Up to a short time ago the complete contents of this publication only existed in my memory. With this I do not want to pretend that other people do not remember the same things, but to my knowledge nobody else had the idea to write all this down, for others to learn about it.
It must have been towards the end of 1968, I still was an
apprentice at AGIE, as I made an interesting observation. I was on my way from
my workplace to the cafeteria, as I saw a contraption which was in no way
similar to all other machines or devices manufactured at that time by AGIE. On
top of that, the noise emitted was not the same as the one produced during a
normal EDM machining (something like a grumbling, comparable to the noise one
hears when cooking a piece of meat during a "fondue bourguignonne"
meal), but a high pitched hissing sound. And also, the sparks produced were very
much visible, unlike for the conventional EDM, where the process was done inside
a container filled with dielectric fluid.
The operator of that contraption was a good friend of mine, "Godi" Wettstein. Spurred by my technical curiosity, I had a closer look at this new device.
It consisted of one of the first test devices for a new machine tool, which was supposed to cut with a thin wire, and this in whatever conductive material. "Godi" explained to me everything in every detail, and I knew then, that a wire EDM machine was not far from becoming reality.
After this first visit, I looked in on "Godi" on a regular basis, and my curiosity grew even more, when the first version of a NC-controller appeared next to the initial contraption, having undergone various enhancements. My asking questions continued now on a wider basis, I wanted to know everything about this controller, how it worked and what it needed to execute the various movements. After normal working hours and during Saturdays, helped by a large amount of patience, paper and a lot of corrected holes on the paper tape (at that time the wrong holes were covered with masking- or electrical tape), I managed to program my name in a fantasy font in the new AGIECODE. "Godi" was in a good mood and agreed to cut it in a piece of brass plate (I conserved the piece of brass and the original paper tape in a drawer of my desk until August 7, 1978, when a destructive flood washed it away along with many other things).
My fascination for wire EDM was born. Immediately after finishing my mechanic apprenticeship, I became one of the very first operators of an AGIECUT, i.e. the first commercially usable wire EDM machine controlled by a numerical control unit.
"Godi" and myself were from then on occupied with the programming and execution of samples for prospective customers. At that time there was no erosion technology worthwhile of that name, this was determined with test-cuts in the material provided by the customers.
This whole evolution has also affected several other domains, both to their advantage as disadvantage. Some companies could expand their field of activity by manufacturing special wires, exclusively to be used on wire EDM machines, high precision workpiece support devices for a multitude of applications, and many others. On the other hand, some machines, such as punch filing machines, special profile grinders and others, disappeared from the marketplace.
Later on, when I quit completely the operation and programming of machine tools (mid 2001), I decided to write down all the remembrances of those years. What follows here, is the result of that idea.
As for all the media used to store information, my memory is also not infallible, it is quite possible if not probable, that some errors are produced during "playback", namely what concerns the chronology of the events. Can this also be attributed to parity- or checksum-errors?
When I started all this, I had no images available, to represent all the described items. When I asked some old friends at AGIE, they were nice enough to send me some pictures, of the machine tool, the generator, controller and some other items more. I was able to pick some other images from the Internet, with the help of some of the search engines. The origin of most of these images is not well known, I am grateful to the anonymous people and companies who created und uploaded those images. For other images or pictures, where the origin is known, I tried to provide a hyperlink (see "Details" in the captions) to get more detailed information on the shown item. Other items were impossible to find, e.g. the representation of the AGIECODE or the built-in "Interpolator", these images were created by myself with the help of various graphic programs.
I sincerely hope that the following story helps to refresh the memory of those who have lived the same evolution and will give an insight to people who want to know more about this manufacturing process, still quite young and which really revolutionized the world of the tooling- and molding departments.
I wish you an entertaining reading, sincerely,