Electro Arc

Category Electro Arc History

Electro Arc on the Island Retrospect

Harry Bennett, shown above on one of his horses is well known for his association with Ford.  The pictures in this blog were Bennett’s and were passed on to Harold Stark when his family bought the noteworthy Bennett castle on Geddes road in Ann Arbor.  This castle came equipped with an “island” which was the location of Electro Arc operations until the early 2000s, while Harold Stark and his family lived in the Castle, which Henry Bennett sold in a private sale to Harold Stark in 1942.

Bennett was not well-liked, his dedication to Ford and the position he took was filled with violence markedly the “Battle of the Overpass” a brutal mark of his work against unions for Ford at the time.  In contrast with his reputation, when Bennett met with the Stark family he gave one of his horses to Harold Stark Jr., who would eventually take over Electro Arc.  

The Stark family maintained a relationship with the Ford family.  Former Electro Arc employees recall parties in which the Ford family may attend, and when the Castle was sold, the Ford family purchased it for a time.  The Castle was since sold to a private owner, and the Island remains the property of the Ford family.

Some rumors say, when Harry Bennet built the caste on Geddes road, materials were stolen from the River Rouge Factory.  This seems unlikely since the property was a project that Ford Fully supported.  This lavish home was evidence that Bennett’s salary was more than one might expect for the position he held.  Apparently, Ford and Bennet planned this secret castle together, adding features like turrets, and a secret tunnel.

What is the History of Electro Arc and EDM?

When you search for the term “metal disintegrator” you will likely find ‘Electrical discharge machining’ as a result.  That is because the technological breakthrough that led to metal disintegrating machines was spearheaded by a team including Harold Stark who went on to patent the idea for AC metal disintegrators and started the world’s first metal disintegration machine factory in Detroit Michigan.  This process is metal disintegration machining (MDM).

You may have heard Electrical discharge machining, EDM for short, called spark machining, arc machining, and spark eroding.  This is a non-conventional group of machining which now includes electrochemical machining, water jet cutting, and laser cutting.  This process is limited to use with ferrous alloys because it requires the base material to be electrically conductive.  A solution for high-accuracy, complex machining applications provides an efficient alternative where other methods are impossible.  Using an electrical current, spark discharge erodes the workpiece using dielectric fluid as an electrical insulator. There are three main forms of EDM, wire EDM, die sinker EDM, and hole popping EDM.  

EDM is usually associated with the wire EDM machine method which was developed between the 1960s and 70s to make dies from hardened steel.  This EDM process uses wire wound between two spools of wire creating two electrodes, the tool-electrode, and workpiece-electrode, which are separated by dielectric fluid. With increased voltage, the fluid produces an electric arc. The wire moves in a controlled pattern and sparking occurs between the wire and the workpiece.  This method removes excess material with automated technology similar to CNC providing high accuracy and precision.  Commercial wire EDM capability has continued to advance substantially over the last few decades.

Joseph Priestly originally discovered the erosive effect of electrical discharges in 1770.  Die sinker EDM was invented independently by two groups.  In 1943 two Russian scientists Boris and Natalya Lazarenko were exploring methods to increase the lifespan of tungsten breaker points. Their research led to the discovery that erosion could be precisely controlled if the electrodes were immersed in dielectric fluid. This allowed the invention of an EDM machine tool for processing hard materials like Tungsten. This tool became known as a resistor-capacitor (R-C) circuit for EDM.  

During this time, without knowledge of the experimentation taking place in Russia, a team of American scientists consisting of Harold Stark (the founding president of Electro Arc), Victor Harding and Jack Beaver were also developing a method to remove broken drills and taps from aluminum castings.  This team was tasked by their employer with finding a solution because tools were being broken off in expensive aircraft parts.  Initially constructing machines from electric etching tools, they were unsuccessful.  After trying compressed air, they added fluid to the machines, combined with spark repetition allowing them to cut through metal quickly and efficiently while the coolant flushed away metal particles created in this process. Their research was able to produce 60 sparks per second, a breakthrough in technology at the time. Machines initially developed by this team were used during World war II and the trio patented the system for removing broken bolts, taps, and drills as well as an electronic-circuit servo system that maintained proper spacing between the electrode and the workpiece.

This led Harold Stark to develop Electro Arc’s Metal Disintegrator line of metal disintegrating machines which are still produced by Stillion Industries today (Stillion Industries purchased Electro Arc in 2019).  This technology was key in the development of vacuum tube EDM machine tools capable of producing thousands of sparks per second (electric discharge machining) in the 1960s.  Die sinker EDM machines are traditionally used to create three-dimensional shapes.  EDM provides an advantage because the process is predictable and accurate, making it easy to reproduce, but it is slower than other methods.

Hole drilling EDM is a specialized hole-making machine sometimes called a “hole popper” which is used to create the pilot hole necessary for wire threading. Using thermal energy rather than mechanical force, these machines cut through extremely hard materials such as titanium, carbide, carbon graphite, and high alloy steel.  These machines work on the same principle as wire EDM machines.  Instead of wire, these machines use a tool that works like a drill bit, no physical contact takes place between the tool and the workpiece, the electrical discharge is conducted to rapidly cut the metal.  This process is ideal for extremely small holes, as small as 0.010”. 

In his book, ‘Electrical Discharge Machining’ Elman C. Jameson mentions working with Victor Harding and Harold Stark during the origination of the EDM process in the United States.  EDM became popular in Japan as a result of damage from the war.  This new method was key in rebuilding after the destruction of their infrastructure.  On the other hand, The existing equipment and workers in the US caused a delay in the acceptance of EDM technology in the US.  Electro Arc metal disintegrators are an appealing option because they do not require special training for operators as other EDM machines require.

