanced spark erosion abilities. A novel titanium carbide (TiC)-based cermet was tested for EDM by Chen et al.171 Due to their enhanced electrical conductivity and thermal stability, TiC-based cermets outperform cemented carbide materials in EDM. Pulse-modulated EDM can enhance the machining capabilities of cemented carbide.172 The impact of pulse-modulated EDM on the EDM performance of WC-Co composites reveals that, in comparison to conventional EDM, it achieved a higher material removal rate (MRR) and improved surface quality. In addition, compared to graphite electrodes, copper electrodes exhibited the same performance.173 

To optimize cemented carbide machining, higher pulse currents and longer pulse-on times enhance material removal rates while reducing tool wear. Materials like titanium carbide-based cermets offer improved spark erosion and thermal stability, making them ideal for EDM. Pulse-modulated EDM techniques improve MRR and surface quality, while copper electrodes show promise as alternatives to graphite, enhancing overall performance.174 

Traditional machining is challenging because ceramics are hard, brittle, and thermally stable. The non-contact nature of EDM makes it a good alternative to ceramic machining since it reduces cracking and chipping. Electrical energy discharged between an electrode and a workpiece creates sparks that remove material in EDM. Ceramic EDM is favored for its ability to precisely and accurately shape intricate forms and features. The influence of workpiece thickness on the degradation of ZrO2 ceramic shows that increased workpiece thickness resulted in a reduction in material removal rate and an increase in surface roughness and white layer thickness. The spark erosion of partially stabilized zirconium oxide ceramics was optimized with a pulse-on time of 60 µs, a pulse-off time of 140 µs, and a peak current of 10 A, resulting in a material removal rate of 3.27 mm3/min and a surface roughness of 0.58 μm.175 The influence of electrode material on Si3N4 ceramic EDM performance finds that graphite and copper electrodes achieved the best material removal rate and surface roughness, while tungsten and copper–tungsten electrodes produced the optimal surface finish.176 The temporal effects of pulses on Al2O3 ceramic EDM performance show that shorter pulse times increase material removal and decrease surface roughness.177 An overview of materials and their electrical conductivity is depicted in Fig. 20.

FIG. 20.

Overview of materials and their electrical conductivity.178 [“Reproduced with permission Schubert et al., J. Ceram 2015, 1. Copyright 2015 Andreas Schubert et al.”]

FIG. 20.

Overview of materials and their electrical conductivity.178 [“Reproduced with permission Schubert et al., J. Ceram 2015, 1. Copyright 2015 Andreas Schubert et al.”]

Close modal

The impact of pulse time and peak current on the EDM of silicon carbide ceramics was investigated, revealing that increasing the duty cycle and peak current enhanced the removal rate, white layer thickness, and surface roughness.179 A revolving disk electrode was employed to examine the erosion of alumina ceramics. Comparatively, using a rotating electrode reduces tool wear and improves machining performance.178 Furthermore, utilizing rotating electrodes required lower discharge energy to achieve the same rate of material removal. The influence of processing variables on the surface quality and deterioration of zirconia ceramics indicates that lower discharge energy leads to a smaller heat-affected zone, but greater pulse frequency and shorter pulse length lead to decreased subsurface damage and enhanced surface quality.180 

EDM is non-contact in nature, which reduces cracking and chipping. The optimization of pulse parameters and electrode materials can improve material removal rates and surface quality. The use of rotating electrodes decreases tool wear and enhances machining efficiency.

Diamond is one of the hardest materials ever discovered, and its high quality has led to its widespread applicability in aviation and other industries, electronics, and medicine. However, diamond’s extreme hardness and fragility make it challenging to machine. Several reports have looked into how shifting EDM settings affect diamonds’ machinability and surface quality. The material removal rate and surface quality of a single crystal diamond, as well as the impacts of pulse duration, peak current, and polarity, result in higher material removal rates with shorter pulse durations and higher peak currents, albeit at the expense of surface quality and tool wear.181 The impact of using different electrode materials on the EDM of polycrystalline diamond reveals that copper–tungsten electrodes outperformed copper electrodes in terms of material removal rates and surface finishes, with significantly less electrode wear.182,183 Diamond EDM with powder-mixed dielectrics and the inclusion of graphite powder in the dielectric enhance material removal and reduce surface roughness during machining.184  Figure 21 depicts material removal rates for different types of electrodes for PCD machining.

FIG. 21.

