If you’ve seen someone operate a 5-axis CNC machine, you’ve probably been pretty impressed. Not only is it impressive to watch, but it’s also a great asset to have on the floor of your machine shop. In this piece, we’ll discuss the 5 benefits of using a 5-axis CNC machine for the next part you make.
What Is 5-Axis CNC Machining?
Each axis on a CNC machine refers to how the cutting tool can move.
In a 1-axis machine, like a simple drill press, the tool can just go up and down. A 3-axis machine can go up and down, side to side, and front to back. This is typical for a milling machine.
5-axis CNC machines add another 2 axes — rotating the table about the C-axis and tilting the table about the A-axis.
It might seem like a subtle or unnecessary difference, but the benefits of a 5-axis CNC machine over a 3-axis one are astounding.
5 Benefits of 5-Axis CNC Machining
To better understand how impactful these 2 added axes are, we put together this list of 5 benefits that are specific to 5-axis CNC machines.
Make More Complicated Parts
The biggest difference is the machine’s ability to make complicated parts. With the added rotation and tilting, parts can be moved around while the machine is running. This allows for better contours and sophisticated cuts.
What if you wanted a part that was only rounded on one side? A lathe wouldn’t be able to do that and a traditional 3-axis CNC machine would struggle. A 5-axis CNC could easily do this.
Extend the Life of Your Tools
An improper cutting position or chip load will ruin the life of your cutting tools. As you probably guessed, a 5-axis machine will control both of those conditions.
The cutting tool will be in the right position every time it touches the material on the bed. With a controlled chip load as well, you can expect your tools to last longer.
You Can Use Stronger Tools
Not only will the tools last longer, but they’ll also be stronger. This happens because you use much shorter tools in a 5-axis CNC machine.
Why? It’s due to the nature of the head. Since it can rotate and move the bed, the tool can be moved down to meet the material. This means that the tool can be shorter since the head is moving.
If force is applied at an awkward angle on the tool bit, it can shatter. The same is true if too much pressure is applied to a bit that’s too long.
With shorter tools, you can avoid these issues.
Spend Less Time Setting Up
Every time a CNC machine is “set up”, a machinist has to interact with the machine. It usually involves placing the material in the vice under the tool and programming the CNC.
With a 3-axis machine, you can only cut one face of the material at a time. After cutting a face, the machinist has to remove the material and set up the machine for the next face.
With a 5-axis CNC machine, 5 faces can be machined at the same time (depending on the workholding jig). This means 5 fewer steps that the machinist has to do.
Since the operator has to spend less time on each machine, every part can be made quicker.
Drill Holes with Compound Angles
If you wanted to drill a series of holes that were not perpendicular to the part’s top face, then it would require a series of alterations to the cutting head. The machinist would be able to drill one hole before changing the setup again for the next one.
With a 5-axis machine, you can drill these compound angles in a row without any changes to the tool. Again, this is because the machine can tilt and rotate on its own, creating the perfect angle for each drilling operation.
5-axis CNC machines are very impressive pieces of equipment. With the added rotation and tilting actions, the design opportunities are endless. If you want to learn more, you can reach out to our pros at Rapid Axis today. We have a number of 5-axis CNC machines that can handle your next project.