The term “5-axis machining” refers to CNC machining operations in which the workpiece or machine tool moves along five axes simultaneously. This advanced machining technique allows manufacturers to produce parts with more complex or intricate designs at faster speeds and higher qualities with little additional processing.
5-axis CNC machines operate by moving linearly along the XYZ axes and rotating along two of them. They employ several different axes configurations to perform machining operations, including:
- Head/Head. The table remains stationary while the swivel head rotates along both additional axes.
- Table/Head. The table and the swivel head both rotate along one of the additional axes.
- Table/Table. The table contains both rotational axes while the swivel head moves along the XYZ axes.
As there are three possible axes of rotation (A, B, and C, corresponding to rotation about the X, Y, and Z axes, respectively), 5-axis machines can be further defined by which two are being used:
- Double Swivel Head. The swivel head rotates along the A and C axes.
- Droop Swivel Head. The swivel head rotates along the B and C axes.
- Double Swivel Table. The table rotates along the A and C axes.
- Droop Table. The table rotates along the B and C axes.
- One Swing, One Rotate. The swivel head rotates along one axis while the table rotates along another (often A and C, respectively).
Applications of 5-Axis Machining
5-axis machining finds use across a wide range of industries, especially in applications that require parts with complex geometries and tight tolerances. Some of the industries that commonly employ 5-axis machining include:
- Aerospace. As 5-Axis machining allows for the production of highly complex, precision parts, it is suitable for producing aerospace components. Typical products produced through this technique include turbine blades and valves.
- Automotive. As in the aerospace industry, the automotive industry often requires components with unique shapes and tight tolerance requirements. However, automotive parts—such as housings, caps, and engine parts—are usually produced in even higher volumes.
- Medical. In the medical industry, components must meet strict standards for quality and accuracy, as even the slightest error in a part could put patients at risk. The precision capabilities of the 5-axis machining process make it well suited for medical parts and products, such as those used in scanning equipment, surgical tools, or implants.
- Energy. The energy industry also demands unusual shapes for use in various generation and containment devices. 5-axis machining is more than capable of handling these requirements.
- General industrial. For general industrial applications, manufacturers use 5-axis machining to produce a variety of standard and custom parts and products, including tools and mechanical components.
What Materials Are Used?
In general, CNC machining processes handle a diverse range of materials with ease. The 5-axis machining process is no exception. Some of the typical materials used in 5-axis machining operations include:
- Copper and copper alloys
- Refractory alloys
- Stainless steel
Key Benefits of 5-Axis Machining
Compared to other manufacturing methods, such as 3-axis machining or 3D printing, 5-axis offers a number of advantages, such as:
- Greater part design flexibility. The process’s additional axes of motion facilitate the production of more complex and intricate parts. Some manufacturing processes with fewer axes may require more tooling or equipment adjustments to produce the same parts, while others are unable to recreate them.
- Lower labor costs. As there is less need for adjustments during 5-axis machining operations, there is little to no operator involvement required, which reduces the cost of labor per part.
- Better surface finishes. 5-axis machines move more smoothly with less vibration, resulting in better surface finishes.
- Quicker lead times. A 5-axis machine produces a component faster than its 3-axis or 4-axis counterparts, reducing lead time across the board.
Even 3+2 machining, which involves fixing the workpiece in a rotated configuration, offers many of these same benefits for simpler components.
Other advantages of both processes include:
- Efficient use of floor space
- Superior collision avoidance
- Integrated hole drilling capabilities
- Simple machine setup
- Reduced tool wear leading to longer working life
Choose Pro-Type Industries for 5-Axis Machining
Compared to other manufacturing methods, such as 3D printing or 3-axis CNC machining, 5-axis machining offers faster lead times, greater precision and accuracy, and broader design flexibility.
At Pro-Type Industries, we offer advanced CNC machining capabilities for a variety of materials, including standard metals, exotic and precious metals, plastic polymers, and more. Our clientele spans across a broad range of industries, such as aerospace, chemical, electronic, marine, medical, and military.
To learn more about our CNC machining capabilities, including 5-axis machining, or request a quote for your next project, contact our team today.