Damage, contamination and surface treatment of electrical discharge machined materials

Murray, James W.H. (2014) Damage, contamination and surface treatment of electrical discharge machined materials. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Electrical discharge machining (EDM) is a manufacturing process capable of machining electrically conductive materials regardless of their mechanical properties. It finds extensive usage across the aerospace, automotive, medical implant and mould/die industries, and is particularly useful for the micro-machining of precision components with complicated shapes. The surface integrity of materials machined by EDM is typically poor, and reduced service life is often expected as a result of surface properties. For example, reduced fatigue performance can result due to the presence of surface cracks as well as porosity, high surface roughness and tensile residual stress. Increased surface area due to surface cracks, porosity and surface asperities also inhibits corrosion performance.

This thesis explores from a fundamental perspective the damage and contamination occurring in the surfaces of materials machined by EDM, and investigates the use of a novel surface modification technique, pulsed electron beam irradiation, to improve the most damaging surface property; surface cracking.

A transmission electron microscopy (TEM) study was conducted on the surface of single-crystal silicon, which is a chemically and crystallographically homogenous material. For the first time, porosity, contamination and cracking were observed at a scale not visible to conventional imaging techniques such as SEM and optical imaging. The study suggested that conventional microscopic techniques such as SEM and optical microscopy are not sufficient to characterise recast layers created by EDM, and the properties of materials machined by the process are in fact determined by phenomena occurring at the nano-scale.

The mechanism behind the movement of material between electrodes was investigated in this thesis. The flushing process in EDM is used to take machined material away from the machining region, and this material is not expected to reattach to electrode surfaces. Using the observation of single discharges and elemental analysis, the mechanism of attachment was determined to be a two-stage process, whereby material ejected at the end of discharge on-time is resolidified in the discharge gap by a successive discharge, which causes its fusion into the opposite electrode surface. This information is critical to the avoidance, or the deliberate deposition of foreign material on a workpiece.

Pulsed electron beam irradiation was demonstrated as a rapid and simple method of repairing surface cracks induced by the EDM process. A 4 µm depth of surface cracks created by EDM of stainless steel could be completely eliminated in a pore-free layer. Only a small section of recast layer remained unaffected. The cathode voltage parameter was identified as key to increasing the depth of the remelted layer in future developments of the process. Roughness was at the same time reduced from 3.06 µm to 0.89 µm Sa value. A predominantly austenitic graded nanostructure with grain size down to 6 nm was characterised using TEM and XRD. Such structures have implications for improved mechanical properties via grain boundary strengthening

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Clare, A.
Kennedy, A.R.
Keywords: Machining, Materials, Electric properties, Surface contamination, Electron beams, Industrial applications
Subjects: T Technology > TA Engineering (General). Civil engineering (General)
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Engineering > Department of Mechanical, Materials and Manufacturing Engineering
Item ID: 14226
Depositing User: EP, Services
Date Deposited: 20 Jan 2015 14:15
Last Modified: 15 Dec 2017 02:07
URI: https://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/14226

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