Conventional machining typically only uses three axes (the X, Y, and Z axes), but 5-axis CNC machining can use up to five. This gives you more flexibility in creating shapes and components, especially when machining complex designs. This is why 5-axis CNC machines are so popular in the aerospace and medical industries, as well as automotive.
What is 5-Axis CNC Machining?
In simple terms, 5-axis CNC machining is the ability of the machine to move a part or tool on five different axes simultaneously. This enables the CNC machinist to produce very complex shapes and parts with high accuracy. The five axes are typically called X, Y, Z, A, and B. Here’s a quick overview of each axis:
- X-axis – left to right on the machine table
- Y-axis – front to back on the machine table
- Z-axis – up and down on the machine table (think of it as the “depth” axis)
- A-axis – rotates around the X-axis
- B-axis – rotates around the Y-axis
- C-axis – rotates around the Z-axis
CNC machining centers with all five axes are sometimes called “5-sided” machines because of the many axes they can operate with. This is a major advantage over 3-axis machining, which can only access the piece from three axes.
Five vs. 3+2 Axis CNC Machine
It’s important to note that there is a difference between a 5-axis machine and a 3+2-axis machine. A 3+2 machine is essentially a 3-axis machine that can rotate the workpiece or blank on two additional axes (A and B) but not continuously or at the same time as the other axes.
That means that a 3+2 machine is limited in terms of the shapes and parts that it can create, as well as in its speed of operation.
In a 5-axis machine, on the other hand, the CNC machining program can move the cutting tool along all five axes (X, Y, Z, A, and B) at the same time. This gives you much more control over the machining process and allows you to create complex parts quickly.
How Does 5-Axis CNC Machining Work?
So, how does a 5-axis machine work? It all comes down to the positioning of the cutting tool and workpiece. A typical 3-axis machine can only move the cutting tool along three axes (X, Y, and Z).
But with a 5-axis machine, the cutting tool can also be rotated along three additional axes (A, B, and C). This increased level of control lets you create parts that would otherwise be impossible to make on a 3-axis machine.
It also opens up new possibilities for machining existing designs, as you can now approach the workpiece from different angles. Because all operations can be performed at the same time, 5-axis CNC machining is also much faster.
Types of 5-Axis CNC Machine
Five-axis CNC machines are usually classified based on which rotational axes are used. Depending on the machining operation, 5-axis machining equipment can be broadly categorized into two main types: trunnion and swivel head.
The trunnion type of 5-axis machine uses the A and C axes, which, as mentioned earlier, rotate around the X and Y axes, respectively. In contrast, swivel head 5-axis machines use the B and C axes to rotate around the Y and Z axes, respectively.
The trunnion type rotates the table, while the swivel head has the spindle as the rotating element. The trunnion configuration offers the advantage of a larger working envelope and is easier. On the other hand, the swivel head configuration can support heavier work pieces as the table does not tilt.
5 Axis CNC Advantages and Disadvantages
5-axis CNC machining, given its superior flexibility and increased accuracy, has become an increasingly popular manufacturing process. However, it’s not without its drawbacks. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of 5-axis CNC machining:
5 Axis CNC Machine Advantages
True, 5-axis CNC machining comes with a higher price tag. But the benefits often outweigh the cost, especially for businesses that require complex parts and shapes. Some of the advantages of 5-axis CNC machining include the following:
- Increased flexibility – With 5-axis CNC machining, you have more control over the shape and depth of your cuts.
- Improved accuracy – You get more accurate parts that can be used in various applications.
- Greater efficiency – 5-axis CNC machining is a more efficient, as it allows you to machine all five sides of a workpiece in a single setup.
- Speed – Because you’re using more axis simultaneously, 5-axis CNC machines can generally cut faster than 3-axis.
5 Axis CNC Machining Disadvantages
A few disadvantages exist before investing in 5-axis CNC machining equipment or services. These include: Some of these drawbacks include:
- Higher costs – The initial cost of a 5-axis machine is higher than that of a 3- or 4-axis machine.
- Complexity – 5-axis CNC machining is a more complex than traditional machining, so there’s a greater learning curve.
Whether the advantages or disadvantages of 5-axis CNC machining outweigh, the others depends on your specific needs and application. But overall, 5-axis CNC machining is a versatile, precise, and efficient manufacturing process that can be used in a broad range of industries.
Price of 5-Axis CNC Machine
The price of a 5-axis CNC machine will vary depending on the specific type of machine, brand, and other factors. But, generally, 5-axis CNC machines are more expensive than 3-axis or 4-axis machines. Mostly, it’s the size that will determine the price of the machine.
Small 5 Axis CNC Machine
A small 5-axis CNC machine might cost around $1000 to $30,000 or slightly higher. This will usually be a desktop machine or a small benchtop machine that you can use for hobby work or small projects.
Large 5 Axis CNC Machine
A larger, industrial-sized 5-axis CNC machine can cost upwards of $50,000. These machines are designed for heavy-duty industrial CNC machining and can handle large projects. In addition to the cost of the machine itself, you’ll also need to factor in the price of installation, training, and maintenance.
5 Axis CNC Machining Service
Given the high price of a 5-axis CNC machine, a business wishing to have complex parts machined may opt to hire the services instead of investing in the machines and software themselves. Many service bureaus are catering to this need. The services of these businesses include not only the use of their machines but also their expertise in machining various materials.
One advantage of using a 5-axis CNC machining service is that the machines these businesses use are usually high-end and well-maintained. This is important because it means that parts will be machined to a high standard with a good finish.
Another advantage is that these services usually have much experience in machining different materials. This means that they are likely to be able to machine parts made from materials that the business needs to gain experience with.
5-axis CNC machining is a versatile and precise manufacturing process that you can use to create highly complex parts. Before investing in a 5-axis machine or hiring the services of a CNC machining company, it’s important to weigh the advantages and disadvantages to see if the benefits outweigh the cost. In most cases, the advantages of a 5-axis CNC machine