Back in Michelangelo’s day, the best tools available were a chisel and hammer. While Michelangelo may have been able to create his gorgeous David statue with a hammer and chisel, this is not practical or efficient enough for today’s manufacturing needs. But no matter what time period you find yourself in, you need the best tools to make your idea a reality. Whether you want to make a masterpiece from marble or titanium, 5-axis machining will likely bring you the best and quickest results. Just think – if Michelangelo had these machines and tools, he could have pumped out thousands of Renaissance masterpieces in no time at all!

The Basics of 5-Axis CNC Machining

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

The Benefits of 5-Axis CNC Machining

The most beneficial factors of 5-axis CNC machining are:

  • Single Setup: 3-axis machines require multiple setups, which may result in incorrect alignments, higher costs, and other errors. With 5-axis machining, you have the ability to machine complicated shapes with a single setup, which improves efficiency, saves time, reduces costs, and prevents operator error.
  • Shorter Cutting Tools:5-axis machining enables you to use shorter cutting tools because you can lower the head and orient the cutter appropriately. This helps achieve higher cutting speeds without putting too much pressure on the cutter. Shorter cutting tools also reduce the vibration of the tool, which may cause cavities and cores. Since 5-axis machines have less vibration, you’ll see a better surface finish.
  • Complex Parts: This process 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 several months for casting to be finished.
  • Improved Tool Life: You 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.

While this manufacturing process is most popular in aerospace settings, 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 already be familiar with 3-axis machining. If you’re not, it’s fairly simple–it’s a machine 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 utilize the rotary axes by rotating the spindle. This style is best for machining heavier parts because the table is constantly horizontal.
  • Trunnion-Style: Trunnion machines have moving tables, which is beneficial for machining large volumes because 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 of finished products.

Why You Should Choose 5-Axis CNC Machining

If you’re trying to decide between 3D printing, 3+2-axis machining, or 5-axis machining, there’s no doubt you’ll choose 5-axis machining if quality and efficiency are important to you. Comparing this process to the other two is like comparing a frozen turkey dinner to a Thanksgiving feast. Here’s why 5-axis machining comes out on top:

  • 5-axis vs. 3D printing: The core difference between these two is the fact that 5-axis is a subtractive process while 3D printing is an additive process. These two approaches to manufacturing are at their best when they work in harmony and complement one another. You cannot 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.

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

Mastering the Art of Milling

While 5-axis machining comes with multiple advantages, such as increased efficiency, improved tool life, and quicker lead times, these benefits don’t come all on their own. 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

When you use 5-axis machining, you can make parts that would otherwise seem impossible. This process allows you to mill, bore, and tap multiple complex shapes in just one setup. Just one setup can create any combination of complex shapes.

Whether you want a prototype or need a huge order completed, you can trust Precise Tool to meet your needs with our 5-axis machining services. We’ll help you save time, save money, and achieve greater precision. Contact us to learn more about our 5-axis machining.