Modern days when industrial insiders use the term 5 axis machining centers, they are typically referring to the competence of one or a series of computer numerical controlled machine (s) to move apart, or a tool on literally five distinguished axes synchronically. Hence, when people are talking about modern machining technology, 5 axis machining center is a critical topic due to its versatile processing capability.
Some may consider horizontal turning centers with power turret as almost identical to the 5 axis machining centers, while it is not true. In fact, if the two must be compared together, turning machines with power turret and live tools are barely equal to 3 axis machining centers regarding the processing capability.
Speaking of the axis movements, the 3 axis machining centers move a part in two directions only (namely, the X and Y directions), and the tool moves upwards and downwards (in the direction Z). On the other hand, turn-mill centers normally contain two movable axes on the side where its cylinder and chuck installed, much like the case with the 3 axis machining centers. While the 5 axis machining center can rotate on two additional rotary axes (i.e. the A and B axis) which help the cutting tool approach the part from all directions, accomplishing better machining versatility than the 3 axis counterparts.
Due to its great versatility, 5 axis machining centers are well known for its wide range of applications in almost all kinds of industry. However, due to the higher price and cost, business owners usually exploit the 5 axis machining center to process workpieces with lower values.
As a result, well-applied workpieces of 5 axis machining centers are often complicated workpieces with elaborating profiles which are usually hard to achieve by 3 axis or turn-mill machines. The workpiece category of the 5 axis machining center includes components used in the automotive, aerospace, defense, power generation, automation, mold and dies plates, and shipbuilding industries, just to name a few.
Not that all the complex machining need to be conducted by 5 axis machining centers, but sometimes 3 axes just can’t help but only cause further hard works for the onsite operators. Accordingly, many manufacturers like car chassis OEM business owners would prefer what lies in between.
Normally, the machining of the 4-axis machining centers involves the same processes that are involved in the 3-axis counterparts, in which a cutting tool is utilized to remove materials from a workpiece in order to create the targeted shapes and profile. Still, in the case of 4 axes machining, milling process is performed on an additional axis that is usually not an integrated part of the machine in the first design but rather, like an additional component installed onto the 3 axis machining center as a work of combination.
In this idea, the 4-axis CNC machine operates on the X, Y and Z axes just like an ordinary 3-axis machine, but it also involves the rotation around the X-axis, which is called the A-axis, which is the 4th axis that is added to the machining process we mentioned above. While in most cases, the workpiece will be rotated in order to allow for machining to occur around the B-axis sometimes.
In the case of chassis processing, 4-axis milling is useful when the targeted holes and cut-outs need to be made in the side of a piece or around a cylinder. So 4 axis model can provide quicker and more efficient work-based off computer numerical inputs for precise results compared with the 3 axis models, while the machine prices are not as much as the 5 axis machining center.
Most 5 axis machining centers are of vertical design and the arrangement of its structure that aligns vertically. The workpieces of the 5 axis machining center are machined by cutting tools that move either upwards or downwards vertically rather than horizontally or diagonally on the upright axis. With the 5 axis machining center, it would normally be the Z-axis, while with the 4 or 5 axis machinery, the support of A and B axis will compensate even more to achieve the accurate machining on the vertical axis, but sometimes in certain models, designer would prefer C axis.
Due to the nature of gravity, the vertical model would not encounter concentricity issue as often as its horizontal counterparts since the vertical chuck could clamp the workpieces firmly on the table and even reinforced by the gravity, which is put flat on the base supported by tracks. Therefore, the applications of vertical machining machines with 5 axis machining center design are even wider than almost all kinds in the machining center inventory.
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