SBIR Phase I: Integrating Electrical Discharge Non-Contact Measurement into Manufacturing Platforms for Precision On-Board Metrology

Period of Performance: 01/01/2011 - 12/31/2011


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

1998 Ohio St., #200
Lisle, IL 60532
Principal Investigator


This Small business Innovation Research Phase I project will develop an on-board micro-electrical discharge circuit, at pico-Joule energy levels, for manufacturing platforms to act as automated micro-metrology system. This will be a non-contact, non-destructive metrology process as well as have traditional EDM capabilities for small holes and de-burring processes. One of the greatest obstacles in machining micro-parts is inspection. Conventionally, a part is removed from the machining platform and measured by a dedicated metrology platform. When a critical dimension is out of tolerance, the part is replaced within the machining platform for additional work. However, as dimensions and tolerances are reduced to microns and smaller, it is impossible for these parts to be re-positioned, once removed. These parts are then scrapped, the process is modified, and a new part is manufactured in its place, costing time, material waste, and money. This obstacle will be removed by this development of an elegant and effective in situ metrology process. Additionally, by using the abilities of the micro-EDM circuit, sensors can be manufactured on-site, at little cost, to measure any machined forms. With this technology, anything machined on the platform can be measured and re-machined on the platform without losing positional accuracies. The broader impact/commercial potential of this project is the advancement and increased reliability of miniaturized products with micro-sized features. These products are a rapidly expanding sector of the medical, automotive, and aerospace industries. As an example, the minimally invasive medical products market, supported by micro-metrology, is predicted to be a $19 Billion industry by 2011. These industries are supplied by the micro-manufacturers that continue to shape it. As this market shows rapid growth, more conventional machine suppliers are also introducing equipment into the micro-manufacturing market. However, of all these manufacturers, micro-EDM suppliers, with their non-contact, high aspect ratio, and high precision capabilities, are uniquely situated to develop an elegant non-contact on-board metrology solution for micro-parts. Micro-manufacturing companies have formed integral relationships with customers in areas ranging from medical devices to consumer products and government/defense, realizing their prototyping and production needs. These relationships will mean an immediate impact on consumer products as the integration of effective micro-metrology and micro-manufacturing tools will be rapidly put to use. Mounting this technology on conventional CNC systems will also have a great impact on the macro-machining industry, as it will also improve process qualification, increase throughput, and reduce operator time and material waste.