Electro-Erosion Process Easily Cuts Tough Materials

Mitsui Seiki’s Blue Arc is a machining process that, according to General Electric, “cuts through titanium like a hot knife through butter.”

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Mitsui Seiki’s Blue Arc is a machining process that, according to General Electric, “cuts through titanium like a hot knife through butter.” GE partnered with the company to develop a five-axis horizontal machining center with an attached Blue Arc head. GE has the prototype machine in its global research facility in Van Buren Township, Michigan, and the system is said to be ready for testing by interested companies.

Blue Arc is an electro-erosion metal-removal method designed to quickly rough-cut extremely tough alloys such as aerospace-grade titanium and nickel alloys. Using high-amperage, low-voltage electrical energy, sparks and heat are created between the electrode tool and the workpiece. During the sparking electrical arcing, portions of the workpiece are melted, and the molten material is quickly flushed away with a high-pressure system. The process uses very low force, permitting higher feeds and speeds. According to both companies, Blue Arc is about four to five times faster than conventional machining of these tough materials.

The prototype machine is a hybrid that can do both Blue Arc and conventional machining in the one platform. In operation, the Blue Arc process conducts all the roughing operations, the head is removed with a dedicated robot, and a conventional multiple-point cutting tool is put in its place to perform the finishing operations. The process is said to be ideal for difficult-to-reach, deep cuts and very thin cuts for applications in aerospace, power generation and automotive.