Material removal rates for different types of electrodes for PCD machining.182 [“Reproduced with permission Yan et al., CIRP Ann. 63, 209 (2014). Copyright 2014 CIRP. Published by Elsevier Ltd.”]

FIG. 21.

Material removal rates for different types of electrodes for PCD machining.182 [“Reproduced with permission Yan et al., CIRP Ann. 63, 209 (2014). Copyright 2014 CIRP. Published by Elsevier Ltd.”]

Close modal

Utilizing ultrasonic vibration on the electrode positioning of polycrystalline diamond resulted in higher rates of material removal and improved surface quality compared to traditional EDM.184 

The exceptional hardness and fragility of diamond provide obstacles for EDM machining. Optimizing EDM settings and investigating cutting edge methods can be used to address these problems. Although this may have some effect on surface quality and tool wear, adjusting parameters like pulse duration and peak current improves material removal rates. Furthermore, the selection of the type of electrode material is important, as copper tungsten electrodes perform better than copper ones. During diamond machining, the use of powder-mixed dielectrics, specifically graphite powder, shows enhanced material removal and lesser surface roughness.

Layered machining, also known as additive-subtractive machining, blends additive and subtractive manufacturing. Layered machining of tool steel for cutting tools has been extensively studied. Layering allows complicated geometries and reduces material waste compared to standard production methods. Layer thickness affects tool steel surface roughness and microhardness during layer processing. The results reveal that thinner layers increase machining performance by improving surface smoothness and microhardness from 0.1 to 0.05 mm.185 

Wire Electrical Discharge Laser Machining (WEDLM) for tool steel cutting tool production involved optimizing process settings, resulting in the creation of intricate geometries with excellent precision and surface smoothness. The WEDLM treatment further enhanced cutting tool wear resistance and hardness.186 Laser lamination can make high-quality cutting tools with superior hardness and wear resistance than conventional tools.187 The morphology of M2 HSS powder and the laser scanning path are shown in Fig. 22.

FIG. 22.

(a) Morphology of M2 HSS powder and (b) laser scanning path.187 [“Reproduced with permission Abdudeen et al., Micromachines 11, 754 (2020). Copyright 1996–2024 MDPI (Basel, Switzerland) unless otherwise stated.”]

FIG. 22.

(a) Morphology of M2 HSS powder and (b) laser scanning path.187 [“Reproduced with permission Abdudeen et al., Micromachines 11, 754 (2020). Copyright 1996–2024 MDPI (Basel, Switzerland) unless otherwise stated.”]

Close modal

During layer machining of tool steel with a copper–tungsten electrode, indicate the increase in material removal rate and tip wear rate with decreasing pulse width and increasing discharge current.188 During layer processing of high-speed steel using copper–tungsten electrodes, powder-mixed dielectrics affect material removal, surface roughness, and electrode wear rate.189 The powder mixed dielectric increased the rate of material removal and decreased the rate of electrode wear without impacting surface quality. A new embedded graphite electrode influences the pulse-on time and pulse-off time of tool steel layer machining performance.190 Higher graphite concentration and a shorter pulse increased material removal and decreased tip wear. The longer pulse duty cycle and increased graphite concentration smoothed the surface. The microstructure and hardness of D2 tool steel clad, processed through Directed Energy Deposition (DED), are influenced by laser scanning speed, powder feed rate, and heat treatment. Tempering heat treatment plays a crucial role in generating fine secondary carbides and transforming the dendritic microstructure into an equiaxed form. This tempering process elevates the hardness of the deposited layers to that of as-quenched D2 tool steel.191 The heat treatment cycle for the DED process sample is depicted in Fig. 23.

FIG. 23.

Heat treatment cycle for the DED process sample.191 [“Reproduced with permission Omar and Plucknett, J. Manuf. Processes 81, 655 (2022). Copyright 2022 The Society of Manufacturing Engineers. Published by Elsevier Ltd.”]

FIG. 23.

Heat treatment cycle for the DED process sample.191 [“Reproduced with permission Omar and Plucknett, J. Manuf. Processes 81, 655 (2022). Copyright 2022 The Society of Manufacturing Engineers. Published by Elsevier Ltd.”]

