5 Benefits of 5 Axis CNC Machining

What ties Leonardo Da Vinci to 5 Axis CNC Machining? Read our guide for all of the answers. We're the #1 Machine Shop in the US.
5 axis cnc machining

It seems odd but the simple fact is that had Da Vinci traded in his chisel and hammer for the use of 5 axis CNC machining, we would now have thousands of David statues, all identical and all with that mystic art quality.

Whether you’re sculpting a masterpiece from marble or milling a complex part from titanium, the basic principle is the same: start with a block of material and remove the unnecessary bits until the target object is all that’s left. Of course, the details of that process are much more complicated, especially for 5-axis machining.

What is 5 axis CNC Machining?

In the simplest terms, 5 axis machining involves using a CNC machine (Computer Numerical Control) to move a part or cutting tool along five different axes simultaneously. Just like a CNC machining center, a 5 axis machine has three linear axes. However, 5 axis machining centers have two additional rotary axes that can take one of two basic forms.

One style uses rotary tables and the other style incorporates the rotary axes into the machine’s headstock and spindle. This enables the machining of very complex parts, which is why the 5 axis is especially popular for aerospace applications.

OK, but what are the 5 Axis in CNC machining?

We all know the story about Newton and the apple, but there’s a similarly apocryphal story about the mathematician and philosopher, Rene Descartes.

Descartes was lying in bed when he noticed a fly buzzing around his room. He realized that he could describe the fly’s position in the room’s three-dimensional space using just three numbers, represented by the variables X, Y, and Z.

This is the Cartesian Coordinate system, and it’s still in use more than three centuries after Descartes’ death. So, X, Y, and Z cover three of the five axes in 5-axis machining.

Understood, but what about the other 2 axis?

Imagine zooming in on Descartes’ fly in mid-flight. Instead of only describing its position as a point in three-dimensional space, we can describe its orientation. As it turns, picture the fly rolling, in the same way, plane banks. Its roll is described by the fourth axis, A: the rotational axis around X. Continuing the plane simile, the fly’s pitch is described by the fifth axis, B: the rotational axis around Y.

Here’s a diagram to explain all of this.

diagram of 5 axis in cnc machining

So, here’re the 5 benefits

Now that we are clear about that, let’s look at the benefits. The advantages of five-axis machining are significant, and include saving time and money, that goes without saying. While the 5 axis CNC machines are expensive they are now a staple amongst the best, forward-looking machine shops throughout the US. After all who would pass up the opportunities inherent with these machines for better productivity and higher accuracy with lower overall costs.

1. Amazing Accuracy, Efficiency & Cost Effectiveness

First on our list is, obviously, the points we mentioned before. There is a reason why machinists swear by this machine, even with complex processes and all. 5 axis machining is the more efficient, accurate and improved of all its counterparts. Owing to less fixturing at multiple operations, using it directly translates to better work-piece quality and durability. This means great parts, less wastage, lower tooling costs, and shorter working duration.

2. Complicated shapes, angles are now possible.

Traditional CNC machines move in three linear axis (X, Y, and Z). 5 axis machines move in all three linear axis plus two additional rotary axis. The ability to precisely move the workpiece without removing it has distinct advantages over conventional 3 axis machining.

5 axis CNC machines are capable of reaching even the most complicated of angles. If your part requires complex 4D and 5D parts then you need a machine shop with good 5 axis machines and the best operators. We are able to achieve complexity in combination with the highest finished and tolerances which we could never achieve with 2 or 3 axis machines. And that’s in a single-setup, all translating to better productivity and improved work-piece quality.

3. You can make use of shorter cutting tools.

Shorter cutting tools are a mess to handle, especially with more general CNC machines. Thankfully, we are fully able to utilize the power of better tooling angles, better cutting speed and precision parts with these tools as they can be fit well to 5 axis machines. Here, you can have the head oriented towards the job and the cutter towards the surface. As the machine holds the tool well, the load on the cutter is reduced, resulting in decreased unfortunate breakages and vibrations.

4. 5 axis machines improve the Drilling Process

Using 5 axis CNC machining gives the best possible parts by utilizing the best drilling process. With our 5 axis machine, we are able to reach smaller and more complex angles. This results in a finished part with a far cleaner finish. The 5 axis machine saves time and money over typical 3 axis machines.

5. Better Surface Finish

By using the rotating fourth and fifth axis, we can bring part closer to the cutting tool. If the part can get closer to the cutting tool, then the cutting tool can be shorter. A shorter cutting tool is less susceptible to vibration at higher cutting speeds, which directly impacts the surface finish. Our 5 axis CNC machining gives a finish which is smoother than a baby robot’s shiny metal bottom.

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