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  • Writer's pictureKirk Abolafia

The Incredible Capabilities of PECM

Pulsed electrochemical machining (PECM), also called precision electrochemical machining, has numerous advantages compared to other leading machining processes, such as stress-free machining, no heat-affected zones, and high-volume production opportunities.

But how exactly can this technology be applied?

Voxel Innovations has developed and optimized parts for a wide variety of clients -- Fortune 500 companies, to government contractors, to start-ups. We are actively expanding our operations across more sectors, but our current experience, and the primary ECM applications to date, have been focused towards the aerospace and medical industries producing critical components. That being said, our technology has the potential to revolutionize any other industrial markets that require work with hard-to-machine metals and delicate precision-- We're always open to new ideas.

A good example of our applicable technology is what we've developed with heat exchangers, systems that modulate temperature exchanges between two liquids in a component. This technology can be used in microprocessor cooling, chemical plants, cryocoolers, aerospace engines and more. Heat exchangers are a great example of PECM's uniqueness for several reasons. First, heat exchangers typically have repeating feature patterns or high quantities of features in the same vector. This high feature count plays to a core strength of the electrochemical machining process; the ability to machine multiple features simultaneously.

Second, Voxel's technology is effective at creating narrow or high aspect ratio features. By using thin walls in a heat exchanger, transferring heat between hot and cold regions is more efficient and packing density can be increased. However, many manufacturing processes rely on thermal or contact techniques for forming wall features, which can cause thin walls to deform. This causes obvious problems, such as irregular heat flow or interference with other parts of an assembly. In contrast, Voxel’s electrochemical machining process is both non-contact and non-thermal, eliminating the risk of these deformations. ECM does not compromise the material’s intended shape, also preserving its ability to mate or interface with other parts during assembly.


Another way we've applied our technology is in the medical industry. In specific instances, delicate, hard-to-machine metals such as nitinol are best suited for the job. Nitinol is an alloy combination of nickel and titanium, used everywhere in medicine from stents, implants, and braces. A company manufacturing medical parts may need to use Nitinol for its super-elastic, flexible, or shape-memory properties which can be challenging for conventional machining processes -- making PECM the superior choice.

One of the most applicable advantages of PECM to the medical industry is its ultra-smooth finish, similar to electropolishing. PECM leaves no heat-affected zone and no burrs of any kind. In surgical tools and equipment, these pristine surfaces are ideal for smooth actuation and manipulation where consistent force application can be critical to surgical outcomes or robotic feedback control. What's more is that PECM eliminates microscopic pits and bumps where germs and corrosion might form, making tools more sterile and more durable.

Much of Voxel's work experience is in aerospace, as aircraft manufacturers are looking for ways to optimize the manufacturing of heat exchangers, blisks/IBRs, turbine airfoils, rocket nozzles and more. Aerospace applications often require the most specialized materials to deal with extreme thermal conditions (e.g. high temperatures for combustion engines, low temperatures for space-based devices) as well as low weight requirements. This can lead to both challenging designs and material properties which require alternative manufacturing methods, such as electrochemical machining.

Voxel is currently seeking ways to expand our technologies into new industries. Between our research into machining new types of metals and our ever-growing client list, Voxel strives to be an industry leader for pulsed electrochemical machining. Learn more about the unique properties of PECM on our website, or reach out to us to learn how we can help your business. You can also download our one-page summary here.

Voxel One-Page Summary
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