The advent of CNC milling machines was revolutionary in manufacturing. A CNC (computer numerical control) milling machine converts CAD (computer-aided design) drawings into numerical coordinates that control the movement of the cutting tool. Not only can intricate work be done quickly, but it can be duplicated over and over.
A limit of the CNC is that a part may have to be repositioned in order to be completed. Five-axis CNC milling machines cut down or may completely eliminate the need to manually reposition a part.
3-Axis CNC Milling
A 3-axis CNC machine cuts along three directions of a part known as the X, Y, and Z axes.
- X-axis: Back and forth, horizontal direction.
- Y-axis: Side to side, horizontal direction.
- Z-axis: Up and down, vertical direction.
The table on a 3-axis CNC machine can move along the X and Y axes in minute increments allowing for intricate cutting to take place. The spindle holding the cutting tool can move up and down along the Z axis to allow the depth of the cut to be adjustable.
The limitation of the 3-axis machine is that it is only cutting along one plane of the part. What if the part design calls for cutting on one or all four of its sides? Now the part has to be removed, rotated, and repositioned. Not only does it take time to stop the machine and rotate the part, but to reposition it so that the milling along the new plane is coordinated with the milling just done along a different plane.
To solve that limitation and extra work, along comes the 5-axis CNC milling machine.
How Does a 5-Axis CNC Machine Work?
A 5-axis CNC milling machine gains two extra axes by allowing the table and tool spindle to swivel and rotate. Instead of the table staying in a horizontal position, the table swings up into a vertical position exposing a different plane for the milling tools to work on.
The spindle holding the milling tools also can change from working in a vertical direction to working in a horizontal direction. This movement allows the tool to come into the part from the side.
Benefits: Time is saved from not having to stop the machine and repositioning the part. Also, with minute movements of both the spindle and the table, intricate work can be accomplished. Parts that had to be assembled from various smaller pieces created on a 3-axis machine can now be made as a whole part on a 5-axis machine.
CNC Prototyping: The making of prototypes can be expensive with the mold and casting process. But with the use of a 5-axis machine, CNC prototyping can help you stay on budget.
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