Close modal

Combined and hybrid machining methods for tool steel components are gaining popularity due to their potential to enhance material removal rates, reduce tool wear, and enhance surface finish. These procedures combine EDM and grinding to generate improved outcomes. Compared to conventional EDM, this hybrid method improves surface roughness and tool wear.192 Tool steel processing with EDM and laser ablation showed that the combination method improves surface roughness and machining precision.193 A hybrid building method using tool steel processing can be considered with composite construction. Hybrid machining method that uses laser ablation, micro-EDM, and micro-milling to make complicated tool steel components. The results showed that this method may produce complicated structures with great precision and surface quality.194 

Optimization of tool steel machining combined with EDM and grinding processes using Taguchi's method195,196 and combining EDM and polishing enhances the surface finish and roughness of tool steel. The hybrid process observes an increase in material removal rate (MRR) compared to the individual processes.197 The laser treatment in conjunction with EDM enhances surface quality and material removal rate (MRR) compared to EDM alone.198,199 The combination of EDM and milling enhances the surface quality and wear of tool steel machining.200 Additionally, erosion and milling can generate microchannels in tool steel.201 ECDG, its process variants, and hybrid approaches can machine numerous materials precisely and efficiently. Electrochemical and electrical phenomena improve material removal, surface polish, and tool life. Hybrid methods may improve ECDG and increase its usage in other sectors.202 The schematic of the electrochemical discharge grinding mechanism is shown in Fig. 24. Table VIII depicts research findings based on combined and hybrid processes.

FIG. 24.

Schematic of the electrochemical discharge grinding mechanism.202 [“Reproduced with Singh and Dvivedi, Int. J. Mach. Tools Manuf. 105, 1 (2016).Copyright © 2016 Elsevier Ltd.”]

FIG. 24.

Schematic of the electrochemical discharge grinding mechanism.202 [“Reproduced with Singh and Dvivedi, Int. J. Mach. Tools Manuf. 105, 1 (2016).Copyright © 2016 Elsevier Ltd.”]

Close modal
TABLE VIII.

Research findings based on combined and hybrid processes.

ProcessResearch findings
EDM and ultrasonic elliptical vibration cutting (UEVC) Significantly improves surface roughness and reduces tool wear compared to traditional EDM192  
Combined EDM and laser ablation Produces better surface roughness and machining accuracy compared to either process alone193  
Hybrid laser ablation, micro- EDM, and micro-milling Able to produce complicated geometries with excellent surface quality and accuracy194  
Combined EDM and grinding Compared to utilizing the individual methods separately, it increases MRR, decreases surface roughness, and enhances surface quality197  
Laser machining and EDM Improves surface quality, increases MRR, and enhances the machining of complex shapes in tool steel198,199 
EDM and milling Results in improved surface quality, reduced tool wear, and effectiveness for the fabrication of micro-channels in tool steel200,201 
ProcessResearch findings
EDM and ultrasonic elliptical vibration cutting (UEVC) Significantly improves surface roughness and reduces tool wear compared to traditional EDM192  
Combined EDM and laser ablation Produces better surface roughness and machining accuracy compared to either process alone193  
Hybrid laser ablation, micro- EDM, and micro-milling Able to produce complicated geometries with excellent surface quality and accuracy194  
Combined EDM and grinding Compared to utilizing the individual methods separately, it increases MRR, decreases surface roughness, and enhances surface quality197  
Laser machining and EDM Improves surface quality, increases MRR, and enhances the machining of complex shapes in tool steel198,199 
EDM and milling Results in improved surface quality, reduced tool wear, and effectiveness for the fabrication of micro-channels in tool steel200,201 

Using layered machining techniques on tool steel has the advantage of producing complex shapes while minimizing material waste. Thinner layers improve surface smoothness and microhardness, and more advanced methods like WEDLM enhance precision and hardness. To overcome issues related to material removal rate and electrode wear, different techniques like using powder-mixed dielectrics and innovative electrode designs can be employed. Additionally, heat treatment plays a key role in determining the microstructure and hardness of DED processes.

EDM can machine complicated forms and demanding materials. High tool wear, poor surface polish, and low material removal. The researcher created methods to boost EDM performance to overcome these restrictions. A major aspect of EDM is the pulse current generator. EDM performance can be improved by high-frequency pulse generators with short rise and pulse timings.203–205 The EDM process also depends on the tool electrode material. Tool electrode materials like copper, tungsten, graphite, and their composites should have high melting points, electrical conductivity, and wear resistance for enhanced EDM performance.206–208  Figure 25 depicts Ra for surfaces machined by EDM and PMEDM.

FIG. 25.

Ra for surface machined by EDM and PMEDM.209 [“Reproduced with Marashi et al., Precis. Eng. 46, 11 (2016). Copyright 2016 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.”]

FIG. 25.

Ra for surface machined by EDM and PMEDM.209 [“Reproduced with Marashi et al., Precis. Eng. 46, 11 (2016). Copyright 2016 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.”]

