5 Axis Machining expanding the possibilities

Posted on Jun 19, 2020

5-axis machining provides infinite possibilities for your part sizes and shapes that you can effectively process. The word “5-axis” refers to the number of directions the cutting tool can move. On a 5-axis machining center, the cutting tool moves across the X, Y and Z axes as well as rotates on the A and B axes to machine the workpiece in any direction. This means you can process five sides of a part in a single setup.

●      Machine complex workpieces in a single setup for increased productivity
●      Save time and money with less fixture preparation
●      Boost capacity and cash flow, while reducing lead times
●      Higher part accuracy because the workpiece does not move across multiple workstations
●      Ability to use shorter cutting tools for higher cutting speeds and less tool vibrations
●      Achieve excellent surface finishes and overall better part quality

:: Read more: The Ultimate 5–Axis CNC Machining Guide: The Basics


In simultaneous 5-axis machining, the machine tool’s 3 axes (X, Y and Z) and two rotational axes (A and B) all move at the same time to perform complex processing on your parts. With 3 + 2, the machine executes a 3-axis milling program with the cutting tool locked in a tilted position using its two rotational axes. The process, also known as 5-axis positional machining, focuses on the fourth and fifth axes to place the cutting tool in a fixed position rather than move it continuously during the machining process.


The Basics of 5-Axis CNC Machining

5-axis machining is describing the use of a computer numerical control (CNC) to simultaneously move cutting tools or parts along five distinct axes. The cutting head continuously moves along every axis so that the tip is always perpendicular to the part. This advanced manufacturing process allows you to machine a variety of complex parts.

The Benefits of 5-Axis CNC Machining

The top benefits of 5-axis CNC machining are:

●     1 time or Single Setup: 3-axis machines need multiple setups, that could result in incorrect alignments, higher costs, and other errors. With 5-axis machining, you have the capability to machine complicated shapes in a  single operation. That improves efficiency, saves precious time, reduces costs, and prevents operator error.

●     Shorter Cutting Tools: 5-axis machining enables you to use shorter cutting tools. You can achieve this because you lower the head and orient the cutter appropriately. This means you can achieve higher cutting speeds without putting too much pressure on the cutter. You can also reduce vibrations with shorter cutting tools, that may cause cavities and cores. Since 5-axis machines have less vibration, you’ll see an improved surface finish.

●     Complex Parts: This capability allows you to machine complex parts that would otherwise require casting. If you have small runs or prototypes, you’ll be able to machine your parts in a few weeks rather than waiting for over a month for castings to be finished.

●     Improved Tool Life: One can maintain a constant chip load and optimum cutting position, which improves the cycle time and life of the tool.

●     Hole Drilling: 5-axis machining provides the ability to drill a series of holes with various compound angles in a timely manner. This saves a lot of time–if you used a 3-axis machine, you would need to use a different setup for each hole.

●     Collision Avoidance: The ability to tilt the table or cutting tool to prevent collisions with the holder of the tool.

This manufacturing process attracts many industries for the advantages. And it is most popular in aerospace and automotive. These helpful attributes have caused more industries to adopt it. Industries that benefit from this process include oil and gas, medical, alternative power, and compressor.

An Explanation of the 5 Axes

You may have heard about 3-axis machining. If not, it’s fairly simple–it’s a type of machining that moves sideways on the X-axis, vertical on the Y-axis, and back-and-forth on the Z-axis. With 5-axis machining, you get two more axes: the tilting table (A-axis) and the table rotation (C-axis).

Configurations of 5-Axis Machining

There are two main configurations of 5-axis machines:

●     Swivel-Rotate-Style: These machines have a rotary axis head by rotating the spindle. This style is best for machining big heavy parts because the table is constantly horizontal.

●     Trunnion-Style: Trunnion machines have moving tables, which is beneficial for machining large volumes and there is no space being taken up by a spindle.

The specific type of machine used depends on various factors of your work, including the weight of the parts and number and volume of the finished parts.

Why You Should Choose 5-Axis CNC Machining

If you’re comparing the different types of machines like 3D printing, 3+2-axis machining, or 5-axis machining, we believe you would choose 5-axis machining. If quality and efficiency are important to you then you would most certainly shoes a 5 axis machine. Comparing this process to the other two is like comparing apples to oranges. Here’s why a  5-axis machining process comes out on top:

●     5-axis vs. 3D printing: The main difference between these two processes is the 5-axis machine is a subtractive process meaning it is removing material. The 3D printing is an additive process or adding material to produce a part. These two types of machining are at their best when they work in together and complement each other. You can’t really use one process in place of the other. If you have complex parts, various materials, and large workloads, then 5-axis will be best for you. However, you may be able to utilize 3D printing to design certain parts.

●     5-axis vs. 3+2 axis: It may seem difficult to tell the difference between 3+2 axis machining and 5-axis machining. 3+2 axis machining, often called 5-axis indexed machining, requires stopping and starting while 5-axis machining is continuous. 5-axis machining is a simpler and faster way to achieve the same–or better–results.

:: Read more: Why You Need 5 Axis Machining Centers?

While every manufacturing process has a specific application, 5-axis machining is the preferred method for the highest quality and best efficiency.


Mastering the Art of 5 Axis Machining

While 5-axis machining comes with multiple advantages, such as increased efficiency, improved tool life, and quicker lead times, these benefits have their own unique challenges. In order to attain these benefits, you need the right people to set up the tool and oversee the process. Getting the desired results requires a lot more than just machining a part. It requires proper training, personnel, and communication.

Achieve the Impossible with 5 Axis Machining

When your workshop uses 5-axis machining, you can produce complex parts that would otherwise seem nearly impossible. This added capability let’s you do milling, boring, and tapping on multiple complex shapes in just one setup. This one setup can create any combination of complex shapes in metal, alloys or plastics.

Whether you need a prototype or have a huge production order to complete, you can trust 5-axis machining will serve your needs as long as you have the budget.


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