The birth of CNC machine tools laid the foundation for the rapid development of modern machining technology, especially in the last decade when CNC machines have evolved from 3-axis to 5-axis. I have every reason to believe that 5-axis machining, and more recently, 3+2-axis machining, will sweep the machining world. There is another reason for me to believe that is, nowadays the market competition is more and more intense, the market product requirements will be more and more high, so the processing of product technology requirements will also increase.
5-axis CNC machining is now one of the most advanced processes in the processing world. The CNC machining process will know that it uses subtractive processing technology; it is the same principle as we usually peel sticks. Five-axis CNC machining technology is used to produce parts, which gives endless possibilities for part creation. This technology uses cutting tools that work on five axes to mill the part into the desired shape and size.
5-axis machining provides greater accuracy and precision, efficiency, and reliability. It reduces labor hours, eliminates extra setups, increases productivity, and produces beautiful, complex parts. As a result, many reliable CNC machine shops rely on this technology to provide precision CNC machining services.
This article covers the basics of 5-axis CNC machining. Here, we will explain what 5-axis machining is and how the process works, breaking down the different axes. The information we provide will help you make the most of 5-axis technology.
What are the three basic axes of a CNC machine?
A 3-axis machine is the most common type of CNC machine tool. The lateral movement axis of the machine table is known as the X-axis, the longitudinal movement axis is known as the Y-axis, and the up and down movement axis is known as the Z-axis, so this is a common 3-axis CNC machine.
In 3-axis CNC machining, the workpiece remains stationary while the cutting tool moves along the 3-axis to mill the part.3-axis machining is still a more widely used technique for manufacturing machine parts for automated/interactive operations, milling slots, drilling holes, and cutting sharp edges. Since 3-axis machining is performed on only three axes, it is relatively simple, and material can be removed from these three axes in a back and forth, left and right, up and down, and up and down representation.
Standard 3-axis milling is performed on the X, Y, and Z axes. These three linear axes are the directions in which the spindle or part (depending on the machine) can move:
- X-axis: left to right
- Y axis: front to back
- Z axis: up and down
Using all three axes simultaneously, a machine can cut material to create various 3D objects. It is most useful when parts do not require advanced work holding, do not have deep or narrow cavities, and can be machined using one setup. For more complex parts, 5-axis machining is better.
What is 5-axis CNC machining, and how does it work?
5-axis machining adds rotary motion to the traditional 3-axis linear motion (X, Y, and Z). These machines primarily consist of an A-axis that handles X-axis rotation, a B-axis that handles Y-axis rotation, or a C-axis that rotates around the Z-axis. Some machine manufacturers have oriented their development towards rotary tilting tables, a form of operation that provides mechanical and thermal stability and improved access to chip removal. Many others have developed work forms that rotate the spindle head to accommodate larger pallets of parts.
To understand five-axis machining, we first need to be clear on what a five-axis machine tool is to understand its working form. Five-axis machine tool refers to the X, Y, and Z, three common linear axes plus two rotary axes. A, B, and C, three axes in the two rotary axes, have different modes of movement to meet the technical needs of various types of products. Currently on the market are all kinds of five-axis machine tools; although their mechanical structures come in a variety of forms, there are mainly the following forms of work:
- Two rotary coordinates directly control the direction of the tool axis (double pendulum head form)
- The two axes are at the top of the tool, but the rotary axis is not perpendicular to the linear axis (pendulous pendulum head type)
- Two rotation coordinates directly control the rotation in space (double rotary table form)
- Two axes of rotation are on the table, but the axis of rotation is not perpendicular to the linear axis (pendulous table form)
- Two rotation coordinates, one acting on the tool and one on the workpiece (one pendulum and one rotary table form)
- *Terminology: If the axis of rotation is not perpendicular to the linear axis, it is considered a “plumb” axis.
As long as you understand the various forms of 5-axis machine tools described above, I believe that readers reading this have a very good understanding of the principle of 5-axis machine tools and the form of work. When you understand how each axis of a 5-axis machine moves, you can reduce the risk of increased project costs due to choosing the wrong factory to work with when you want to work with a 5-axis machining factory for parts processing.
What parts are machined on 5-axis machining centers?