Close modal

Dielectric fluids used in EDM processes serve multiple purposes that include cooling the workpiece and washing away debris. The choice of dielectric affects the EDM performance.209–213 PMEDM adds a small amount of conductive powder to the dielectric liquid. Powder particles support the material removal process and improve spark erosion performance.214–218 The utilization of ultrasonic vibration enhances the performance of electrical discharge machining (EDM) by improving dielectric fluid flushing action, reducing tool wear, and improving surface finish.219–222 Multi-pulse EDM applies multiple pulses with different parameters to the workpiece to improve the material removal rate and surface finish.223–225 EDM performance can be improved by hybrid EDM, which combines milling and grinding. Previous studies show the effects of hybrid machining parameters such as tool material, spindle speed, and feed rate on EDM performance.226–230 

Tool wear can be reduced by optimizing pulse current generators for shorter timings and higher frequencies.EDM performance is improved by using electrode materials such as copper, tungsten, graphite, and their composites. Dielectric fluids are necessary, and powder-mixed dielectric (PMEDM) improves material removal. Ultrasonic vibration can improve both surface polish and fluid cleansing. The use of multi-pulse EDM and hybrid processes, such as EDM combined with milling or grinding, improves machining parameters. These strategies enhance the efficacy and efficiency of EDM.

Due to their high melting points, cutting tool materials like polycrystalline diamond (PCD) and tungsten carbide (WC) are challenging to produce in EDM. Because a high melting point necessitates high discharge energy, processing is slowed and tool wear is increased.231 The high electrical discharge energy needed to machine the tool material shortens the tool's life and results in thermal damage that degrades the machinable part’s surface polish. Additionally, thermal damage causes cracks to form, which might spread during subsequent machining.232,233 Damages to the rim zone due to WEDM are depicted in Fig. 26.

FIG. 26.

Damages of the rim zone due to WEDM.233 [“Reproduced with Juhr et al., J. Mater. Process. Technol. 149, 178 (2004). Copyright 2004 Published by Elsevier B.V.”]

FIG. 26.

Damages of the rim zone due to WEDM.233 [“Reproduced with Juhr et al., J. Mater. Process. Technol. 149, 178 (2004). Copyright 2004 Published by Elsevier B.V.”]

Close modal

Some materials used to make cutting tools are difficult to work with while utilizing EDM.234 For instance, cubic boron nitride (CBN), a highly hard material that is tough to machine and challenging for EDM methods, The quality of the machined surface and the longevity of the tool are both impacted by the surface integrity of machined items. The surface integrity of the machined item may suffer from surface flaws introduced by the EDM process, including fractures, overmolded layers, and micro-cracks.235 Copper or graphite particles can be added to the dielectric to boost discharge energy and reduce tool wear. Dielectrics that are powder-mixed also aid in enhancing the surface quality of machined components.236 By combining EDM with different machining techniques, like grinding, the workpiece material’s machinability can be increased. Reducing thermal damage, boosting material removal rates, and enhancing the surface smoothness of machined products are all possible using hybrid machining.237 When cutting tool material with an EDM, process variables like peak current, pulse duration, and pulse frequency can be adjusted to minimize thermal damage and maximize material removal rates. Response surface methodology (RSM) and artificial neural networks (ANN) can help find the best process parameters.238–240 Advanced dielectric fluids, including deionized water, lubricants, and synthetic fluids, increase EDM cutting tool machining. Advanced dielectric fluids provide better cooling properties, higher flash points, and better electrical conductivity than traditional dielectric fluids.241,242

EDM process analysis and parameter optimization can be performed using advanced modeling techniques like FEA, CFD, and AI. The effectiveness of FEA and CFD in predicting the heat and fluid flow behavior during EDM.243,244 The use of AI helps to develop EDM performance prediction models and optimize process parameters.245 Tool electrode material selection is very important in the EDM process, and new materials with improved performance need to be developed. The use of graphene, carbon nanotubes, and metal matrix composites as electrode materials for tools246,247 can be. These materials have demonstrated improved wear resistance, thermal stability, and electrical conductivity, which may lead to improved EDM performance. Figure 27 shows different stages for the preparation of electrolytic solution and electrode: (a) copper sulfate solution, (b) mixing rGO and CNT in copper sulfate solution using water bath sonication, and (c) masking the electrode.

FIG. 27.

