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ChipChat: Understanding Costs and Maximizing Profits on Your Wire EDM

If you have a Wire Electrical Discharge Machine (EDM) or have been curious about integrating one into your shop, then the second entry into the Ellison Technologies’ ChipChat webinar series is here to give you the knowledge to MAKE MORE with Wire EDM’s. Don McMillan, President of Strategic Account and Technologies, takes you through the costs associated with using Wire EDM’s, the key factors that drive these costs, and how to maximize your profits by understanding key technology improvements that can help you MAKE MORE money!

If you missed the webinar, continue reading and view the recording.

What is a Wire EDM?

Wire EDM, unlike standard mills and lathes, utilizes a metallic wire to make contouring cuts to remove large portions of material. Emitting electrical pulses through the wire creates indentations as it cuts through the material. Additionally, the wire can be positioned at an angle to make tapered cuts for parts with varying profiles on the top and bottom of the part. Rather than measuring in inches per minute of material removal, Wire EDM’s are measured in square inches per hour with the average machine today capable of removing up to 46 in² of material per hour on a 2 in thick part.  

The Costs and What it Takes to Make money

The costs of owning and operating a Wire EDM can be broken down into two primary categories: Parts and People. The costs of parts include the initial machine investment, power consumption, DI resin exchange, wire consumption, diamond guides, power feed contacts, wire chopper, flushing, and threading components. The people related costs include the amount of time spent on CAM programming, part setup, and machine maintenance. The overall profitability of the machine can be greatly improved depending on the quality of the consumables and the operating efficiency. The secret to optimizing your profitability is achieving over 2,500 working hours on your EDM per year and by running the machine unattended. The more the machine runes, the more billable hours you generate. To make sure your machine is running at peak performance, it is critical to breakdown all the costs of your Wire EDM, and seeing where improvement is possible. Our engineering experts can help you understand and improve your costs.  


Out with the Old, in with the New

Over the last 15 years, Wire EDM has greatly improved with new innovations making 2020 models at least 20% more efficient than 2005 models. Older technology can be one of the biggest hurdles preventing you from maximizing the profits of Wire EDM machining. By switching to a 2020 machine, you have the potential to achieve $175,000 in extra revenue over 5 years with your Wire EDM running 2,500 hours per year. Some of the major cost saving improvements include:

  • Lower power consumption with ball screw guides
  • Simpler guides and threading systems for less maintenance requirements
  • Better quality consumables to keep your machine running longer
  • Digital power supplies with adaptive feed rates and dynamic pulse controls
  • Enhanced graphic controls for faster setups
  • Built in CAM systems for automatic G-code, tech file, and pick-up cycle handling  

These improvements help you improve programming bottles necks, increase your machine running time, and increase your cutting speed. Faster setups, faster cutting, faster productivity; more money.

Success Stories

Tool and Die Manufacturer
The customer worked with Ellison Technologies to analyze their parts, manufacturing process, and programs to see what can be improved. The customer received upgraded CAM programming, advanced operator training for their team, installed palletized tooling upgrades and workpiece probes, and replaced 4 of their older Wire EDM’s with 2 new systems to achieve a 40% increase in productivity. 

Aerospace Parts Manufacturer
Customer partnered with Ellison Technologies to analyze their production process and provided testing for program improvements. The customer went from running 50 legacy EDM’s to 24 new Wire EDM’s while creating optimized cells consisting of 8 Wire EDM’s, a hole drill station, and a vision system requiring only one operator for each cell. 

About the Presenter

Don McMillan is President of Strategic Accounts and Technologies at Ellison Technologies. He has 35 years of experience using EDM in manufacturing; helping a wide range of customers with process improvements, equipment upgrades and full turn-key engineered solutions. His career history includes: EDM Service Engineer, Applications Engineer and Manager of Applied Technology specific to EDM and 5 axis milling; giving him a full understanding of the challenges manufacturers face on a daily basis. Don is a Certified Tool Maker and a former General Manager of a high volume EDM job shop based in Chicago.

Want to Know More?

For more information or questions about Wire EDM’s, contact Don McMillan at

View our other recorded ChipChat webinars.