5-Axis Milling Explained

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5-Axis Milling Explained - Monday, November 30, 2015

5-Axis Milling

5-axis milling is literally a ‘space age’ technology that was developed by the aerospace industry, but is now empowering machining experts to increase accuracy, get the job done quicker, and avoid expensive part damage.

So—how does this miracle technology work?

What is 5-Axis Milling?

5-axis milling, or 5-axis machining, is a type of multi-access machining tool. It adds additional axes beyond the traditional three-axis tool. So, instead of using the traditional X, Y, and Z-axes, the 5-axis milling machine adds two additional axes by way of rotation. By adding a rotary to each axis you now have another axis that rotates around X, another that rotates around Y, and a third that rotates around the Z-axis.

This rotary action is completed by have a rotary table atop a trunnion table. The trunnion rotates/tilts the part around a secondary axis as it is rotated around the X, Y, or Z-axis.

All this added rotation means you can reach every surface—making this method extremely versatile and effective.

When is it Used?

While 5-axis machining tools are designed to be capable of nearly any type of milling, it is the complex geometries they offer that are the most impressive. Having said that, however, the majority of machining work doesn’t use complex geometries—so these tools are used largely to improve accuracy and speed. They also allow the machining professional to more easily follow contoured surfaces.

With a 5-axis machining tool, 3+2 and 4+1 machining can be performed.

The Benefits of 5-Axis Milling

5-axis technology offers a large number of benefits to both machining professionals and their clients:

1. Time

It saves time. A lot of time. By using a 5-axis technique you don’t handle the part as much, as you don’t need to move it from one machine to another or one fixture to the next.

2. Money

As it can be performed quickly it is a less labor-intensive process…and machining labor is fairly expensive. This makes it extremely cost-effective.

3. Accuracy

As you’re removing much of the human labor, you’re also removing the opportunity for human error. Since the part does not need to be moved repeatedly it has less of a chance of being damaged.

4. Speed

Machining professionals are able to more quickly turn around orders (while still improving accuracy). This quicker turnaround gets the client the part they need quicker, which in turn helps them decrease downtime. It also means they don’t need to plan as far ahead for future milling items.

5. Geometric Range

Using 5-axis milling offers a larger range of geometric options that can be milled, which opens up your machining options.

The benefits of 5-axis milling are as extensive as the range of the tool itself. These benefits start with the machinist, and continue on to their customers.

The Downside of 5-Axis Machining Tools

No new technology would be complete without looking at both sides of the spectrum—the positive and the negative. While there are more than ample positives about 5-axis milling, it does have a major issue…it’s difficult. Of course, this ‘downside’ is for the machinist, not the end user.

5-axis machining tools need to be used by a professional with thorough training, as they add incredible complexity to the automation processes. A thorough understanding of all the motion combinations is required to avoid component collisions. You also need to understand the limitations of the rotations, most notably in terms of how fast the axes can be traversed and how far each axis can travel.

Require 5-Axis Milling?

Whether you’ve got a wide range of geometric needs or simply need a quick but reliable turnaround time on milled parts, our machinist experts here at Digital Machining can help. Contact us for more information on what 5-axis milling can do for you.


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