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Journal of Minerals & Materials Characterization & Engineering, Vol. 10, No.2, pp.199-230, 2011
jmmce.org Printed in the USA. All rights reserved
Review to EDM by Using Water and Powder-Mixed Dielectric Fluid
Sharanjit Singh*and Arvind Bhardwaj
Department of Industrial and Production Engineering, Dr B. R. Ambedkar National Institute of
Technology, Jalandhar-144011, Punjab, India
*Corresponding Author: email@example.com
Basically Electrical discharge machining (EDM) is a well-established non-conventional
machining process, used for manufacturing geometrically complex or hard and electrically
conductive material parts that are extremely difficult-to-cut by other conventional machining
processes. Erosion pulse discharge occurs in a small gap between the work piece and the
electrode. This removes the unwanted material from the parent metal through melting and
vaporizing in presence of dielectric fluid. Performance measures are different for different
materials, process parameters as well as for dielectric fluids. Presence of metal partials in
dielectric fluid diverts its properties, which reduces the insulating strength of the dielectric fluid
and increases the spark gap between the tool and work piece. As a result, the process becomes
more stable and metal removal rate (MRR) and surface finish increases. The EDM process is
mainly used for making dies, moulds, parts of aerospace, automotive industry and surgical
components etc. This paper reviews the research trends in EDM process by using water and
powder mixed dielectric as dielectric fluid.
Keywords: EDM, Powder-mixed EDM, Dielectric Fluid
In 1770 English scientist Joseph Priestly firstly invented the erosive effect of electrical discharge
machining. After that in 1930s, the machining of metals and diamond with electrical discharges
has been done. Due to evaluation of spark, erosion was caused by intermittent arc discharges
occurring in air between the electrode and workpiece which is connected to a DC power supply.
Overheating of the machining area restricts the applications of this process, so it is known as “arc
machining” . In 1943 at the Moscow University revolutionary work on electrical discharge
200 Sharanjit Singh*and Arvind Bhardwaj Vol.10, No.2
machining was carried out by two Russian scientists, B.R. and N.I. Lazarenko . Refined and a
controlled process for machining of materials was developed by analyzing the destructive
effects. It becomes easy to maintain and control gap between the electrode and workpiece with
the introduction of RC (resistance–capacitance) relaxation circuit in 1950s, which provided the
first consistent dependable control of pulse times and also a simple servo control circuit. Later
stage RC circuit used as the model for successive developments in EDM technology. In America
at same time three employees came up with same results by using electrical discharges to remove
broken taps and drills from hydraulic valves. With the reference of this work vacuum tube EDM
machine and an electronic circuit servo system that automatically provided the proper electrode-
to-workpiece spacing (spark gap) for sparking, without contact between the electrode and the
workpiece . In 1980s with the initiation of Computer Numerical Control (CNC) in EDM
brings remarkable advancement by improving the efficiency of the machining operation. EDM
machines have become so stable with the regular improvement in the process, so that these can
be used for long interval of time under monitoring by an adaptive control system. This process
enables machining of any material, which is electrically conductive, irrespective of its hardness,
shape or strength . The improvement of EDM have since then been intensely sought by the
manufacturing sector yielding enormous economic benefits and generating keen research
1.1 EDM Process
EDM is basically a non conventional machining process but the technique of material erosion
employed in EDM is still debatable . The basic principal followed is the conversion of
electrical energy into thermal energy through a series of discrete electrical discharges occurring
between the electrode (tool) and workpiece immersed in a dielectric fluid . Due to the
insulating effect of the dielectric which is used in EDM process is very important because it
avoids electrolysis of the electrodes during the EDM process. Spark is initiated when high
voltage is applied between the electrode and workpiece at smallest point distance as shown in
Figure 1. Metal starts eroding from both the surfaces of workpiece as will as electrode. After
each discharge, the capacitor is recharged from the DC source through a resistor Figure 2, and
the spark that follows is transferred to the next narrowest gap. At the end sparks spread over the
entire workpiece surface leads to its erosion, or machining to a shape which is mirror image of
Vol.10, No.2 Review to EDM by Using Water and Powder-Mixed Dielectric Fluid 201
Figure 1 Spark initiation in EDM process
The dielectric fluid helps discharge energy to concentrate into a channel of very small cross-
sectional area. It also acts as coolant and flushes away the particles of machining from the gap.
The electrical resistance of the dielectric fluid influences the discharge energy at the time of
spark initiation. Early discharge will occur, if the resistance is low. If resistance is large, the
capacitor will attain a higher value of charge before the spark occurs. As the erosion on the
workpiece surface takes place the tool has to be advanced through the dielectric towards it. A
servo system, which is employed to maintain the gap voltage between the workpiece and
electrode with a reference value, is to ensure that the electrode moves at a proper rate towards
workpiece, and to retract the electrode if short circuiting occurs. The volume of material
removed per discharge is typically in the range of 10 -6–10 -4 mm3 and the metal removal rate
(MRR) is usually between 2 and 400 mm3/min  depending on specific application. The RC
circuit did not give good metal removal rate (MRR), and higher MRR was possible only at the
cost of surface finish. Large time of machining was spent on charging the capacitors Figure 3.
There was a very high peak in current at the instant of spark initiation, followed by a rapid rate of
decline. By this high current peak much higher spark temperature is produced which is much
higher than that needed to remove material and resulted in thermal damage to the electrode. With
the reduction in peak current and increase in spark duration helps to lower the tool wear and
increase the machining efficiency. This is achieved by the introduction of controlled pulse
generator and its typical waveform has been shown in Figure 4.