Different stages for the preparation of electrolytic solution and electrode: (a) copper sulfate solution, (b) mixing rGO and CNT in copper sulfate solution using water bath sonication, and (c) masking the electrode.247 [“Reproduced with George et al., Silicon 13, 3835 (2020). Copyright 2020 Springer Nature.”]

FIG. 27.

Different stages for the preparation of electrolytic solution and electrode: (a) copper sulfate solution, (b) mixing rGO and CNT in copper sulfate solution using water bath sonication, and (c) masking the electrode.247 [“Reproduced with George et al., Silicon 13, 3835 (2020). Copyright 2020 Springer Nature.”]

Close modal

Adding conductive particles to the dielectric liquid improves the material removal rate and surface finish in PMEDM. Powder type, size, and concentration affect PMEDM performance.248,249 Future research may focus on optimizing PMEDM process parameters and developing new powder materials. To boost EDM performance, hybrid EDM mixes EDM with other machining techniques like milling and grinding. Hybrid machining’s effect on EDM efficiency and surface quality.250,251 New hybrid machining strategies and process parameter optimization could be the subject of future studies. EDM produces hazardous waste and is known to consume large amounts of energy during processing. There is a need to develop erosion processes that will be sustainable and able to provide an eco-friendly environment. The use of environmentally friendly dielectric fluids and the recycling of his EDM waste may be effective in this context.252,253 Future research may focus on the development of new EDM processes with higher energy efficiency and lower waste.254,255 Optimization of process parameters can also improve the manufacturing process.256–263 

EDM issues arise from the difficulty of machining materials such as polycrystalline diamond (PCD) and tungsten carbide (WC), which have high melting points and cause greater tool wear and heat damage during processing. Surface integrity concerns such as fractures and microcracks influence the quality and durability of machined tools. It is recommended to incorporate the copper or graphite particles into dielectric fluids to improve discharge energy and surface quality, as well as using hybrid machining techniques and changing process variables to reduce thermal damage and maximize material removal rates. Advanced dielectric fluids and electrode materials, such as graphene and carbon nanotubes, provide better performances. In addition, optimizing process parameters creates sustainable EDM methods and increases energy efficiency, and using modern modeling tools such as FEA and CFD can be beneficial for obtaining desirable performance.

Electric Discharge Machining (EDM) serves as a significant method for shaping and cutting tools composed of tool steel ceramics, carbides, diamonds, and several other materials. This comprehensive analysis encompasses three significant domains of research in the field of Electrical Discharge Machining (EDM), the morphology and kinematics of electrode tools, the machining of tool steel layers, and the assessment of performance parameters in EDM. Electrical Discharge Machining (EDM) is widely recognized for its exceptional performance in machining hard materials, as well as its ability to enhance the properties of tools, such as the hardness and wear resistance of tool steel, ceramics, carbides, and diamonds. Optimizing critical variables such as pulse length and discharge current is important for the enhancement of tool steel performance. The advancements in the investigation of electrode tool design and movement have contributed to the increasing complexity and precision of Electrical Discharge Machining (EDM) in the cutting of these materials. Efficient EDM operations are dependent on precise methods for performance measurement, and scholars continuously seek enhancements in material removal rates, surface quality, tool longevity, and energy efficiency across various cutting tool materials. The mentioned enhancements clearly indicate that EDM will persist as an integral component in the fabrication of cutting tools from materials such as diamonds, carbides, ceramics, and other similar substances. By incorporating mixed and hybrid machining approaches alongside modern optimization techniques, the utilization of Electrical Discharge Machining (EDM) can be enhanced to accommodate a broader spectrum of cutting tool materials. Despite the presence of some limitations, the field of Electrical Discharge Machining (EDM) has a capacity for exploring emerging fields and advancements in the machining of various cutting tool materials.

