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  • Writer's pictureKirk Abolafia

Electrochemical Grinding vs. Electrochemical Machining

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Electrochemical grinding (ECG) and electrochemical machining (ECM) are two non-conventional manufacturing processes with some notable similarities and differences. This article will briefly summarize what the technologies share in common, and what makes them distinct.

Voxel collaborated with Glebar, an industry expert in electrochemical grinding technology, to produce an article comparing ECG and ECM.

In short, the most notable similarities between these processes lies in their usage of electrochemistry as the primary material removal method. These non-thermal, electrochemical processes are only concerned with the conductive and electrochemically reactive nature of the material, rather than its hardness, allowing them to machine, for example, nickel superalloys at a similar speed to copper. Generally, these processes have faster material removal rates than conventional processes, especially with exotic, tough-to-machine materials.

Furthermore, the non-thermal nature of these processes significantly prolongs their tool life, allowing them to machine many parts without incurring tool replacement costs or affecting the accuracy of the process--making them ideal for medium-to-high volume projects. The lack of heat also allows ECG and ECM to machine thermally sensitive areas of a part, such as thin walls.

However, there are distinct differences between these processes to consider. Primarily, the difference between ECG and ECM lies in their tooling (cathode). The cathode in ECG is an abrasive wheel which is rotated at high speeds, and comes into contact with the workpiece (albeit significantly less than a conventional grinding process). In ECM, the cathode is customized to the project, and does not come into contact with the workpiece.

The voltage used in these processes also generally differs. Voltage in a typical ECG operation ranges from 1 to 20 volts, but is generally around 7-12 volts. ECM, however, often requires a higher voltage, from 6 to 40 volts, or even more.

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