Spark initiated at the
point of minimum
202 Sharanjit Singh*and Arvind Bhardwaj Vol.10, No.2
Figure 2 The Lazarenko RC circuit 
Figure 3 Variation of capacitor voltage with time in RC circuit 
Vol.10, No.2 Review to EDM by Using Water and Powder-Mixed Dielectric Fluid 203
Figure 4 Pulse waveform of controlled pulse generator 
In comparison to the RC circuit, there is less peak current value, shortened idle period and an
increase in pulse duration. Spark energy is the product of peak current and pulse on-time. Since
these process variables can be readily adjusted, machining conditions can be selected for
particular effects needed. However, the process is more complex than what is depicted in Figure
4. When the electrode separates from the workpiece, the potential is the open circuit voltage,
usually about 100V. When the dielectric begins to ionize, current starts flowing through the
circuit and the potential drops to a level of about 35v. The graph between the voltage and current
as a function of time, gives a more detailed picture Figure 5. Here (A) shows ionization time, (B)
shows discharge time, (C) shows deionization time and (D) shows idle time.
Pulse on time Pulse off time
204 Sharanjit Singh*and Arvind Bhardwaj Vol.10, No.2
Figure 5 Actual profile of a single EDM pulse 
Most of the electrode wear occurs during the ionization time. While the RC circuit usually
employed negative polarity for the tool electrode, positive polarity is preferred with pulse
generator power supply . Although the spark energy available for metal removal is
proportional to the product of effective pulse on time, current and sparking voltage, these
constituent variables do not individually contribute to metal removal in a straight forward
manner . Only the time following ionization is effective in removing metal. As an
approximation, it may be stated that crater diameter is proportional to the applied current, and the
depth is proportional to the pulse on-time .
1.2. Basic EDM Process Parameters
The Process parameters can be divided into different categories i.e. electrical, non-electrical
Parameters, electrode parameters, powder parameters etc. shown in Figure 6.
Vol.10, No.2 Review to EDM by Using Water and Powder-Mixed Dielectric Fluid 205
Figure 6 Process parameters and performance measures of EDM Process a cause and effect
1.2.1. Electrical parameters
184.108.40.206. Peak current
The peak current is basically a most important machining parameter in EDM. It is the amount of
power used in EDM and measures in unit of amperage. During each pulse on-time, the current
increases until it reaches a preset level, which is expressed as the peak current. In both die-
sinking and wire-EDM processes, the maximum amount of amperage is governed by the surface
area of the cut. Higher amperage is used in roughing operations and in cavities or details with
large surface areas. Higher currents will improve MRR, but at the cost of surface roughness and
tool wear rate. All these factors are more important in EDM because the machined cavity is a
mirror image of tool electrode and excessive wear will obstruct the accuracy of machining. New
improved electrode materials, especially graphite, can work on high currents without much
220.127.116.11 Discharge voltage
Before current can flow, the open gap voltage increases until it has created an ionization path
through the dielectric. Once the current starts to flow, voltage drops and stabilizes at the working
Pulse on time
Electrical parameters Electrode parameters
Non-Electrical parameters Powder parameters
Pulse off time
Working time Tool, workpiece
TWR & SR)
206 Sharanjit Singh*and Arvind Bhardwaj Vol.10, No.2
gap level. The preset voltage determines the width of the spark gap between the leading edge of
the electrode and workpiece. Higher voltage settings increase the gap, which improves the
flushing conditions and helps to stabilize the cut. MRR, tool wear rate (TWR) and surface
roughness increases, by increasing open circuit voltage, because electric field strength increases.
However, the impact of changing open circuit voltage on surface hardness after machining has
been found to be only marginal. Discharge voltage in EDM is related to the spark gap and
breakdown strength of the dielectric .
18.104.22.168. Pulse on time and pulse off time
These are expressed in units of microseconds. Because all the cutting is done during pulse on-
time, so the duration of these pulses and the number of cycles per second (frequency) have vital
role. Metal removal is directly proportional to the amount of energy applied during the pulse on-
time . This energy is controlled by the peak current and the length of the pulse on-time. Pulse
on-time is commonly referred to as pulse duration and pulse off-time is called pulse interval.
With longer pulse duration, more workpiece material will be melted away. The resulting crater
will be broader and deeper than a crater produced by shorter pulse duration. This will increase
the surface roughness. Extended pulse duration also allow more heat to sink into the workpiece
and spread, which means the recast layer will be larger and deeper heat affected zone. However,
extreme pulse duration can be counter-productive. When the optimum pulse duration for each
tool and workpiece material combination is exceeded, material removal rate starts to decrease.
Long pulse duration can also restrict electrode from machining. At this situation, increasing the
duration further causes the electrode to grow from plating build-up. The cycle is completed when
sufficient pulse interval is allowed before the start of the next cycle. Pulse interval will affect the
speed and stability of the cut. According to theory, the shorter the interval, the faster will be the
machining operation. But if the interval is too short, the expelled workpiece material will not be
flushes away with the flow of the dielectric fluid and the dielectric fluid will not be deionized.
This will cause the next spark to be unstable and slows down cutting more than long, stable off-
times. At the same time, pulse interval must be greater than the deionization time to prevent
continued sparking at one point . Modern power supplies allow independent setting of pulse
on-times and pulse off-times. Typical ranges are from 2 to 1000µs. In ideal conditions, each
pulse creates a spark. However, it has been observed practically that many pulses fail if duration
and interval are not properly set, causing a loss of the machining efficiency.
