Precise Electrochemical Machining is a relatively old machining technique which basis were laid way back in the 19th century. The process has improved enormously ever since, thus becoming an extremely accurate technique with vast application possibilities across industries.

Find below a brief History timeline, outlining the milestones in the pECM development:

At the outset of pECM

Image of Michael Faraday

Michael Faraday (1791-1867), the greatest researcher of all time, discovered the principles of anodic metal machining, and has ever since been considered the father of that enlarged science of electro-magnetism. His early metallurgic researches, from 1818 to 1824, anticipated the developments which have led to the widespread use of alloy steels today. He was also partly responsible for coining many of the familiar words in the field of electrochemistry nowadays, including 'electrode', 'cathode' and 'ion'.

In 1831, Faraday discovered electromagnetic induction, the principle behind the electric transformer and generator. This and many other crucial discoveries on the topics of electricity and electrochemistry were initiated by Faraday, some of the results of which remain unchanged up to current date.

When asked in 1850 on the practical value of electricity:

One day sir, you may tax it

Faraday's reply to William Gladstone, then British Chancellor of the Exchequer (minister of finance),
when asked of the practical value of electricity (1850)

 

Faraday's experiment with eels

Faradays experiment with eel

The study of creatures, such as the electric eel, were of special interest to researchers of Faraday's time. Scientists had long suspected that electricity played a vital role in the nervous system, though the exact nature of that role was still controversial.

On his turn, Faraday was conducting numerous experiments with electric eels. He would test the eel's shocking ability by placing his bare hands on it. Remember that the electric eel is capable of producing upwards of 600 volts per shock, and clearly Faraday was not working under any work safety & health guidelines at that time!

To quote Faraday on his experiment:

Shock. The shock of this animal was very powerful when the hands were placed in a favorable position, i. e. one on the body near the head, and the other near the tail; the nearer the hands were together within certain limits the less powerful was the shock. The disc conductors conveyed the shock very well when the hands were wetted and applied in close contact with the cylindrical handles; but scarcely at all if the handles were held in the dry hands in an ordinary way.

M. Faraday, "Notice of the character and direction of the electric force of the Gymnotus," Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc. 129 (1839), 1-12

 

1920 - 1960

Old electrochemical maching lab

In the beginning of the 20th century, researchers in Russia, Western Europe, and the USA offered various ways and technological schemes of ECM application for dimensional processing of parts, mainly on operations of contouring and internal push broaching of various forms.

The electrochemical machining (ECM), as a technological method, originated from the process of electrolytic polishing offered already in 1911 by well-known Russian chemist E. Shpitalsky. However, the actual history of electrochemical machining (ECM) was outlined, beginning with the basic 1929 patent of Gussef, an outstanding visionary invention which recognized quite accurately the operating features of the ECM process. What the Russian researcher did was to be the first one to develop a process to machine metal anodically, which saved his a special place in the history of pECM.

Years later, in 1941, Burgess appeared with a publication in the Electrochemical Society. Later on, in the 1950s, maybe the most significant developments occurred: ECM was investigated as a method for shaping high strength alloys. From this moment on companies started to establish the anodic metal machining technique as a commercially suitable one, which was followed by the inception of production applications.

 

1960 – 1970

Antique ECM research lab from the late 60s

In the 60s and 70s the technology was steadily gaining increasing interest, especially in Western Europe and the USSR. The industries which first predicted the potential and started exploring the technology were the Aerospace (e.g., gas turbines), and the Tool Manufacturing (e.g., forging dies).


Electrical discharge machining (EDM) was also deep in development during this period, which at the time was a slightly more preferred technique over Electrochemical Machining. On the other hand, even back then electrochemical machining was able to achieve much higher machining speeds. Later on, the ECM process became both much more advanced in terms of precision and environmental impact, thus regaining its popularity.

 

1980 – 2000

Old research book

In the 80s and 90s more perfect schemes of impulse and impulse-cyclic processing in passivating oxygen-containing electrolyte fluids were developed.

At that period the demand for newly developed high-duty and hard materials within the high industries, such as Aerospace, Medical and Tool machining, was booming. Those new materials resulted in the necessity for new technologies in electro-physical and electrochemical processing. Reaction to this demand of technical progress was appearance in 1998 — 2011 of the whole complex of new bipolar microsecond ECM by vibrating ECM-electrode. This novelty significantly increased the accuracy of the technology, and together with the rest of the pECM benefits over the conventional technologies set the beginning of the process ever-increasing application.

 

Nowadays

Nowadays various companies are using the pECM technique, a process that can hardly be compared to the anodic machining technique it once was. Whereas in the past the technique was lacking on accuracy and environmental strain, today's pECM is greatly improved and no longer has the malfunctions from its early developing years.

ECM Technologies is a company offering innovative electrochemical machining solutions, which has been operating on the global market from its inception in 2003. Founded and led ever since by its CEO, Mr. Wolters, it has quickly grown into a medium size company with a diverse services profile and a permanent team of highly-skilled engineers and business specialists. Constant efforts on advocating the multiple benefits of precision electrochemical machining over conventional machining techniques, together with extensive R&D knowledge capacity have positioned ECM Technologies as the knowledge authority within the pECM market. Although we have developed applications for the majority of the high industries, the pECM process is still in the stage of steadily gaining popularity and establishing itself as the preferred technology for high precision works.