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understand 5 axis cnc machining comp

Understand 5-Axis CNC Machining and Its Benefits for Your Business

The manufacturing industry has constantly evolved over the years based on the market demands -high productivity, speed, accuracy, capability, and reduced human intervention and error. Many industries have shifted from simple machines to multi-axis CNC technology to manufacture various customer products.

5-axis CNC machining is one of the leading and most versatile technologies in the world today. Manufacturers use this machining process to create high-quality parts because of its infinite possibilities in a single setup. This technique provides high-level accuracy, precision, reliability, and efficiency with its five axes. Its high number of axes gives it a competitive edge in its machining capabilities over its counterparts.

This article discusses 5-axis CNC machining, its pros and cons, and why you should choose this technique for your project.

What is 5-Axis CNC Machining?

5-axis CNC machining involves the use of cutting tools that moves across the five different axes simultaneously. There are three linear axes (X, Y, and Z ) and the fourth and fifth axes called A-axis (tilting table axis) and B-axis (table rotation axis) for machining very complex parts.

how 5 axis machining works
What is 5-Axis CNC Machining

The cutting tool moves sideways on the X-axis, vertically on the Y-axis, and back and forth on the Z-axis. 5-axis CNC machining increases a CNC machine’s ability to move workpieces or a cutting tool in five different axes simultaneously, which offers the cutting tool a multi-directional advantage over 3-axis machining.

5-axis machining enables machinists to work on up to five surfaces or sides of a workpiece in a single operation, making it a highly efficient and effective process. In addition, the 5-axis machining centers improve the functionality of the linear axes with its tilting rotary table, allowing it to machine highly complex geometries.

3-axis vs. 5-axis CNC Machining

3 axis vs 5 axis

The 3-axis CNC milling machines work on workpieces with three axes, while the 5-axis uses five axes, respectively. Both 3-axis and 5-axis CNC machining are versatile, replicable, and automated manufacturing methods that enable quick and cost-effective production of accurate components. However, you may consider using one over the other due to some factors.

3-axis machining might be the best option when working with a budget or cutting only flat surfaces. Aside from being more affordable than 5-axis machining, 3-axis CNC machines are simple to program, excluding the costs of working with costly expert programmers and machinists. In addition, 3-axis machining uses a shorter prep time.

However, 5-axis machining is your best bet if you must produce complex geometry components. Using 5-axis CNC machines allows you to machine parts from all sides because it requires no manual rotation. It offers higher production, greater accuracy, increased motion flexibility, and the ability of large CNC machining.

Advantages of 5-Axis CNC Machining

advantages of 5 axis cnc machining
High Precision 5-Axis Machining

The 5-axis machining is an efficient machining process suitable for a wide range of purposes in different industries. It offers high efficiency and precision for workpieces. Here are some of the benefits of using 5-axis machining:

Time-Saving Process

Using a 5-axis CNC machine helps to execute machining operations faster in the universal machining center. 5-axis machining centers can process machined parts on five sides, helping complete work quicker and more efficiently in the production cycle. A single setting is all you need to machine thousands of parts, which helps conserve time and resources. As a result, the machining process becomes a cost-effective solution that fast-tracks the product development process for your product.

The tool in 5-axis vertical machine is used to maintain the vertical form of the complex mold’s machining surface, improving the rate of spindle utilization. The 5-axis machining principle is ideal for bevel-side milling because it eliminates rib-like lines created by ball cutters. It gives the mold a better surface quality, reducing the need to clean its surface manually.

Maintain Optimal Cutting

CNC machines’ cutting performance gradually deteriorates in 3-axis cutting mode when the tool path moves towards the edge or the top of the machined part. However, it would be best if you moved the turntable to have the best cutting condition.

Likewise, to fully process an irregular plane, you must use a tiled turntable to move the turntable multiple times and in different directions. In addition, 5-axis machining can create better surface quality by avoiding the center line speed of the ball cutter getting to 0.

Improve Machining Accuracy

improve machining accuracy
Machined Parts

The 5-axis machining requires minimal settings, which improves its accuracy, and additional setups to the machine will only result in more errors. The minimal settings help extend the lifespan of specific tools mainly because of some shorter ones.

The problem of multiple repositioning accuracy of the workpiece at complex angles can be solved using 5-axis machining technology. Asides from saving time, it greatly enhances the machining tolerances for custom machining. Likewise, it reduces the high cost of producing multiple fixtures using conventional methods. 5-axis machining can machine parts with complex specifications such as cavity recesses on difficult surfaces, taper machining, drilling, etc., which are unattainable using traditional machining methods.

High Productivity

5-axis machining can significantly lower the machining and auxiliary time for parts. It has an extensive spindle speed and feeds range which offers the machine its prominent cutting ability. 5-axis machining advances an era of high–speed manufacturing, making it a preferred machining process. The positioning of the axes, high-cutting speed, and rapid movement reduce the semi-finished products’ turnaround time and improve accuracy and production efficiency.

High-Quality Surface Treatment

5-axis machining helps to produce parts with a high-quality surface finish. Machined parts usually have excellent proximity to the cutting tool as the cutting tool is often shorter on 5-axis machines. The 5-axis CNC machines create a high-quality surface finish with its last two axes, allowing the utilization of shorter cutting tools that produce lesser vibration.

high quality surface treatment 1
High-Quality Surface Treatment

Ability to Create Complex Parts

The ability to cut complex shapes is another advantage of using the 5-axis CNC machine. All five axes of the CNC machine process parts to their exact requirements using a single setup. The extra movement in this arrangement allows the manufacturing of arcs and angles. However, in the past, these CNC machines would require multiple configurations and tons of unique features to machine angles and arcs.

