What Is a 5 Axis CNC Machining Center?

Posted on Dec 16, 2020

5 Axis CNC Machining Center

The invention of a CNC machining center can be derived from the traditional milling machine, which is a device that is used to create slots on the workpieces by removing materials from them with the cutting tools depending on the requirements of the final products. The traditional milling machine usually works on a horizontal surface.

What Is a 5 Axis CNC Machining Center?

A 5 axis CNC machining center is a milling machine that is combined with the CNC system and enables 5 axes of working orientations. The 5 axis CNC machining center can be regarded as a multifunctional machine since it is capable of conducting multiple machining works with more than three axes of working orientation compared with the traditional milling machine, which ensures that the more complex cuts can be achieved on one single machine.

The invention of a CNC machining center can be derived from the traditional milling machine, which is a device that is used to create slots on the workpieces by removing materials from them with the cutting tools depending on the requirements of the final products. The traditional milling machine usually works on a horizontal surface. A working table is usually attached to a vise, which clamps the workpieces to be cut in place, moves from x and y axes to correct the position of the workpieces. The cutting tools, which come in different widths and lengths and are held with the tool holding device, rotate with the spindle and be slid from the z-axis vertically so as to achieve the cuts.

With the advanced technology brought by the traditional milling machine, the cutting tools of machining centers equipped with CNC systems no longer only travel in one single direction. With CNC capability, the unit enjoys improved accuracy and precision thanks to the assistance of the computers.
 

CNC Precision Machining Capability

The CNC system, which stands for computer numerical control system, provides a computer-aided feature for the designing of product geometries and maneuvering of cutting tools during the machining procedures. This system not only helps the machining procedures to be achieved with better efficiency and easier control but also allows for more intricate machining works to be conducted. CNC machining centers are compatible with several different cutting tools, which are often called the end mills.

During the procedures of the machining works, to attain optimal efficiency, it requires not only the compatibility with the cutting tools for different forms of the cuts but also the availability for multiple directions of the works. Therefore, the 5 axis CNC machining center appears on the market. In addition to the three axes of working orientations, including x, y, and z axes, this type of CNC machining center allows for additional two axes for either the positioning of the workpieces or the cutting directions of the cutters.
 

:: Read More: What Is a 5-axis CNC Machine?

What Are the Components of 5 Axis CNC Machining Center?

The main elements that comprise a CNC machining center must be a base, a bed, a table with the workpieces, a tool holder with the cutting tools, a spindle with a motor, and a CNC system control station. We can categorize all these components of the 5 axis CNC machining center into two groups:
 

Work Holding Device: Simply put, the work holding device is the table of the 5 axis CNC machining center. Unlike the table on the traditional milling machine that usually comes in a rectangular table that clamps the workpieces on with a vise, the table on this type of machining center can be presented as two forms, which makes the achievement of the 5 axes of working orientation, which is the rotary table and the trunnion table:

Rotary Table: Besides the three main axes of working orientations, the rotary table is often in combination with the swivel head that holds the cutting tools and can swivel to adjust the position of the cuts. During the cuts with the swivel head, the rotary table, which comes in a circular table instead of rectangular, would rotate the workpieces at the same time so that the cutting tools are able to cut through the workpieces from different surfaces. This is how the 5 axes are achieved.

Trunnion Table: Instead of a circular table, the trunnion table is a rectangular table but longer. This is to allow more loads of workpieces on one table; it is capable of providing better support for the relatively larger workpieces than the rotary one. The trunnion table combines the advantages of the swivel head and the rotary table because it is able to hold the workpieces and make them tilt when it is necessary to cut on different parts of the workpieces.
 

Tool Holding Device: The design of the tool holding device on the 5 axis CNC machining center is determined by that of the work holding device, including the swivel head and the standard head:

Swivel Head: The swivel head can be seen when there is a rotary table. As mentioned in the above paragraph, the rotary table allows the workpieces to rotate on the horizontal surface when the swivel head turns during operation. When the swivel head that holds the cutting tools turns, it allows the cutting tools to cut through the workpieces that rotate but remain stationary on the rotary table from different angles.

Standard Head: The standard head is usually applied to the trunnion table. Compared to the swivel version that rotates when the cutting tools cut the workpieces, the standard head doesn’t move.  Instead, only the spindles that are mounted on the head as well as the tools rotate at a high speed and work from the z-axis orientation, which means that the 5 axes here are achieved with the trunnion table itself.
 

Types of 5 Axis CNC Machining Center

The term axis in the 5 axis CNC machining center refers to the working direction of the machine. Based on the traditional milling machine that works from three main directions include x, y, and z, the other two axes are the a-axis and c-axis respectively, while they can be achieved with different configurations, which are the 3+2, 4+1, and full 5-axis versions. The a-axis is the tilting movements of the table as in the trunnion table, and the c-axis is the rotary movements of the table as in the rotary table.

3+2 version: This version means there would be three axes for the cutting directions, and the other two axes are used for positioning the workpieces.

4+1 version: As the same principle, the four axes are the cutting directions, while the other one is for adjusting the position for the workpieces to be cut on different parts.

Full 5-axis version: As for the full 5-axis version, it refers to the cutting directions with all of the 5 axes directions applied.


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