5 Axis CNC machines like vertical milling centers are essential equipment for CNC machining, the number of axes and specific construction set it apart from hobbyist-grade CNC router and 3-axis. In this article, we’ll go through the definition, advantages, configuration, cost, and selection of the 5-axis CNC machine.
5-axis CNC machine, also known as 5-axis CNC machining center, comes in different configurations, but it usually consists of 3 axes: X, Y, Z, and two additional axes rotating around X and Y separately. 5-axis CNC is a kind of high-tech machine tool used for processing complex parts with high accuracy, often provides 5 axis machining parts for aerospace, military, high-precision medical device, and other critical industries. 5 Axis CNC machines are common solutions to the fabrication of impeller, marine propeller, turbine blade, steam turbine rotor, engine crankshaft, etc. Machining processes like milling and turning can be simplified with the use of 5 Axis CNC machine. On a five-axis CNC machine, the workpiece and cutting tool can move simultaneously along five different axes. The tilt of the cutting tool or table can avoid collision with the tool holder, also offers better access to the part, and improves tool life.
5 Axis CNC machining can not only process complex geometries and intricate features like prismatic workpieces but also eliminate additional setups and reduce machining time. It provides the most efficient and versatile manufacturing solution at an affordable cost. In addition, in the process of five axis machining, shorter tools can be employed, then the tool and tool holder can be tipped away and continue to cut more easily, which is significant for mold work where the use of tool holder extensions is common to reach deep cavity surfaces. A shorter tool also causes less vibration, longer tool life and better surface finish. Continuous 5-axis machining does not need stopping and starting between each reorientation of the tool, its speed advantage is obvious.
However, the high speed also results in an easier part crash, and increased wear and tear, which brings a higher challenge to CNC programming.
There is an obvious difference between the cost of 5 Axis CNC and 3 Axis. 5-axis CNC machining requires a high level of precision and accuracy, so expensive devices like ultra-precise rotary tables, capable controls, high-performance spindles, and more setups are essential, as well as the construction and of the machine itself, all drives the increase of the cost. Additional devices like cooling systems, electrical cabinet, highly responsive servomotors and servo loops may be added to ensure the machining effects.
The prices of 5 axis CNC machine are different because of the brand, capabilities, and other factors, but for a 5-axis CNC mill, 200K-500K dollars are usually required.
Common configuration types for 5-axis CNC machines including table-table, head-table, and head-head.
1.The first configuration of five axis CNC machine is the trunnion table machine, also be referred to as a table-table configuration, both rotary axes are contained in the trunnion table and the head is always stationary, it moves the piece on the table. This kind of setup is based on a standard 3-axis CNC machine, the two rotary axes are used to locate the workpiece into the desired orientation. The trunnion CNC machine offers better undercut capabilities and larger work volumes, as well as great speed and stability.
2. The second 5-axis machine configuration is the swivel or articulating head machine, which can be available in head-head or head table configuration. Unlike trunnion style, head-head machine where all rotations are completed by the head, the table is stationary. While the head-table machine consists of a tilting head and a rotating table, which allows the use of shorter or more standard length tooling. Swivel head machines can maneuver the tool head around the block to get into tight spaces. Rotary axes are achieved by swiveling the spindle. This type of 5 axis CNC allows you to machine heavier parts than the trunnion style. Overall, the head-table design is more versatile than a trunnion or head-head type. Larger and heavier components can be machined. Its table can also be applied for multiple vise setups and even the machining of the sixth side of the part.
Another difference between trunnion and swivel style machine is that a trunnion-style machine operates with an A-axis (rotating about the X-axis) and a C-axis (rotating about the Z-axis), whereas a swivel-rotate-style machine operates with a B-axis (rotating about the Y-axis) and a C-axis (rotating about the Z-axis).
5-axis CNC primarily live in the industrial world and serve for complex and strong parts, if you are a homemaker, you don’t have to choose a complicated 5-axis machine. However, for professional machine shops, choosing a 5-axis CNC machine should consider the part shape, sizes, materials, technology, requirements, machine capabilities, and more aspects.
For example, if you need to machine large heavy components, maybe a gantry-style machine or a horizontal machining center is a good option. In addition, higher part precision requirements bring higher demands on the construction and motion control system of a machine, involves motors, ram, and other setups.
End users are more inclined toward reputed suppliers that offer high-quality and premium machines. According to Technavio’s report on the global 5-axis CNC machining centers market from 2017-2021, leading and prominent manufacturer of CNC machine tools across the globe including Haas Automation, Hurco, Makino, Okuma, and Shenyang Machine Tools. These companies provide a wide range of 5-axis CNC machines in varying specifications, delivering the best solution for your industry.