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What Is CNC 5 Axis Machining?

The idea behind 5 axis machining is simple. You start with a block of material and remove everything except the shape you want. In essence, it is the same as the sculpture techniques used for thousands of years. This applies to making a bladed disk from titanium and to carving a statue from marble. However, it is not as easy as it sounds.

What is it?

CNC machiningTo put it simply, 5-axis machining means using CNC machining to move the cutting tool across 5 axes simultaneously. This allows for very complicated parts to be cut from a solid piece of material.

There are more advantages than just the ability to create complex objects. It is perfect for single-setup machining which increases efficiency while reducing lead time. The cutting tool will never collide with its holder granting excellent access to the material from any angle. This in turn extends the cutting tool’s life thanks to the ability to support a constant chip load.

What are the 5 Axes?

Most people are familiar with the idea that an object has 3 coordinates in 3D space. The other two belong to the set known as Cartesian coordinates which assigns two numbers to each axis. An object’s position and its rotation. While this does mean that there are actually 6 axes, only 5 are used since adding the sixth to CNC machining does not confer many additional benefits.

A 5-axis CNC machine will take advantage of its different rotational axes through different configurations. Usually, the rotation occurs about the X and Z axes or the Y and Z axis. The former configuration allows for the machine to work with a larger volume while the latter allows for heavier materials. The best configuration lies in the requirements of the part you are creating.

Why Use 5-Axis Machining?

A 5-axis machine is a strict upgrade on a 3-axis machine. They are more expensive but that is the only drawback when comparing the two. The distinction is less clear when comparing a 5-axis machine to a 3+2 axis machine. The latter can do everything the former can except it is slower as the cutting tool is reoriented for each face of the material. Still, with slower speed comes fewer moving parts which means less maintenance.

5-Axis machining is ideal for most projects. While it is not the only machine capable of fulfilling certain tasks, it is the fastest and has the greatest operational flexibility.

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