Both 3-axis and 5-axis machining centers can produce a variety of parts. The main difference between 5-axis- and 3-axis machining is that 5-axis machining centers are better suited for complex machining parts, have many processes, require high precision, have many fixtures, and require multiple clamping to the machine.
Complex geometries and intricate shapes characterize these parts. The following are common types of parts that require 5-axis machining.
Box Type Parts
Box-type parts are primarily machined with stationary holes and flat surfaces. This part design is typically milled, drilled, reamed, bored, screwed, and tapped during the machining process, which requires the machine to be clamped and aligned multiple times. This results in box parts that are difficult to machine on ordinary machines and multiple clamping and alignment results in box parts that are difficult to machine accurately on ordinary machines. 5-axis machining centers can work on multiple axes simultaneously, producing high-precision box parts much more suitable.
Complex Surface Parts
Complex curved parts are mainly used in the mechanical, aviation, and aerospace fields and are less common. Commonly, there are several complex curved parts: impellers, spherical surfaces, turbine engine blades, various plastic and metal molds containing curved surfaces, marine propellers, propellers for underwater vehicles, etc. The need for machining characterizes these parts.
These parts are characterized by the need to process a complex and large number of surfaces; using ordinary CNC machine tools for processing is unrealistic. The accuracy and machining method of ordinary machine tools determines that they cannot machine high-precision curved parts. For these complex surface-type parts, using five-axis machining centers is more appropriate. The machining form of the 5-axis machining center determines this.
Shaped parts are metal or plastic parts with irregular shapes. Workpieces generally have a mixture of points, surfaces, and lines. Shaped parts are generally characterized by poor rigidity. Suppose ordinary CNC machine tools are used for machining. In that case, it is easy to cause deformation of the workpiece due to clamping pressure, so it isn’t easy to guarantee the machining accuracy. Five-axis machining centers are equipped with multi-station points, lines, and faces of the mixed processing characteristics; with the use of five-axis machining centers the reasonable process measures, you can complete all the processes of shaped parts processing!
Drones are now popular in both the military and civilian consumer markets. The parts required in the uncrewed aircraft field are also diverse. 5-axis CNC machining centers are ideal for drone parts machining, especially plates, sheets, and plates with distributed or radial holes on the end face, and also for making drone motor covers.
Get High Precision 5-Axis CNC Machined Parts.
By explaining 5-Axis machining, you can now fully understand 5-axis CNC machining. It’s time to take control of your manufacturing experience. 5-Axis CNC machines simplify manufacturing, ensuring faster, more cost-effective production and increased precision and accuracy. However, they are not suitable for all designs. For example, a 3-axis or 4-axis CNC machine may be better suited and more cost-effective for precision notching, holes, and cavities.
For this reason, contacting a CNC machining expert is important before starting your project. Elimold is a leading global provider of CNC machining services. We have several 5-axis CNC machines, including the Hermle C650, C400, C250, C42, and C22. Our robust 5-axis CNC machining service produces high-precision CNC-machined parts with high quality, fast lead times, and competitive pricing.
Our highly skilled technicians also provide technical support to help you choose between our machining technology and production-grade materials. Contact us today so we can discuss your project. Upload your design files to our instant quote platform for an instant interactive quote with a free DFM analysis.
By explaining 5-axis machining, you now understand 5-axis CNC machining, specifically its machining format. 5-axis CNC machining centers simplify the part machining process, allowing for the production of complex design parts faster and more cost-effectively and with guaranteed high precision and accuracy.
However, 5-axis machining centers are not suitable for all part designs. For example, 3-axis and 4-axis CNC machining centers are economical and better suited for machining precision cutouts, holes, and cavities for parts. Suppose you are unsure which machining is more appropriate for the part you are designing and needing. Then, contacting a CNC machining expert before starting your project is very important. Elimold is a leading global CNC machining service provider, and our robust 5-axis CNC machining services offer fast lead times and competitive pricing while maintaining part accuracy and quality. Our service team is always ready to serve you, including our business managers, skilled engineers, and production floor supervisors, to help you optimize your design and choose between our machining technology and production-grade materials. Contact us today to discuss your project. Send your design files to us at [email protected] or contact us directly by any other means.