Different properties affect EDM applicability in high-speed steel, cemented carbide, ceramics, and diamond. Melting point, heat conductivity, hardness, and wear resistance affect the selection of materials. EDM applications favor materials with high melting points, thermal conductivity, hardness, and wear resistance because they can withstand high temperatures, disperse heat, and preserve tool integrity. Electrical discharge machining electrodes are dependent on feature material and process parameters to produce exact manufacturing surfaces. Most designs are imprecise. Cylinders, spherical, conical, and threaded electrodes are prevalent. Electrode size and arrangement affect performance, with multi-electrode systems lowering wear and improving material removal. Conventional machining, galvanic corrosion, and additive manufacturing make electrodes. Selective laser melting and topology optimization improve electrode design and EDM performance. MRR, Ra, and TWR must be used properly to maximize electrical discharge machining quality and productivity. MRR, TWR, and surface polish can be improved by carefully changing pulse current, duration, electrode materials, and dielectrics. Selecting materials, using modern procedures to improve efficiency, and trying new approaches like combination processes to improve results are promising answers. These ongoing initiatives aim to streamline EDM processes, boost material removal rates, and improve surface integrity, improving machining capabilities in many industries. Complex parameter selection and electrode considerations make tool steel processing performance and surface quality optimization difficult. Use cylindrical electrodes with negative polarity for better performance, rotating electrodes on helical routes for less wear, and many electrodes for faster material removal. Helical and reciprocating tool paths improve surface quality and finish. Further study is needed to improve electrode design and mobility for EDM. Tool steel machining using EDM is promising. Focus on microstructure changes and wear resistance to improve machining efficiency and surface quality. EDM-laser or mechanical milling hybrids have the potential for improvement. Copper–tungsten electrodes and reciprocating electrode motion improve surface quality and reduce wear. Dielectric fluids are key to EDM performance. Kerosene, deionized water, and mineral oil affect electrode wear, material removal, and surface roughness differentially. Graphite, copper, and SiC particles are added to dielectric fluids to improve processing. Peak current, pulse duration, and electrode material affect material removal rate and surface finish in EDM.

Higher pulse currents and longer pulse-on periods improve cemented carbide machining material removal and tool wear. EDM-suitable titanium carbide-based cermets have better spark erosion and thermal stability. Copper electrodes may replace graphite and enhance MRR and surface quality, while pulse-modulated EDM improves performance. EDM’s non-contact nature lowers cracking and chipping. Optimizing pulse parameters and electrode materials improves material removal and surface quality. Rotating electrodes reduce tool wear and improve machining. EDM machining is difficult due to the diamond's hardness and fragility. Optimizing EDM settings and researching cutting-edge technologies can fix these issues. Adjusting pulse duration and peak current enhances material removal rates but may affect surface quality and tool wear. Copper tungsten electrodes perform better than copper ones, so electrode material selection is crucial. Powder-mixed dielectrics, especially graphite powder, improve material removal and surface roughness during diamond machining.

Layered machining on tool steel produces complicated shapes with less waste. Advanced technologies like WEDLM improve precision and hardness, while thinner layers improve surface smoothness and microhardness. Powder-mixed dielectrics and unique electrode designs can solve material removal rate and electrode wear concerns. Heat treatment also affects DED microstructure and hardness. Optimizing pulse current generators for shorter timings and higher frequencies reduces tool wear. Electrodes, including copper, tungsten, graphite, and their composites, boost EDM performance. Dielectric fluids are needed, and PMEDM increases material removal. Surface polish and fluid cleansing are enhanced by ultrasonic vibration. Multi-pulse EDM and hybrid techniques like milling or grinding increase machining parameters. These methods improve EDM efficiency. Materials like polycrystalline diamond (PCD) and tungsten carbide (WC) have high melting points and induce tool wear and heat damage during processing, making EDM challenging. Surface integrity issues like fractures and microcracks affect machined tool quality and longevity. Incorporate copper or graphite particles into dielectric fluids to optimize discharge energy and surface quality, and use hybrid machining and process variables to decrease heat damage and maximize material removal. Advanced dielectric fluids and electrode materials like graphene and carbon nanotubes perform better. EDM technologies are sustainable and energy efficient when process parameters are optimized, and contemporary modeling tools like FEA and CFD can help achieve the desired performance.

The authors have no conflicts to disclose.

M. S. Tufail: Conceptualization (equal); Methodology (equal); Writing – original draft (equal); Writing – review & editing (equal). Jayant Giri: Supervision (equal); Validation (equal); Visualization (equal); Writing – original draft (equal); Writing – review & editing (equal). Emad Makki: Formal analysis (equal); Funding acquisition (equal); Investigation (equal); Methodology (equal); Validation (equal); Visualization (equal); Writing – review & editing (equal). T. Sathish: Conceptualization (equal); Data curation (equal); Formal analysis (equal); Investigation (equal); Methodology (equal); Resources (equal); Supervision (equal). Rajkumar Chadge: Resources (equal); Software (equal); Supervision (equal); Validation (equal); Writing – review & editing (equal). Neeraj Sunheriya: Methodology (equal); Resources (equal); Supervision (equal); Validation (equal); Visualization (equal); Writing – review & editing (equal).

Data sharing is not applicable to this article as no new data were created or analyzed in this study.

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