Why You Need a 5 Axis Machining Center?

Posted on Oct 13, 2019

5 Axis Machining Center

In modern days when people in the industry use the term "5 axis machining center", they usually refer to one or a series of computer numerically controlled machine tools, or machine tools that can move tools on five axes simultaneously. Therefore, when people talk about modern machining technology, the 5 axis machining center has become a hot topic due to its versatility.

5 axis machining center explained

To start, many tend to think that that a horizontal turning center with a powered turret is identical with 5 axis machining centers, but this is not the case. In fact, if it is necessary to compare the two, a horizontal turning center with a power turret and live tools has a large gap in processing capacity from the 3 axis machining center.

And in terms of the axis movement, the 3 axis machining center only moves the work piece in two directions (X and Y), while the tool moves up and down in the Z direction. On the other hand, the turning and milling center usually contains two movable axes on its cylinder and chuck mounting side, which is very similar to the case of a 3 axis machining center. The 5 axis machining unit can rotate on two additional rotation axes (A and B), which helps the cutting tool approach the work piece from all directions. Compared with the 3 axis machining center, it has better versatility.


Applications of the 5 axis machining center

A 5 axis unit is very versatile. It is known for its wide application in all industries. However, due to the high cost of the machine, business owners usually use 5 axis machining centers to process work pieces with lower values. The best application of a 5 axis machining center is usually the machining of work pieces with complex contours, which are difficult to achieve with a 3 axis machining center or a turn mill machine. The work pieces of the 5 axis machining center come from many fields including automotive, aerospace, defense, power generation, automation, mold and die plate, and shipbuilding industry.


Solutions in between

Not all complex machining needs to be performed by a 5 axis unit. But sometimes the 3 axis machining center is of no avail, which may bring more trivial work to the machine operator. Many manufacturers, such as automobile chassis OEM factories, prefer solutions in between.

The machining process of the 4 axis machining center is the same as that of the 3 axis machining center. They use cutting tools to remove material from the work piece to form the desired shape and contour of the work piece. In the 4 axis machining, the milling process is performed on an additional axis, which is usually not the integrated part of the machine tool in the first design, but like an additional component installed on a 3 axis machining center.

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Introducing the 4 axis machining centers

Under this idea, a 4 axis CNC machine runs on the X, Y, and Z axes just like a normal 3 axis machine. The difference is that the 4 axis machine also involves the A axis rotating around the X axis. The added fourth axis can rotate the work piece in most cases, and sometimes processes around the B axis.

In the case of chassis processing, when it is necessary to cut holes and cut-outs on the side of the work piece or the periphery of the cylinder, 4 axis milling is useful. Compared with the 3 axis machine, the 4 axis machine can provide faster, more efficient and CNC based machining capabilities, thereby obtaining accurate results, while the cost of the machine tool is lower than the 5 axis unit.


Why is vertical design crucial?

Most 5 axis machining centers are designed vertically, and their structural arrangement is vertically aligned. The work pieces in the machine are processed by cutting tools, which move vertically on the vertical axis rather than horizontally or diagonally. In a 5 axis unit, it is usually the Z axis, while in the 4 axis or 5 axis machine tools, the support of the A and B axes will be compensated more to achieve accurate machining on the vertical axis. In certain models, designers prefer to use the C axis.

Due to the effect of gravity, the vertical structure will not often encounter the concentricity issue as the horizontal structure. The vertical chuck can firmly clamp the work piece on the worktable, and even be strengthened under the effect of gravity. The gravity can be placed on the base supported by tracks. Therefore, the application of a 5 axis unit is wider than that of almost all kinds of machining centers.

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