4 Axis, 5 Axis CNC Machining
Taking Manufacturing to the Next Levels, Unlock complexity and precision for all your machining needs
4Axis, 5 Axis CNC Machining Services
For complex and time-sensitive machined parts, 5-axis CNC machines offer unparalleled flexibility and speed. 3Q Machining’s technique/project team can help bring your ideas to be real product, from rapid prototypes to end-use parts. Our 4-axis, 5-axis milling capabilities enable us to provide precise parts with complex geometry. For information on our general CNC machining services, including 3-axis milling, CNC turning and EDM, see our CNC machining service page.
Advantages of 5 Axis Machining
3Q Machining is capable of 5-axis machining to the very highest standards. Advantages of working with us include:
Fast turnarounds: With 2 sets of 5-axis machines in house, we have the capacity to make your prototypes and production parts in days.
Top-quality 5-axis machines: Our machinery includes HAAS and JingDiao 5-axis CNC machines, with an on-site inspection system to achieve super-tight tolerances.
Experience and expertise: With a decade of experience in the machining business, and with comprehensive knowledge of material properties, we know how to handle even the most complex parts — no matter the medium.
Industry compatibility: From medical parts to high-tech electronic products, we’ve worked with companies all across the manufacturing industries.
Computer numerical control, commonly referred to as CNC, is a term used to refer to the system in which a toolhead moves along predetermined paths to accomplish a variety of tasks, such as drilling, cutting, printing, or milling.
In maker communities, the term “CNC” is often used to refer to CNC milling, a process involving a spindle as a toolhead. However, it is worth noting that CNC can also be used for much more than just milling.
As far as this article is concerned, CNC milling is a process in which a cutting tool systematically removes material to produce some final geometry. In this subtractive process, a computer handles the conversion of a CAD design into coordinates, which are turned into instructions used by the cutting tool to remove material and reveal the final object.
5-Axis CNC Milling Demystified
CNC milling machines with five axes are simply advanced variants of regular milling machines, where the cutting tool moves along five different axes simultaneously. It’s only with this freedom of motion that some complex geometries can be produced. Regular 3-axis CNC machines, popular among enthusiasts, simply cannot move the cutting spindle in any way that will produce partial cavities and overhangs, for example, without manual adjustment of the material midway through the process.
Common CNC milling materials:
- carbon fiber
- wood (artistic and design applications)
Because of its ability to manufacture complex parts from strong, durable materials, 5-axis CNC is a common manufacturing and prototyping solution in the aerospace industry, an industry which requires complex parts with outstanding strength.
5 Axes in a 3-Axis World
There are two mechanical ways that CNC milling machines can achieve their 5-axis prowess:
- swivel the toolhead
- move the table (and the block of material)
Swivel head machines, as the name implies, can maneuver the toolhead around the block of material to get into tight spaces from different angles. One benefit of this method is a larger, heavier object can be machined, since the block of material remains stationary throughout the process.
On the other hand, CNC milling machines that move the object on the table, also referred to as trunnions, achieve their additional two axes of freedom by rotating the table on which the material is placed. The benefit of this approach is speed and stability, although objects that are too large or heavy can’t be rotated in this fashion.
Continuous vs 3+2 Axis Milling
Maybe you’re wondering, what’s the main benefit of continuous CNC? Speed. Without the need to stop cutting to reorient the part multiple times during the process, continuous 5-axis CNC is faster. It’s worth noting, however, that a continuously-moving toolhead necessitates more moving parts (more wear and tear) and advanced crash detection. Thus, it’s more complicated mechanically and programmatically to execute successfully.
That brings up an important consideration in the 5-axis world: collisions. With heavy cutting tools and bits of material flying all over the place at high speeds, it’s quite important to ensure that things don’t bump into each other. But teaching a machine to keep track of where everything is in 3D space turns out to be a big programmatic challenge.
The Software Side
Speaking of programmatic challenges, the conversion of a 3D design from CAD software file to a physical tool path is quite a feat of engineering as well. Only some of the most advanced software tools are capable of producing truly smooth real-world results.
Applications for 5-Axis Machining
Regardless of the manufacturing process used to create the end-use part, CNC machining is widely used by designers as a means of creating early and late-stage prototypes with short turnarounds times. CNC prototyping allow designers to rapidly iterate ideas without tooling costs or waiting times. It is one of the best ways to create concept model and function prototype to verify the design. Compared with other rapid prototyping methods, rapid CNC machining allows us to get tight tolerance prototypes in real materials fast.
CNC Prototyping is the preferred option to bring new design life among the other rapid prototyping methods, unless the products are designed for 3D printing or other methods only.
CNC machining and EDM are the main methods to fabricate metal tooling for injection molding, high pressure die casting, blow molding, roller molding, stamping, blending and so on.
High speed CNC machines allow us to make high precision copper patterns, mold cavities, mold base, lifter and other mold components in very short term. Moreover, with 5 axis milling machines, we can mill the deep pocket features in hours which take days to make by EDM in the past. That’s how we can speed up the mold making process significantly. Check out how rapid tooling works.
In the automotive industry, CNC machining is the most popular way to create concept cars as well as the function testing components, such as lighting, engine, transmission & steering system. It is also widely used to produce high volume automotive parts and post-machining the die casting parts, investment casting parts.
It is especially useful for custom automotive parts, which may be required for repairs or for limited-edition luxury vehicles, since it is too costly to make few parts by molding process.
CNC machining has for several years been an integral part of aerospace manufacturing. That’s partly down to the extremely high precision of CNC machines, making the process suitable for safety-critical parts that will be used on aircraft.
Machinable aerospace parts include prototype engine components, fuel panels, landing gear components and engine mounts.
The machinability of many grades of titanium and stainless steel makes CNC machining a widely used process in healthcare, with the process regularly used to create implants, medical devices and surgical tools such as scalpels.
Tight tolerances and fast turnarounds are especially important for items such as titanium hip implants, which should be tailored to a patient’s anatomy.
Though injection molding dominates the production of simple plastic parts, many off-the-shelf goods are created with CNC machining. Household goods and appliances often contain machined parts, while items like enclosures and fixtures are also suitable for the process. Goods like sporting equipment may also be CNC machined. The CNC machining of metal and plastic components plays a big role in the electronics industry. Items such as laptop casings, connectors and sockets can all be reliably made with a CNC machine.
5-Axis CNC Machining FAQ
What are the 5 axes on a CNC machine?
The axes, in terms of CNC machining, determine the number of directions that the cutting tool can move in when producing parts. There are the three-dimensional axes, and the 5-axis machine’s cutting tool can also rotate to approach the part from two directions, which serve as two additional axes.
When does 5-axis machining make sense?
Because of the flexibility offered by 5-axis machining, it should be used to create the most complex shapes and details in parts. The stability of the tool also provides a smoother and more consistent finish.
Can 5-axis provide tight tolerances?
5-axis CNC machining is one of the most advanced manufacturing technologies available, so it can produce some of the tightest tolerances possible, even on complex and detailed parts.