5 – axis machining is one of the most advanced machining techniques that exist today. Thanks to this modern procedure it is possible to shape parts of different shapes and sizes that cannot be easily worked on conventional machine tools . But what is 5-axis machining ? What are the machine tools that perform this process?
5-axis machining: a revolution for the industry
5 – axis machining refers to the number of directions the cutting tool can follow. And it is that conventional machine tools can move on certain planes , generally the X and Y. In the 5-axis machining center, the cutting tool is capable of moving on the X, Y and Z axes, but also making turns on the axes A and B, depending on the work to be done on the part.
The inclusion of the movement on the axes A and B allows the cutting tool to access any angle and direction of the piece. Something that cannot be done, for example, on a conventional lathe, where the part has to be repositioned. This is where the main advantage of this sophisticated machining process lies: that all five faces of a part can be worked at once; without the need to reposition the part or stop the machine.
5 – axis machining is one of the most advanced and complex techniques within chip removal processes. In addition, the movement carried out by the machines can be done both by the work table and by the machine head.
Types of multi-axis machining
Two of the most advanced machining techniques for chip removal are 3+2 machining and 5-axis machining. These are called multi-axis machining cycles.
- 3+2 cycle: in this type of machining axes four and five (A and B) remain fixed. They can only move in the change from one process to another; on the contrary, the other three axes: X, Y and Z move simultaneously.
- Simultaneous 5-axis cycle : the most complex technique, since all five axes move at the same time. With this, the cutting tool can reach different angles of the piece, machining times are reduced and a better finish of the piece is achieved.
Multi – axis machining is carried out on machine tools called machining centers that work by CNC computer numerical control . But for these machines to work, the use of programming software for the design of the part is essential. These softwares are CAD (computer-aided design) and CAM (computer-aided manufacturing). Before mounting the part on the machine, a computer must be used to design the part; once the design has been made, it must be translated into an alphanumeric language using CAM.
Afterwards, the result is loaded into the machining center computer, which will be in charge of indicating to the tools the movements they have to make to achieve those results. The programming of these machines can also be done by the operator by entering a series of specific codes.
Characteristics and advantages of the 5-axis machining center
In a 5-axis machining center, the first three axes correspond to the planes of the Cartesian system X, Y and Z; In addition, the fourth axis (A) controls the rotation of the part to be machined on any of the axes. This spindle is ideal for machining cylindrical-shaped parts. The fifth axis (B), allows the rotation mechanism not only of one axis, but of both simultaneously; this makes it possible to create a combination of rotations that allow greater movement. In addition, thanks to the fifth axis, it is possible to perform a perpendicular rotation about an axis, while the part is tilted perpendicular to said axis.
In addition, since the machining centers are equipped with CNC computer numerical control technology, not only very complex jobs can be carried out, but also different processes at one time. For example, it is possible to turn a part and at the same time do other work on it, such as improving the finish. This is a process that, on a conventional machine, can only be done by stopping the machine and repositioning the part. The results are more accurate and smaller length cutting tools can be used which allows for increased cutting speed; this causes the vibration of the tool to be reduced.
5 – axis machining is used for mass production, since the use of this technique allows high-speed machining. By being able to machine complex shapes in a single process, productivity is increased and allows not only production times to be reduced, but also labor; With a CNC machine, the same operator can control different machines (always with CNC technology) at the same time. Consequently, the costs of such production are also reduced.