The polarity of the electrode can be either positive or negative. But the excess material is
removed from side which is positive. When series discharge starts under the electrode area and
passes through the gap, which creates high temperature causing material evaporation at the faces
of both the electrode. The plasma channel is composed of ion and electron flows. As the electron
Vol.10, No.2 Review to EDM by Using Water and Powder-Mixed Dielectric Fluid 207
processes (mass smaller than anions) show quicker reaction, the anode material is worn out
predominantly. This effect causes minimum wear to the tool electrodes and becomes of
importance under finishing operations with shorter pulse on-times. However, while running
longer discharges, the early electron process predominance changes to positron process
(proportion of ion flow increases with pulse duration), resulting in high tool wear. In general,
polarity is determined by experiments and is a matter of tool material, work material, current
density and pulse length combinations. Modern power supplies insert an opposite polarity
“swing pulse” at fixed intervals to prevent arcing. A typical ratio is 1 swing pulse for every 15
standard pulses .
22.214.171.124. Electrode gap
The tool servo-mechanism is employed in EDM machine; its function is to control responsively
the working gap to the set value. Mostly electro-mechanical (DC or stepper motors) and electro-
hydraulic systems are used, and are normally designed to respond to average gap voltage Figure
7. Basic requirements for good performance are gap stability and the reaction speed of the
system; the presence of backlash is particularly undesirable. The reaction speed must be high in
order to respond to short circuits or open gap conditions. Gap width is not measurable directly,
but can be inferred from the average gap voltage [9, 13].
Figure 7 Electrode feed control in EDM 
1.2.2. Non- Electrical parameters
126.96.36.199. Dielectric flushing
208 Sharanjit Singh*and Arvind Bhardwaj Vol.10, No.2
The dielectric fluid used in EDM have characteristics of high dielectric strength and quick
recovery after breakdown, effective quenching and flushing ability, good degree of fluidity and
easily available. TWR and MRR are affected by the type of dielectric and the method of its
flushing . The different types of flushing are injection flushing, suction flushing, side
flushing and flushing by dielectric pumping . Lonardo and Bruzzone exposed that flushing
during the roughing operation affected the MRR and TWR, while in the finishing operation; it
influenced the SR . The flushing rate also influences the crack density and recast layer,
which can be minimized by obtaining an optimal flushing rate . In flushing most dielectric
fluids are hydrocarbon compounds or water. Deionized water is used for wire-EDM and high
precision die-sinking because of its low viscosity and carbon-free characteristics. The dielectric
fluid is flushed through the spark gap to remove gaseous and solid debris during machining and
to maintain the dielectric temperature by acting as coolant also. A control feature that is available
on many machines to facilitate chip removal is vibration or cyclic reciprocation of the servo-
controlled tool electrode to create a hydraulic pumping action. Levy and Ferroni, also investigate
that Orbiting of the tool or workpiece has also been found to assist flushing and improve
machining conditions .
188.8.131.52. Rotating the workpiece
In addition to the flushing of the dielectric, the techniques of applying rotational motion to the
sparking process also affect the EDM performance. Guu and Hocheng  provided a workpiece
rotary motion to improve the circulation of the dielectric fluid in the spark gap and temperature
distribution of the workpiece yielding improved MRR and SR. On the other hand, Kunieda and
Masuzawa  proposed a horizontal EDM (HEDM) process in which the main machining axis
is horizontal instead of the conventional vertical axis. The change in the basic construction in
addition to the rotary motion of the workpiece offered an accessible evacuation of debris
improving the erosion efficiency and accuracy of the sparking process. HEDM has also been
experimented in the micro-machining of small parts [20, 21].
184.108.40.206. Rotating the electrode
Similarly, the performance measures of the EDM process also improves by the introduction of
the rotary motion to the electrode. It serves as an effective gap flushing technique, which
significantly improves the MRR and SR [22, 23, 24]. The same alloying effect of migrating
material elements from the workpiece and tool is also observed, in relation to the morphology,
chemical composition and size distribution of debris, when using rotating electrodes . It was
found that the vibratory motion yields comparable effects as the rotary motion of electrode
improving the MRR, enhancing the surface quality of workpiece and increasing the stability of
Vol.10, No.2 Review to EDM by Using Water and Powder-Mixed Dielectric Fluid 209
1.2.3. Electrode parameters
220.127.116.11. Electrode material
The main factors determines the suitability of material are, we can achieve maximum MRR,
wear ratio, cost and ease with which it can be shaped or fabricated to the desired shape.
Generally, by using a sufficient number of electrodes of material having a low wear ratio, it is
possible to produce the same accuracy of machining as with a single electrode of material with a
high ratio. Keeping in mind technical and economic considerations various material that can be
used as electrode are given in Table 1.
Zinc based alloy
High only on
On all metals
On all metals
Small holes are
Used on few
Used for finishing
On all metals
On all metals
Table 1 Selection of electrode material 
18.104.22.168. Electrode design and size
As we know EDM produce a mirror image on tool on the workpiece. However, a certain amount
of clearance should be provided between the tool and work cavity produced. The magnitude of
the clearance varies with the rate of metal removal, the material of the tool and workpiece.
S No. Rate of cutting Finish Side Clearance
Table 2 Effect of operating condition on side clearance 
210 Sharanjit Singh*and Arvind Bhardwaj Vol.10, No.2
Different tools may be needed for rough and fine machining. The effect of operating on side
clearance shows in Table 2. We use different computer-aided systems that have been
experimentally implemented in the design of the electrode. The major research interest in the
production of electrodes using the rapid prototyping technique is also used.
1.2.4. Powder parameters
We can take different types of parameters such as concentration of powder, types of powder and
abrasive size etc. In powder mixed electric discharge machining (PMEDM) to avoid the wastage
of kerosene oil, a small dielectric circulating system is designed. A stirring system is
incorporated to avoid the particle settling. The modified circulation and stirring system is
designed in such a way that, it can be employed at the commercial level. In this system, a micro
pump is installed for better circulation of the powder mixed dielectric fluid. The pump and the
stirrer are employed in the same tank in which machining is performed. For constant reuse of
powder mixed dielectric fluid, magnetic forces are used to separate the powder particles from the
debris produced due to machining. PMEDM has a different machining mechanism from the
conventional EDM. In this process, a suitable material in the powder form is mixed into the
dielectric fluid of EDM.
