New EDM Will Help Students, CIRAS Additive Manufacturing Projects

Iowa State engineering student Emma Gallegos checks the status of a test project while being trained to operate CIRAS’ new EDM, as Iowa State instructor Joe Vanstrom watches.

Iowa State University students have gained even more valuable experience with manufacturing technology thanks to CIRAS’ recent purchase of an electrical discharge machine (EDM).

The $110,000 cutting tool was purchased with CIRAS funding and installed in December in a basement lab of Sukup Hall, only a few steps away from the metal additive manufacturing machine CIRAS purchased last year.

Chris Hill, head of CIRAS’ Technology Assistance Program, said the new EDM will enhance CIRAS’ ability to produce parts and fixtures on the metal additive machine. That machine, essentially a metal 3D printer, uses powdered metal and a laser to build complex items one 40-micron thick layer at a time. The finished projects then must be precisely cut from the metal plate used to support their construction.

EDMs use an electrically charged wire to cut through hard metal that otherwise would be difficult to machine.

CIRAS’ new electrical discharge machine (EDM) will facilitate projects produced in CIRAS’ metal additive manufacturing machine. It also will give Iowa State students broader experience with manufacturing technology.

“This will give us a lot faster turnaround time,” Hill said. “We’ll still be doing the same thing we were doing. But instead of sending it outside, we’ll be able to walk 15 feet and get it done more quickly.”

Joe Vanstrom, a lecturer in Iowa State’s Department of Agriculture and Biosystems Engineering, said he plans to include the EDM in course discussions and show students the relative benefits of using it in comparison to other tools.

“We’re always trying to get students more exposure to what they will see in the real world,” Vanstrom said. “Being able to understand where and when to use that technology will help them become more efficient when they become professionals.”

> For more information on additive manufacturing, contact Chris Hill at or 515-313-8251.


A version of this article was published in the Winter 2017 edition of CIRAS News. To read more of that edition or others, please explore elsewhere on our website.