Electro Arc Metal Disintegrators made in Michigan since 1947

Electro Arc is the original manufacturer of Metal Disintegrators based in Michigan.  The company’s founder, Harold Stark patented the AC metal disintegration process in 1942 and opened Electro Arc’s doors in 1947.  Stillion Industries purchased Electro Arc in 2019 and carries on the quality name that Electro Arc metal disintegrators have become synonymous with.

Electro Arc Metal Disintegrators Last a Lifetime

You can see one of Electro Arc’s original paper promotions above, featuring the following models: 

Model 2-S – Still one of our most popular portable models!  This basic metal disintegrator now features our Arc-er Head and portable design which make it perfect for use in small shops.

1-S (See below) – The model 1-S was the largest table top metal disintegrator offered by Electro Arc initially.  

2-SA – The model 2-SA was one of the first tabletop metal disintegrators offered by Electro Arc.  This self-contained unit is great for high production plants and tool shops.

3-S – The model 3-S originally offered with no built-in coolant tank offers great portability for use in confined spaces.

Not shown on this flyer, the Carbide Impregnator was another flagship product Electro Arc was known for between the 1940s and 1970s.  Electro Arc is the original and best manufacturer of metal disintegrators in the world.  Our machines are known for their durability and long-lasting design.  Now among over 40 configurations available, we are confident you will find an Electro Arc metal disintegrator is still the best value for your application!

The location and contact information is NOT correct in this vintage promotion

Over 75 Years of Michigan Manufacturing

As you can see, the original disintegrating head is different than our current Arc-er, IQ, and Servo disintegrating heads.  The features of Electro Arc metal disintegrators are the same great features allowing anyone to use our machines.  Electro Arc Metal Disintegrators have castors, the choice of AC or DC, and portable or tabletop, including the option to order a custom table top size.  Most models allow you to choose your KVA power rating.  Additional features include support options, head options, remote start/stop, and more!

In 2004, Electro Arc purchased Uni-Tek and integrated DC metal disintegrators into our product line.  Our most powerful machine, the Bolt Eater represents the heavy-duty application of metal disintegration with both portability and the power to remove large bolts!

Stillion Industries is proud to carry on the Electro Arc Metal Disintegrator legacy in Dexter Michigan! We continue to improve the metal disintegrator design and offer repair and refurbishing services for old machines. Learn more about Electro Arc’s history.

Electro Arc Portable AC Metal Disintegrators

What is Electro Arc’s Carbide Impregnator?

Electro Arc introduced the Carbide Impregnator in June of 1964. This bench-type carbide impregnator hardens wear surfaces of tools. You can use this process to extend tool life and reduce downtime and maintenance. Cratering, galling and chip abrasion are substantially reduced. You will find this plug-in-hand tool easy to use. A carbide tip is passed over the wear surfaces or land of the tool. The vibrating tip fuses tungsten carbide by electrical spark discharge into the metal surface. The carbide deposit adds hardness and wear resistance to the surface metal without altering toughness and other mechanical characteristics.

Examples from case studies show increased life of tools:

*Gear cutters – 700%
*End Mills – 800%
*Saws – 600%
*Piercing punches – 300%

How the Carbide Impregnator Works:

The carbide impregnator deposits tungsten carbide to a depth of .0005 to.001 in the metal and builds up to .0003 tolerance regardless of the length of operation. You can pass the impregnating tip over the surface many times until you are satisfied with the desired deposit. The impregnation process uses a special grade of carbide suitable for impregnation.

Electro Arc’s Carbide impregnator operates on a 120 volt, 60 cycle current. The cabinet is made with16 gauge reinforced steel with steel side handles for easier handling. A convenient expanded metal basket is used to store the plug-in hand tool and cord. The tool’s net weight is 35 pounds.

Applying the Principles of Carbide Impregnation

You are probably wondering what kind of applications the carbide impregnator has. We published an engineering bulletin in the 60s with a case study “Applying the Principles of Carbide Impregnation to Circular Saws” about Havey Aluminum Company’s application of the Carbide Impregnator. A prime extruder of titanium and aluminum in the United States, Harvy aluminum had a sizable investment in 36″ diameter circular saws for cutting billets. Numerous studies and reports for cutting manufacturing costs and determining shop procedures revealed that no saws of any kind would stay “on the lin” for more than 12 hours, and it was best to stop to change at six and three-quarter hours because of a variety of negative factors which thereafter started to develop.

Harvey Aluminum gave Electro Arc a 16″ circular saw with 80 teeth to carbide impregnate, the theoretically critical crescent of about 1/64 of a square inch on each side of the teeth. The carbide impregnation of the 16″ saw took about two hours. Harvey Aluminum then put the saw into operation and inspected it at the end of 80 hours of continuous operation. They found there was an increase of over 600 percent over any other saw used before.

On the strength of these results, Harvey Aluminum immediately purchased an Electro Arc Carbide Impregnator so that they could continue to receive this extraordinary increase in all of their saw operation. In addition to this, after receiving the machine they began to experiment in other areas of their plant operations. The Extrusion Department impregnated four sets of dies and reported an increase of over 1000 percent. Further use proved that the slitting saw operation was further improved by impregnating the entire tooth rather than just the crescent.

This application at Harvey Aluminum is an excellent sample of what users of the Electro Arc Carbide Impregnator experience when they have the chance to couple the impregnator with their own knowledge against wear-life problems.

Electro Arc