2. FUNDAMENTAL EDM SETTINGS
The polarity, pulse duration, pulse interval and peak current are the basic machine settings.
These parameters can also be expressed as average current, pulse frequency and duty factor.
2.1. Average Current
It is the maximum current available for each pulse from the power supply/generator in the
circuit. Average current is the average of the amperage in the spark gap measured over a
complete cycle. It is calculated by multiplying peak current by duty factor.
Average Current (A) = Duty Factor (%) × Peak Current
2.2. Pulse Frequency
It is the number of cycles produced across the gap in one second. The higher the frequency, finer
is the surface finish that can be obtained. With an increase of number of cycles per second, the
length of the pulse on-time decreases. Short pulse on-times remove very little material and create
smaller craters. This produces a smoother surface finish with less thermal damage to the
workpiece. Pulse frequency is calculated by dividing 1000 by the total cycle time (pulse on-time
+ pulse off-time) in microseconds.
Pulse Frequency (kHz) = 1000/Total cycle time (µs)
Vol.10, No.2 Review to EDM by Using Water and Powder-Mixed Dielectric Fluid 211
2.3. Duty Factor
Duty factor is a percentage of the pulse duration relative to the total cycle time. Generally, a
higher duty factor means increased cutting efficiency. It is calculated in percentage by dividing
pulse duration by the total cycle time (pulse on-time + pulse off-time).
Duty Factor (%) = [Pulse duration (µs)/Total cycle time (µs)] × 100
3 PERFORMANCE MEASURES
Large numbers of papers have been focused on ways of yielding optimal EDM performance.
Performance measures in EDM are MRR, TWR and SR. In MRR research work focused on
metal removal mechanism and methods of improving MRR [26, 27, 28]. Similarly research work
on tool wear process and methods of improvement in process has been reported [29, 30, 31].
Though EDM is essentially a material removal process, efforts have been made to use it as a
surface treatment method and/or an additive process. Many surface changes have been reported
ever since the process established itself in the tool rooms of manufacturing industry .
4. TYPES OF EDM
4.1. Sinking EDM
In this sinking EDM process, on the surface of workpiece a mirror image of tool shape occurs. In
sinking EDM electrode material is generally copper or graphite. The numerical control monitors
the gap conditions (voltage and current) and synchronously controls the different axes and the
pulse generator. The dielectric liquid is filtrated to remove debris particles and decomposition
products. In this process electrical energy turns into thermal energy through a series of discrete
electrical discharges occurring between the electrode and workpiece immersed in a dielectric
fluid . The thermal energy generates a channel of plasma between the cathode and anode.
When the pulsating direct current supply is turned off, the plasma channel breaks down. This
causes a sudden reduction in the temperature allowing the circulating dielectric fluid to implore
the plasma channel and flush the molten material from the workpiece surface.
4.2. Wire EDM
Wire-cut EDM (WEDM) is one of the most favorable variants owing to its ability to machine
conductive, exotic and high strength and temperature resistive (HSTR) materials with the scope
of generating intricate shapes and profiles . It uses a thin continuously traveling wire feeding
through the workpiece by a micro-processor eliminating the need for elaborate reshaped
electrodes, which are required in the EDM. The Wire-Cut EDM process uses a thin copper wire
of diameter about 0.1 to 0.3 mm as the electrode and the workpiece is mounted on a CNC-
212 Sharanjit Singh*and Arvind Bhardwaj Vol.10, No.2
controlled worktable, enabling complex two dimensional shapes can be cut on the work piece by
controlled the movement of the X-Y worktable . Wire EDM process is widely applied not
only in tool and die-making industry, but also in the fields of medicine, electronics and the
automotive industry .
4.3. Micro EDM
The recent trend in reducing the size of products has given micro-EDM a significant amount of
research attention. Micro-EDM is capable of machining not only micro-holes and micro-shafts as
small as 5µm in diameter but also complex three-dimensional (3D) micro cavities .Micro
EDM process is basically of four types - micro-wire EDM, die-sinking micro-EDM, micro EDM
drilling and micro-EDM milling. In micro-wire EDM, a wire which has a diameter down to 0.02
mm is used to cut through a workpiece. In die-sinking micro-EDM, an electrode is used
containing micro-features to cut its mirror image in the workpiece. In micro EDM drilling,
micro-electrodes (of diameters down to 5–10 µm) are used to ‘drill’ micro-holes in the
workpiece. In Micro-EDM milling, micro-electrodes (of diameters down to 5–10 µm) are
employed to produce 3D cavities by adopting a movement strategy similar to that in
4.4. Powder Mixed EDM
The mechanism of PMEDM is totally different from the conventional EDM . A suitable
material in the powder form is mixed into the dielectric fluid of EDM. When a suitable voltage is
applied, the spark gap filled up with additive particles and the gap distance setup between tool
and the workpiece increased from 25–50 to 50–150 mm . The powder particles get energized
and behave in a zigzag fashion Figure 8. These charged particles are accelerated by the electric
field and act as conductors. The powder particles arrange themselves under the sparking area and
gather in clusters. The chain formation helps in bridging the gap between both the electrodes,
which causes the early explosion. Faster sparking within discharge takes place causes faster
erosion from the work piece surface.
