History of Sodick
Part 2: Rapid Growth Phase to Overseas Expansion Phase

Introduction of FMS in the Kaga Plant and Ceramic Developed and Manufactured by Sodick

Kaga Plant (Kaga Office)
Kaga Plant (Kaga Office)

Ceramics kiln at Kaga Plant
Ceramics kiln at Kaga Plant

In March 1987, Sodick introduced the Kaga Plant (Kaga Office), its second production facility, with FMS (Flexible Manufacturing System) that is able to automate its production of EDMs.

At this Kaga Plant, manufacturing lines and the warehouse were directly linked in a fully automated system and Sodick operated an advanced production system that used computers to enable the automatic production of the number of units set out in the production plan. In this way, consistency both in the number of products and in the product quality even with a small number of employees could be ensured at the plant.

At the time the Sodick development staff were also convinced that, to improve machining performance in wire-cut EDM, ceramic was the ideal material to use in the base supporting the wire electrodes and workpiece due to its high insulation value, minimal temperature-induced distortion, and high strength. However, because there was no company able to manufacture ceramics for electrical discharge machines, Sodick needed to undertake the development and manufacturing itself.

By developing and manufacturing ceramics in-house at the Kaga Plant, Sodick successfully achieved substantial improvements in machining performance using wire-cut EDM.
The A Series wire-cut EDM, which made extensive use of ceramics, received the Good Design Award and became a top-selling product, with total sales reaching 6,000 units.

Interview with Sodick Chairman and Founder, Toshihiko Furukawa Phase of Ceramics

Apparently a lot of raw material was used to developing ceramics you could actually use.
Furukawa Well, there was no other way. When a potter makes a bowl he doesn't like, he smashes it. I told the staff that if things don’t turn out well, they can break them since ceramic are made out of cray. I told them to keep making new ones until they are totally content with the result.
What sort of outcomes did the development and manufacturing of ceramics produce in terms of improved performance for Sodick EDMs?
Furukawa It was particularly necessary for the wire-cut EDM. For instance, let’s say we cut out a large disc using EDM.
The problem was that the center position of the wire didn’t return to the exact starting point even it gets back to where you started, taking 24 hours from the time you start cutting.
In fact, this is because the parts that are important for precision, such as the arm that holds the wire, the holder, and the workstand for the item being machined, are all made of metal.
For every 1℃ change in temperature, each 10 cm section of the iron either lengthens or shortens by 1 micron. So, a piece 50 cm long changes by 5 microns. That’s for a change of 1℃. If there's a 5℃ change, that length changes by 25 microns. In other words, it does not produce a perfect circle because various materials lengthen or shorten while the disc is being cut. And the thing is, if it's even slightly off, you can't get the mold out. To prevent this, you either have to use a temperature-controlled room, or restrict yourself to making things where it's OK if the lengths change slightly.
But precisely, no such thing can be considered as a machine.
Therefore we tried making the components used in critical areas with ceramics, and then we returned to the exact starting point.
For this part, we had to be able to correct it with the machine without using NC to compensate.

Our competitors' machines require a constant flow of water to keep them at a set temperature, but thanks to the use of ceramics, Sodick machines were able to machine extremely accurately.