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An Introduction to 5-axis Horizontal Machining Centers

Posted on Jan 7, 2021

5 Axis Horizontal Machining Centers

With very tight tolerance, excellent rigidity, and intelligent 5-axis structure, the 5-axis horizontal machining centers can handle high metal removal applications for complex parts, difficult steel products, and tiny components by using various milling cutters and other tool bits. The cutting tools mentioned here are carried by the large, automated magazine holder, which can contain a great number of different tools, and change the tools under control, upgrading the versatility and efficiency of the 5-axis horizontal machining center.

What Is a 5-Axis Horizontal Machining Center?

A 5-axis horizontal machining center, also commonly known as  HMCs, is a CNC milling machine that can achieve 5-axis critical milling and other machining tasks under high-speed rotation. They are high-performance milling machines that are designed for a wide variety of metal components production, for instance, the manufacturing of various dies. The 5-axis horizontal machining center is well suitable for handling flat and sculptured surface applications, and the 5-axis structure enhances the utmost precision and efficiency to cut multi-sides of the metal part simultaneously in a single machine tool.

With very tight tolerance, excellent rigidity, and intelligent 5-axis structure, the 5-axis horizontal machining centers can handle high metal removal applications for complex parts, difficult steel products, and tiny components by using various milling cutters and other tool bits. The cutting tools mentioned here are carried by the large, automated magazine holder, which can contain a great number of different tools, and change the tools under control, upgrading the versatility and efficiency of the 5-axis horizontal machining center. The evolution of the CNC machine center is an ideal solution for high volume production which can meet the customized specifications.
 

Applications of 5-axis Horizontal Machining Centers

The 5-axis horizontal machining centers are best suited for customized production applications that require critical dimension curacy as well as the flexibility of available machining tasks. Using this horizontal CNC machining center, from small to large and heavy parts, from aluminum to titanium parts, from milling, drilling to multi-point facing, are all available. The cutting operations can be performed in predetermined directions, on either the linear or the rotational axes.

Some common high-precision metalwork applications using a 5-axis horizontal machining center include milling, drilling, grinding jobs for automotive parts, especially for engine production, customized dies manufacturing in various industries, or mass production for daily products, industrial or medical devices, and components.
 

:: Read More: CNC Horizontal Machining Center Benefits

5-Axis Machining

Most machine tools have the basic 3 linear axes, which are widely known as the X-axis, Y-axis, and Z-axis. There are also the rotational axes which are 180° around the 3 axes correspondingly. While the X, Y, Z axes work on the same plane, the rise of the 5-axis machining structure allows the additional 2 rotational axes to achieve four or five-sides cutting at the same time.

Instead of manually switching the four or five sides of the metal parts being cut, the 5-axis horizontal machining centers can machine multiple surfaces with the other two rotational axes all at once. The benefit contributes to more ideal surface finishes, flexibility, and capability of performing complex applications, higher operational precision, and shorter production time. As a result, the 5-axis horizontal machining center is popular in aerospace, shipbuilding, automobile, and many more industrial manufacturing industries.
 

Different Types of Machining Center

CNC Machining Centers in the metalworking environment today can be basically classified into 3 types: horizontal machining center, vertical machining center, and gantry types. The horizontal type has the spindle where the cutting tool is attached is positioned horizontally while vertical machining centers have the spindle set upright. On the other hand, the rigid and powerful gantry type machining center has a gate-like frame with the spindle installed on the top of this gate, which faces downward.
 

General Structure of 5-axis Horizontal Machining Centers

The CNC 5-axis horizontal machining center typically consists of a base part at the bottom which is often referred to as the bed, a saddle that travels on the bed, a worktable which is mounted on the saddle for holding the workpiece, a rigid column which is mounted perpendicularly to the base, and finally, a spindle head which holds the tool bits.
 

Spindle Head

As the name implies, a 5-axis horizontal machining center employs the spindle that is parallel to the floor. This horizontally-oriented head rotates various cutting tools that extend out from the side to shear the material away from multiple faces of the parts at a high speed. Different from the turning operations that rotate the workpieces, the horizontal machining center drives the cutting tools to rotate against the fixturing work.
 

Tool Changeover

The emergence of automatic tool changeover technology removes the need to manually altering the tools on a numerical control milling machine. Some large magazine heads which provide automatic tool changeover operations can carry more than one hundred cutting tools in a single CNC machining center. Under the CNC control, the cutters can be retrieved and exchanged from the holder, saving the effort of workers, time, and also cost and achieving greatly reliable tool changeover technology.
 

Working Principle

During the machining process in a 5-axis horizontal machining center, the column travels along the X-axis while the saddle with the workpiece moves along the Y-axis, and the table is aligned to the Z-axis. In addition to this simultaneous three-dimensional cutting ability, the extra rotational axes spin the table horizontally, achieving more accurate and efficient machining by using a total of 4 or 5 axes in the 5-axis horizontal machining center.

When machined from the horizontal direction in the HMCs, the operations allow the metal chips generated during the material removal process to fall down easily, keeping the chips from accumulating or even digging into the cutting edges. Although the CNC machining centers are suitable for a broad range of materials like aluminum, steel, titanium, and even glass and thermoplastics, the nature of the chips should be considered before beginning the machining tasks.

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