Figure 8 Principle of powder mixed EDM 
Vol.10, No.2 Review to EDM by Using Water and Powder-Mixed Dielectric Fluid 213
4.5. Dry EDM
In this process a thin walled pipe is used as tool electrode through which high-pressure gas or air
is supplied. The role of the gas is to remove the debris from the gap and cooling of the inter
electrode gap. The technique was developed to decrease the pollution caused by the use of liquid
dielectric which leads to production of vapors during machining and the cost to manage the
5. RESEARCH WORK USING EDM
EDM is basically a material removal process. The researches have classified the numerous EDM
research interests referred in the papers into four different major areas as shown in Figure 9.
Enormous work has been reported ever since the process established itself. However, in this
section discussion is only about water and powder mixed dielectric as dielectric fluid.
Figure 9 Classification of major EDM research areas 
5.1 EDM with Water as Dielectric Fluid
In 1981 jaswani investigated the performances of kerosene and distilled water over the pulse
energy range 72–288 mJ . Machining in distilled water resulted in a higher MRR and a lower
tool wear rate than in kerosene when a high pulse energy range was used. He also noticed that
with distilled water, the machining accuracy was poor but the surface finish was better. Tariq
Jilani and Pandey in the year 1984 measures the performance of water as dielectric fluid in EDM
214 Sharanjit Singh*and Arvind Bhardwaj Vol.10, No.2
using distilled water, tap water and a mixture of 25% tap and 75% distilled water . The best
machining rates have been achieved with the tap water and machining in water has the
possibility of achieving zero TWR when using copper tools with negative polarities.
Koenig and Joerres in 1987 perform by taking aqueous glycerine solution as additive in water
. He reported that a highly concentrated aqueous glycerine solution has an advantage as
compared to hydrocarbon dielectrics when working with long pulse durations and high pulse
duty factors and discharge currents, i.e. in the roughing range with high open-circuit voltages and
positive polarity of tool electrode.
Konig and Siebers in 1993 explained the influence of the working medium on the metal removal
process . They indicated that working medium has a sustained influence on the metal
removal process. The erosion process in which water is used as dielectric consequently possesses
higher thermal stability and much higher power input can be achieved especially under critical
conditions, allowing much greater increases in the MRR. A considerable difference between
conventional oil based dielectrics and aqueous media is specific boiling energy of aqueous media
is some eight times higher and boiling phenomena occur at a lower temperature level. Another
study on surface modification of aluminium was done by Tsunekawa in 1994 using powder
compact electrodes having 64% Ti and 36% Al and they obtained fine dendritic precipitates of
titanium carbide on the machined surface . The electrode was connected to negative polarity
and kerosene was used as the working fluid. The average diameter and alloyed depth of
discharge craters increased with increase in pulse width, the other important factor being the
discharge current. It was found that the forming pressure of the powder metallurgy electrodes did
not affect material transfer. Kruth in1995 also succeeded in depositing aluminium on steel and
TiC on aluminium using Al and Ti–Al green compact electrodes respectively with a traditional
EDM machine . This was obtained by using porous electrodes with negative polarity
favoring high tool wear. During investigating on white surface layer, the use of an oil dielectric
increases the carbon content in the white layer and appears as iron carbides (Fe3C) in columnar,
dendritic structures while machining in water causes a decarbonization. While investigating the
influence of kerosene and distilled water as dielectric on Ti–6A1–4V work pieces. Chen found
that carbide is formed on the work piece surface while using kerosene while oxide is formed on
the work piece surface while using distilled water . The debris size of Ti–6Al–4V alloy in
distilled water is greater than that in kerosene and compared with kerosene, the impulsive force
of discharge in distilled water is smaller but more stable.
In year 2004 Leao and Pashby investigated that some researchers have studied the feasibility of
adding organic compound such as ethylene glycol, polyethylene glycol 200, polyethylene glycol
400, polyethylene glycol 600, dextrose and sucrose to improve the performance of demonized
water . The surface of titanium has been modified after EDM using dielectric of urea
solution in water . The nitrogen element decomposed from the dielectric that contained urea,
Vol.10, No.2 Review to EDM by Using Water and Powder-Mixed Dielectric Fluid 215
migrated to the work piece forming a TiN hard layer which resulting in good wear resistance of
the machined surface after EDM.
Ekmekci presented an experimental work to measure residual stresses and hardness depth in
EDM surfaces . Stresses are found to be increasing rapidly with respect to depth, attaining to
its maximum value around the yield strength and then fall rapidly to compressive residual
stresses in the core of the material since the stresses within plastically deformed layers are
equilibrated with elastic stresses. In 2005, Sharma investigated the potential of electrically
conductive chemical vapor deposited diamond as an electrode for micro-electrical discharge
machining in oil and water . While doing a comparative study on the surface integrity of
plastic mold steel in the same year Ekmekci also investigated found that the amount of retained
austenite phase and the intensity of micro cracks have found to be much less in the white layer of
the samples machined in de-ionized water . A new application in EDM power supply was
designed to develop small size EDM systems by Casanueva . The proposed control achieves
an optimum and stable operation using tap water as dielectric fluid to prevent the generation of
undesired impulses and keep the distance between the electrode and the work piece within the
desirable range. In the same year Kang and Kim studied in order to investigate the effects of
EDM process conditions on the crack susceptibility of a nickel-based super alloy revealed that
depending on the dielectric fluid and the post-EDM process such as solution heat treatment,
cracks exist in recast layer could propagate into substrate when a 20% strain tensile force was
applied at room temperature . When kerosene as dielectric, it was observed that carburization
and sharp crack propagation along the grain boundary occurred after the heat treatment.
However, using deionized water as dielectric the specimen after heat treatment underwent
oxidation and showed no crack propagation behavior.