Disadvantages of 5-Axis CNC Machining

The fact remains that most manufacturers have realized the enormous benefits of 5-axis technology in different production areas. Manufacturers now employ it as a viable solution whenever they encounter complex difficulties when designing and manufacturing parts with complex surfaces. However, are some of the constraints of 5-axis CNC machining:

rapid prototyping 5axis machining

Complex and Difficult to Program

5-axis machining is more complex and challenging to operate as it differs from 3-axis machining. It has three linear motions and two rotational motions. The complex motion’s occurring spatial trajectory is complicated and generally difficult to understand. For instance, several transformations and complex spatial geometric calculations are needed to process the desired free-form surface in space.

In addition, each axis’s movement arrangement must be considered to prevent a collision, interference, and appropriate interpolation movements. However, the programming is more challenging to ensure the desired machining accuracy and surface quality.

The Cost is Too High

The cost of acquiring a 5-axis CNC machine tool and the software needed is way higher than that of a standard three-axis machining center. Meanwhile, the maintenance of this CNC machine is more complex than regular machines. These factors influence the cost of parts produced in the 5-axis machining process, making it higher than the standard 3-axis machining.

High Technical Requirements for Operators

5-axis machining is a modern and sophisticated technology machinists or specialists must operate with technical know-how. It differs from the standard three-axis machine tools, ranging from single programming to machining operation. As a result, you need highly skilled operators to operate the machines, resulting in increased labor costs.

Why Choose 5-Axis CNC Machining Over Other Techniques?

why choose 5 axis cnc machining

Choosing between 5-axis machining and other machining techniques can be difficult. However, there are some essential factors to consider when choosing. Here is some comparison that will help you make the ideal choice:

5-Axis CNC Machining vs. 3+2-Axis CNC Machining

Most people often confuse these two techniques. The 5-axis or continuous 5-axis machining involves the consistent rotation of cutting tools along five axes. On the other hand, 3+2 –axis machining performs a 3-axis program while it keeps the cutting tool locked at an angle, and the two different rotary axes determine the angle where the cutting tool is locked.

The speed of the 5-axis machining is the edge it has over the 3+2-axis machining. The 3+2-axis CNC machines often start and stop between each tool orientation resulting in a delay in production time. However, the 5-axis machining completes cutting operations in a single procedure. In addition, 5-axis machining is ideal for complex CNC machining, while 3+2-axis machining is best for processing plane surfaces.

The cost of machining with 5-axis CNC machines is significantly lower than that of 3+2-axis machining because it requires fewer clamps and no special fixtures. Nevertheless, the programming involved with the 5-axis technology is much more complex than the 3+2-axis CNC machining.

32 axis cnc machining
3+2 Axis CNC Machining

5-Axis CNC Machining vs. 3D Printing

The 5-axis machining method is subtractive, unlike the additive 3D manufacturing technique, which involves building parts one layer at a time. Although these technologies have an opposing mode of operation, their application has more interconnection. Both methods offer fast turnaround, excellent surface finishes, high accuracy, and increased repeatability.

The initial setup costs of the 3D printing technique are minimal as it does not need special tooling or fixtures. However, 5-axis CNC machining centers provide better dimensional accuracy than 3D printing, and they can accurately create small and very large workpieces. You will need extra post-processing operations to achieve extremely tight tolerances with 3D printing.

Work With AT-Machining for 5-Axis CNC Machining

Having discussed in detail everything you need to know about 5-axis machining, you should now understand the technique well enough to take control of your manufacturing experience. Without a doubt, 5-axis CNC machines make manufacturing more accessible, ensuring faster and more cost-effective production of parts with great precision and accuracy.

at machining for 5 axis cnc machining
AT-Machining For 5 Axis CNC Machining

Working with a CNC machining specialist is essential to handle your project. AT-Machining is a certified and renowned CNC machining services provider across the globe. We have several advanced 3-, 4- and 5-axis CNC machines to offering you high-quality CNC machined parts with competitive pricing. Our 5-axis universal machining centers provide optimized precision for complex parts.

Our team of engineers and highly skilled machinists offer all the necessary support to guide you through our wide array of machining technologies and production-grade materials for the best results. Don’t hesitate to contact us today, and let’s discuss your next project. Kindly upload your design file for an instant quote.


How does a 5-axis machine work?

A 5-axis machine depends on a set of computer instructions to control the movement of the cutting tool. These instructions are embedded in a 3D CAD model created by machinists, which is then converted to a computer program (G-code) using CAM software. The G-code contains instructions that guide the cutting tools’ motion along the linear axes (X, Y, and Z axes) and the movement of the worktable along the rotary axes (A and C axes) to create the preferred parts.

Why use 5-axis Machining?

When you use 5-axis machines, you can machine a workpiece from all sides. These 5-axis machines provide greater accuracy, higher yield, and high freedom of movement. Likewise, it allows you to fabricate more significant parts faster and easier.

What Is the Difference Between 3, 4, and 5-axis CNC Machining?

The complexity of the movement of the cutting tool and the workpiece can move through marks the significant difference between the 3, 4, and 5-axis CNC machining. Likewise, the workpiece’s complexity often determines which axis to use between 3-,4-, or 5-axis machining.

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Hey there, I’m Sam!

From AT-Machining, I’m a CNC Machining Expert in this field for more than 20 years.  We offer cost-effective machining services from China. Ask for a quote for your ongoing or upcoming projects now!

Best Regards, Sam, Co-Founder

AT Machining

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