Pulsed power supply for micro electrochemical machining
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Manufactured products are becoming smaller, lighter and more compact, while standards and quality requirements are rising. Micro-machining is finding more applications in many products in the aerospace, automotive, medical device, jewellery and consumables industries. There are many forms of micro-machining processes; a lot of which are processes borrowed from the semiconductor sector. The material properties of silicon, though, often don’t achieve the demands required, where metal micro-structures would. However, for micro-structuring of highly stressed metals there are currently only a few manufacturing process all of which have disadvantages. Electrochemical machining (ECM) is one of the processes gaining wider acceptance in industry to machine parts with greater precision. The ECM process has advantages in that it can machine any electrically conductive part irrespective of material hardness, it can result in a high quality finish and there is no tool wear. Micro electro chemical machining (micro-ECM) is a novel type of metal machining process that does not suffer the same disadvantages as the few other metal micro-manufacturing processes. ECM is a well-established process in areas such as the aviation industry but the further commercial development and use of the micro-ECM process has been prohibited by several issues. The main issue is the lack of a suitable power supply unit (PSU) that can deliver the current pulses required while maintaining a minimal form factor and realistic cost. As part of an effort to support the realisation of the commercial opportunity in the next generation of micro ECM, development of a suitable prototype machining power supply unit is proposed. Such a PSU will be required to deliver fast electrical high-current pulsing rates in the microsecond to nanosecond range to achieve the required improvements in process stability and machining precision.