Figure 10 The micro-slit outlook profile SEM photos of using pure water alone and added SiC
216 Sharanjit Singh*and Arvind Bhardwaj Vol.10, No.2
In year 2008 Han-Ming Chow and other scientist investigated the effect of using pure water and
a SiC powder for titanium (Ti) alloy in micro-slit EDM, and found that by using pure water as
an EDM dielectric fluid for titanium alloy yields a high MRR and relatively low electrode wear
and small expanding-slit by employing negative polarity (NP) processes . Pure water and a
SiC powder cause high conductivity; therefore, the gap was larger than using pure water in the
EDM processes. Pure water and a SiC powder could disperse the discharging energy that refines
the surface roughness effectively and also attains a higher MRR simultaneously than that of pure
water. Pure water and a SiC powder causes a larger expanding-slit and electrode wear than those
of using pure water alone. However, pure water and a SiC powder attain a smaller amount of
machined burr than that of using pure water alone. The SEM photo using pure water in Figure 10
shows burrs formed on the slit edge. This is because there is a smaller discharge impact, which
cannot remove molten material completely during the EDM processes. However, using pure
water and SiC powder disperses energy and improves the surface roughness so fewer micro-slit
burrs were created.
5.2 EDM with Powder-Mixed in Dielectric Fluid (PMEDM)
In the powder mixed EDM powder of different materials mixed in dielectric fluid. The floating
particles impede the ignition process by creating a higher discharge probability and lowering the
breakdown strength of the insulating dielectric fluid. As a result, MRR, SR is increased, TWR is
lowered and sparking efficiency is improved. Because conductive powders enlarge the gap
distance and dispersing the discharges more randomly throughout the surface .Thickness of
the recast layer is smaller and micro-cracks are reduced. Consequently, the corrosion resistance
of the machined surface is substantially improved. It can also be concluded by H.K. Kansal in
2007 that PMEDM holds a bright promise in application of EDM, particularly with regard to
process productivity and surface quality of workpiece .
During review of literature it is observed that most of the research works using powder mixed
dielectric focus on improving the process parameters such as material removal rate MRR, TWR
and surface roughness. Early years the study of the impact of such machining on surface
modification began. For achieving surface modification by powder-mixed dielectric, an inverse
or reverse polarity arrangement (negative tool electrode) is universally recommended. Some of
the powders that have already been used are Ni, Co, Fe, Al, Cr, Cu, Ti, C (graphite), Si, SiC and
Mo with quoted grain sizes between 1µm and 100µm.When abrasive powders such as SiC and
alumina were mixed in the dielectric to improve the material removal rate. Such a process has
been named PMEDM (powder-mixed EDM) in which machining efficiency can be significantly
increased by selecting proper discharge parameters . Jeswani (1981) conducted experiments
with addition of 4 g/l of fine graphite powder in the dielectric and found that MRR improved by
60% and electrode wear ratio reduced by about 15% .
Vol.10, No.2 Review to EDM by Using Water and Powder-Mixed Dielectric Fluid 217
In year 1983 Koshy established that the addition of doping elements to the dielectric medium
could be used to impart desired properties to the top layer of the workpiece . Carbon in the
hydrocarbon dissociated and combined with the doping elements to form their respective
carbides. The workpiece was positive and the tool electrode was negative for such applications.
For the same powder concentration, the two main parameters that influenced the doping
characteristics were pulse current and pulse duration.
Early in year1995 Miyazaki applied a plasma arc produced through a small diameter nozzle on
steel . Ceramic powder of silicon carbide was supplied to the processing region with the
shielding gas of argon. The initial and running cost of plasma arc is much cheaper than laser
beam and it is generally used in industries for cutting and welding applications. It was possible to
obtain a hardness of 1000 VHN on AISI 1010 steel by self-quenching without any powder and
1200HV with silicon carbide particles. Figures 11,12 and13 show SEM micrographs of OHNS
die steel after machining with tungsten powder, graphite powder, and silicon powder mixed in
the dielectric respectively. Remarkable surface modifications can be observed. After this in order
to address the problem of powder settling, when we added a surfactant along with aluminium
powder in the dielectric and observed a more apparent discharge distribution effect which
resulted in a surface roughness Ra value of less than 0.2µm. It has been possible to achieve near
mirror-finish using conductive powders (such as graphite and aluminium) and semi conductive
silicon powders. Wong in1998 has been shown that besides the appropriate settings of electrode
polarity and pulse parameters, there is a great influence of work material and powder properties
on the response parameters such as MRR, TWR and surface roughness. Whilst graphite and
silicon powders gave mirror-finish on SKH-54 work material, aluminium powder failed to give
the same Figure 14 . The use of negative electrode polarity was found to be essential for
achieving mirror-finish condition.
Okada in year 2000 purposed that the hardness of the modified surface became higher with
increase in pulse duration and powder concentration . A distinct influence of the addition of
aromatic hydrocarbons to the dielectric fluid on the ignition and breakdown phase of single
discharges has also been reported by .
Fig.11. SEM micrographs of OHNS die steel after machining with tungsten powder
(at Ip =6A, Pon =5µs and Poff =85µs, electrode—copper .
218 Sharanjit Singh*and Arvind Bhardwaj Vol.10, No.2
Fig.12. SEM micrographs of OHNS die steel after machining with graphite powder
(at Ip =2A, Pon =5µs and Poff =57µs, electrode—copper) .
Fig.13. SEM micrograph of OHNS die steel after machining with silicon powder mixed
dielectric (at Ip =2A, Pon =5µs and Poff =57µs, electrode—copper) .
