Q. What advantages do these large EDM machines offer over more traditional machining techniques such as broaching and milling?
A. EIn the case of wire EDM machines, I would highlight three major advantages over broaching. Firstly, the investment cost itself, which is much lower than that of broaching machines. Secondly, the versatility offered by wire cutting machines over broaching machines. On a wire cutting machine, the profile of the workpiece to be cut can be easily changed, since the cutting tool is the wire, which is a standard consumable. However, on broaching machines, changing the profile of the workpiece requires a change of cutting tools (broaches). These tools are very expensive and have to be custom designed and manufactured for the final part to be machined. Finally, the low installation costs of a wire EDM machine compared to those of a large broaching or milling machine also need to be pointed out.
Q. Is ONA the world’s only supplier of large machines? What makes ONA’s machines special or different compared to those of your competitors?
A. Besides ONA, there are other manufacturers. But ONA is undoubtedly the supplier that offers the most extensive range of large EDM machines on the market, and also the one with the longest track record in the manufacture of this type of machine.
As early as the mid-1980s, ONA was already a forerunner in the manufacture of large die sinking EDM machines with a gantry type structure. We have also been pioneers in wire cutting EDM technology. One example of this was the presentation of the largest wire EDM machine ever launched at the EMO trade fair in Paris in 1999: the ONA Arion K1000, with X-Y-Z paths of 1500 x 1000 x 600 mm. To some extent, this was the year that marked the kick-off of the industrialisation of large wire cutting EDM machines, and today it is standard practice for most manufacturers to have wire EDM machines with a 600 mm Z-travel in their portfolio. Something that 23 years ago was only marketed by ONA.
Q. ONA began by marketing standard machines, then it had to adapt to market needs and opted for machines with a double head gantry structure, and finally, 25 years ago, twin head machines were first introduced, which been constantly improved ever since. How do you remember this progression? Did ONA’s specialisation in large machines and specific solutions come naturally or was it (and is it) a strategic move by the company?
A. Specialisation has come at the same time, both naturally and as a strategic move by the company. On the one hand, it has been the customers themselves who have asked us to develop ever larger and more complex machines. On the other hand, ONA is also deeply committed to implementing this type of solution because our company structure allows us to be more versatile and competitive compared to most of our competitors in this area.
As for our company’s evolution, I would say it was very fast, just as the current development of our technology is. Within a few years of launching the first gantry type EDM machine, we had already developed a complete range with several models of different sizes covering a range of electrode load capacities from 500 kg to 3000 kg in weight, including models with twin heads. This whole process took place from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s. This is when a major change in the manufacture of plastic injection moulds occurred, with the widespread implementation of high-speed milling. The use of large electrodes that previously performed most of the mould machining was discontinued, and instead smaller electrodes were used for machining the grooves and cavities that were difficult to machine by milling. This change in trend led ONA to rethink the mechanical structure of the large die sinking machines, as the machines no longer needed to have a heavy gantry structure. Though this structure was suitable for working with heavy electrodes, it was not the best solution for optimal positioning accuracy. In the mid-1990s, the development of the new generation of large die sinking machines with a lighter, more precise RAM-type structure began. It is this type of structure that we still use today.
Q. What is the best thing about being a company specialising in large machines and dedicated EDM solutions?
A. It means a closer relationship with the customer, which in many cases increases the level of customer loyalty compared to those customers who buy standard machines.
P. What is the most difficult thing?
A. Special solutions require a high level of communication with the customer and cultural differences, which sometimes exist between companies in different countries or continents, can lead to greater complications than when selling standard machines.
Q. As ONA´s Project Director, what would you say is the most singular project (in terms of difference, complexity, relevance) that you have had to oversee over the years?
A. A: If I had to choose one, I would say Concours Technologies, as I consider it to be the most advanced large machine project in terms of automation and customisation. This was a TQX10 twin head machine tailored to the customer’s requirements, incorporating two electrode changing robots and fully integrated with the customer’s own in-house production management software.
Q. How do you envision ONA EDM in 25 years’ time, when, if all goes well, they will be a century old?
A. I imagine we will still be the stay the same as we are today: a company focused on improving customer satisfaction and strengthening customer relationships. If we look at who our current customers are, we can see that many of them were already customers decades ago, so I hope that in 25 years’ time they will still be placing their trust in us, as well as being able to earn the trust of those new customers we have yet to get to know our company over the coming years.