5 Axis CNC Mills Pros and Cons

Posted on Aug 30, 2021

5 Axis CNC Mills

You might often hear that 5 axis CNC mills can process complex parts in one setup and boost your productivity. This is absolutely correct. However, using such a machine tool also comes with certain challenges. Check this article and learn the pros and cons of using it!

What is a 5-axis CNC Mill?

The 5-axis CNC mill cuts the workpiece on almost every surface, except for the clamped parts. When working on contoured parts (or parts with complex geometries), the process includes machining on several planes. It takes a few setups on a 3-axis machine to complete such a process. However, on a 5-axis CNC mill, it requires only one setup, which reduces the need for transferring the workpiece between platforms.

5-axis machine tools have the ability to move the tools and the workpiece in five directions synchronically. A standard CNC milling machine operates in three basic axes, the X, Y, and Z-axis. On the other hand, a 5-axis CNC mill can work on two additional rotational axes (usually the A and B-axis). These two axes allow the machine tool to cut in more directions, which results in higher productivity.
 

Benefits

5-axis machining capabilities create a cost-effective manufacturing solution to sophisticated part designs. Below are the benefits of using a 5-axis CNC milling machine.
 

Complex Geometry

5-axis machining can carry out complex designs and geometrical details. With the axes, you have access to a wider range of cutting angles, arcs, undercuts, contours, and profiles. These features can only be achieved through multiple setups on a standard 3-axis mill. Yet, with the 5-axis machine, they are attained in only one station.
 

Improved Accuracy

Every time you transfer a workpiece from one setup to another, there is a chance you lose the alignment between planes. Unlike 3-axis machining, 5-axis mills increase accuracy by processing a part in a single setup. Therefore you create multiple complex shapes without losing the accurate alignment required to maintain ultimate quality.
 

Shorter Cycle Time

In 5-axis machining, the cutting tool remains close to the cutting surfaces, allowing for a shorter cycle time. This helps save costs as lower tool heights increase the cutting efficiency. In addition, this setup allows for shorter cutting tools, which reduces vibration at high cutting rates. This ultimately leads to a better surface finish as well.
 

Better Surface Finish

5-axis CNC mills create better-finished surfaces. The parts are placed much closer to the cutting tools. Shorter cutting tools reduce vibration, tool deflection, and tool runout. Therefore, improved machining quality and finer surface finish are possible.
 

High Throughput

5-axis machines can effectively reduce cycle time and idle time. They have a range of spindle speeds and feed rates, allowing the machine a powerful cutting capacity. The 5-axis machining is entering an era of high-speed machining. The rapid movement and positioning reduce the turnaround time for semi-finished products and improve production efficiency and precision.
 

Greater Competitiveness

Not many shops have a 5-Axis CNC milling machine. Having one will elevate you a step higher above your competitors in production services. You can give your customers something your competitors cannot offer. You should try out this type of machine setup and enjoy the benefits such as higher revenues and productivity, efficiency, and product quality.
 

:: Read More: 3 Methods of Constructing 5 Axis CNC Tool
 

Challenges

Usually, when you hear about 5-Axis CNC machining, the first thing that comes to mind is higher costs and difficulty to operate. But is 5-axis machining really like this? People have realized the advantages and importance of 5-axis CNC technology in the manufacturing and production industry. However, the use of 5-axis machining is not as extensive as we think for the following reasons.
 

Higher Costs

The cost of purchasing a 5-axis machine and the software is high. Generally speaking, investing in a 5-axis machine costs much higher than purchasing a standard 3-axis machine tool. The maintenance is more difficult and the components are more costly. These directly affect the cost of the machine and resulting in higher costs.
 

More Complicated Programming

5-axis machining is different from its 3-axis counterpart. There are two rotational motions. The spatial trajectory and synchronicity of motions are more complicated, which takes more time to understand and devise. In order to carry out the surface design, it is necessary to pass multiple coordinate transformations and complex spatial geometric operations. We must also consider the coordination of each axis to avoid interference, collision, etc. when programming the process.
 

Higher Skill Requirement

5-axis machining is an advanced technology that requires the operation of highly skilled technicians. It takes experience and skills to program and set up the machine. The higher personnel requirements translate into a higher labor cost.
 

Conclusion

5-axis CNC mills can process complex parts, such as drilling, taper machining, and complex surfaces that are difficult (or not possible) to perform with traditional machining methods. However, a workshop must take into consideration the whole range of challenges posed when they buy a 5 axis machine. A comprehensive review of the requirements should be undertaken in order to avoid making an expensive but vain investment.
 

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