Fig.14. SEM micrographs of SKH-54 tool steel after machining with copper electrode
(a) Without any powder, (b) with graphite powder, (c) with silicon powder and (d) with
aluminium powder (at Ip =1A, Pon =7.5µs and Poff =11µs, magnification = 50×, polarity-
Furutani in 2001 investigated by using titanium powder in kerosene dielectric and obtained
titanium carbide layer of hardness 1600HV on carbon steel with a negatively polarized copper
electrode, 3A peak current and 2µs pulse duration . Rotating disk electrode kept the powder
concentration high in the machining area. Both titanium and titanium carbide were found in the
X-ray diffraction analysis Figure 15 of the machined surface and it was concluded that carbon
came from the breakdown of the dielectric fluid.
Vol.10, No.2 Review to EDM by Using Water and Powder-Mixed Dielectric Fluid 219
Yan in 2005 observed by adding urea to distilled water as the dielectric medium for machining
titanium, he obtained TiN on the work surface which exhibited improved friction and wear
characteristics . Both MRR and TWR declined with an increase in pulse duration.
Micro-hardness values of the order of 250 Hk were achieved. A deposition method for solid
lubricant layer of molybdenum disulphide by suspending its powder in the dielectric to produce
parts for ultra high vacuum applications (such as space environment) has been proposed by
Furutani and Shimizu in 2003 . High open circuit voltage, low discharge current, short pulse
duration and medium pulse interval were used to deposit the lubricant layer on carbon steel and
stainless steel. The process has some drawbacks, which include the difficulty in ensuring that the
powder is held in suspension. This was easier with more viscous dielectrics but at the cost of
reduced flushing efficiency . In order to address the problem of powder settling, Wu in year
2005 added a surfactant along with aluminium powder in the dielectric and observed a more
apparent discharge distribution effect which resulted in a surface roughness Ra value of less than
Figure15 (a) SEM micrograph and (b) XRD pattern of AISI-1049 carbon steel after machining
with Titanium powder-mixed dielectric (at Ip =3A, Pon =2µs and Poff = 1024µs), electrode—
copper, polarity—negative .
220 Sharanjit Singh*and Arvind Bhardwaj Vol.10, No.2
Other hand, when Tzeng and Chen conducted experiments on SKD-11 steel with aluminium,
chromium, copper and silicon carbide powders, they found that aluminium powder gave the best
surface finish followed by chromium, whereas copper powder generated the worst surface
characteristics . Besides the work material powder combination; particle size, concentration
and powder properties such as density, electrical resistivity and thermal conductivity affected the
machining performance. Using high speed framing camera (HSFC) technique, Klocke found a
larger plasma channel with aluminium powder-mixed dielectric in contrast to the standard
dielectric . With a pulse on-time of 100 µs, photos were taken after a delay of 60µs, in order
to snapshoot a fully developed plasma channel. It was concluded that in such cases, the discharge
energy got distributed on a bigger workpiece surface. Dielectric flow rate also had an important
influence on the process polishing capability .
In recent years G.S. Prihandana presents a new method that consists of suspending micro-MoS2
powder in dielectric fluid and using ultrasonic vibration during m-EDM processes .The
results show that the introduction of MoS2 micro-powder in dielectric fluid and using ultrasonic
vibration significantly increase the material removal rate and improves surface quality Figure 16
by providing a flat surface free of black carbon spots.
Figure 16 Microstructures of Cu–W surfaces with brass as the tool electrode, obtained by m-
EDM process using (a) pure dielectric ; (b) MoS2 concentration of2g/l;(c) MoS2 concentration
Kun Ling Wu and other researchers explore the influence of surfactant on the characteristics of
electrical discharge machining (EDM) process on mold steel (SKD61) . In this study,
particle agglomeration is reduced after surfactant molecules cover the surface of debris and
carbon dregs in kerosene solution. Debris is evenly dispersed in dielectric to improve the effects
of carbon accumulation and dreg discharge, and reduce the unstable concentrated discharge. The
EDM parameters, such as peak current, pulse duration, open voltage and gap voltages are
studied. The experimental results show that after the addition of Span 20 (30 g/L) to dielectric,
the conductivity of dielectric is increased. The machining efficiency is thus increased due to a
shorter relay time of electrical discharge. When proper working parameters are chosen, the
material removal rate is improved by as high as 40–80%. Although the improvement of surface
Vol.10, No.2 Review to EDM by Using Water and Powder-Mixed Dielectric Fluid 221
roughness is not obvious, the surface roughness is not deteriorated since the material removal
rate is great shown in Figure 17.
As discussed earlier many studies have been conducted with powder-mixed dielectric under
normal machining conditions with the aim of improving the conventional output process
parameters. Narumiya in1989 reported that the workpiece machined using the powder (Si, SiC or
Al) suspended oil had better surface finish and increased corrosion resistance compared to the
surface machined without powder . Electrode wear was found to be lower with water
dielectrics containing a powder suspension .
Figure 17 Machining depth comparison of different dielectric after 30min EDM (P: +, Ip: 3A,
τon: 25µs, and Eg: 40 V): (a) kerosene and (b) kerosene + Span 20. .
Significant improvement in surface roughness (both Ra and Rz values) and sharp decline in tool
electrode wear with kerosene and deionized water as dielectrics observed . Fredriksson and
Hogmark performed EDM of tool steel with three dielectrics . The dielectrics investigated
were silicone oil, a hydrocarbon based fluid and liquid nitrogen. Machining was done at different
dielectric fluid temperatures using both copper and graphite electrodes. It was found that the type
of dielectric fluid had a greater influence on the microstructure and surface layers than its
temperature. The only beneficial effect of changing the temperature was a reduced hardness in
the layer below the recast layer at elevated temperatures. MRR was very low for EDM in liquid
nitrogen and a recast layer rich in electrode material was obtained on the workpiece. No
significant difference in the thickness of affected layer was found with change in temperature,
dielectric medium or the electrode material. They also concluded that electrode material had a
great influence on the properties and composition of the surface layers.
6. CONCLUSIONS AND FUTURE TRENDS
Because of EDM enormous improvement in machining process has been achieved in recent
years. The capability of machining intricate parts and difficult to cut material has made EDM as
one of the most popular machining processes. The contribution of EDM to industries such as
cutting new hard materials make EDM technology remains indispensable. The review of the
222 Sharanjit Singh*and Arvind Bhardwaj Vol.10, No.2
research trends in EDM in water and EDM with powder additives is presented. In each topic, the
development of the methods for the last 25 years is discussed & noticed much work in PMEDM
rather than by using water as dielectric fluid as shown in Figure 18. The progress of development
in each area is presented using block diagrams Figures19 and 20. EDM in water is introduced for
safe and conducive working environment; EDM with powder additives is concerning more on
increasing SQ, MRR and tool wear using dielectric oil and EDM modeling is introduced to
predict the output parameters which leads towards the development of precise and accurate EDM
performance. For each and every method introduced and employed in EDM process, the
objectives are the same: to enhance the capability of machining performance, to get better output
product, to develop technique to machine new materials and to have better working conditions.
dielc t ric fluid
Figure 18 Research study conducted in EDM with different dielectric fluid
Machining by using different dielectric fluid with EDM process is still at the experimental stage.
A number of research studies have been carried out; significant improvements in MRR, surface
properties have been reported and the feasibility of the process is well established. However,
many more issues need to be investigated before the method can be formally accepted by the
The effect of discharge current and pulse duration has been taken into consideration in
various research works but variation in pulse interval has not been investigated or it has
been taken into consideration in conjunction with pulse duration by way of duty factor.
Most of the available research works on powder-mixed dielectric have studied the impact
of such machining on MRR, surface roughness and TWR etc. with normal polarity. The
study of the impact of this method on surface modification has been taken up by very few
Less work has been reported using powders of important alloying elements such as
manganese, chromium, molybdenum and vanadium in the dielectric medium. Likewise,
some of the important die steel materials such as OHNS die steel, molybdenum high-
speed tool steels and water-hardening die steels (W-series) have not been tried as work
Vol.10, No.2 Review to EDM by Using Water and Powder-Mixed Dielectric Fluid 223
Figure19 Research progress by using water as dielectric fluid
In 1981 machining in distilled water resulted in higher MRR and
lower wear ratio was obnsverd by jaswani .
In 1984 the best machining rates have been achieved with tap
water as the dielectric fluid; zero electrode wear possible .
In 1987 use aqueous solution of organic compounds as medium
for EDM sinking almost completely excludes any fire hazard,
permitting safe operation of plant .
In 1993EDM sinking process can be made more cost effective
through the use of water based media, significantly improving
competitiveness with other process observed. .
1999 The MRR is greater and the relative wear ratio is lower
when machining in distilled water rather than in kerosene .
2004 Water based dielectrics may replace oil-based fluids in
In 2005 TiN was synthesized on the machined surface by
chemical reaction that involved elements obtained from the work
piece and the urea solution in water as dielectric .
The amount of retained austenite phase and the intensity of
microcracks has been found to be much less in the white layer of
the samples machined in deionized wate
r dielectric liquid
In 1995 Water dielectric cause decarbonisation in the white layer
at the surface of a work piece caused by EDM .
In 2008 effect of using pure water and a SiC powder for titanium
in micro-slit EDM observed .
In1994A machine tool maker has established technologies for
water-immersion machining, greatly improved the surface finish
so that post process manual polishing is not required .
224 Sharanjit Singh*and Arvind Bhardwaj Vol.10, No.2
Wu In 2005 address the problem of powder settling 
Kansal in same year studied by optimizing the process
parameters of PMEDM by using response surface methodology
he analyzed that MRR & SR increases, TWR decreases .
Yan in 2005 obtained TiN on the work surface which exhibited
improved friction and wear characteristics. Both MRR and TWR
declined with an increase in pulse duration. .
Tzeng and Chen conducted experiments the best surface finish
followed by chromium, whereas copper powder generated the
worst surface characteristics. 
Using high speed framing camera (HSFC) technique, Klocke
2004 found a larger plasma channel with aluminium powder-
mixed dielectric .
A distinct influence of the addition of aromatic hydrocarbons to
the dielectric fluid on the ignition and breakdown phase of single
discharges has been reported by Rehbein 
Furutani and Shimizu (2003) proposed a deposition method for
solid lubricant layer of molybdenum disulphide by suspending its
powder in the dielectric .
(Aspinwall et al., 2003) suggested that it is easier with more
viscous dielectrics but at the cost of reduced flushing efficiency
The hardness of the modified surface became higher with
increase in pulse duration and powder concentration examined by
Okada in 2000
Furutani in 2001 used titanium powder in kerosene dielectric and
obtained titanium carbide layer of hardness 1600HV on carbon
Koshy in 1983 established that the addition of doping elements to
the dielectric medium could be used to impart desired properties
to the to
Jeswani in 1981 conducted experiments with addition of 4 g/l of
fine graphite powder and found that MRR improved by 60% and
electrode wear ratio reduced b
In a related case of surface modification using powders but not
involving the EDM process, investigated by Miyazaki 1995 .
It has been possible to achieve near mirror-finish using
conductive powders (such as graphite and aluminium) and semi
conductive silicon powders purposed by Wong 1998 .
Vol.10, No.2 Review to EDM by Using Water and Powder-Mixed Dielectric Fluid 225
Figure 20 Research progress by using powder mixed dielectric as dielectric fluid
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