What is 5-axis Machining? This term is often thrown out to convey a level of complexity or quality associated with a product, but rarely is the term fully understood by consumers. In this blog post, I hope to clear up any misconceptions of what 5-axis machining is, and effectively convey what the benefits really are.
In order to fully understand the benefits of 5-axis machining, one first needs to understand how traditional 3-axis machining works. In a traditional mill, the machine is only able to move in 3-axis x, y, and z. This means the part can only be approached from above, along the z-axis. For many parts, once it has been machined on one side, the part will need to be removed from the vice and re-clamped in a different orientation, in order to gain access to features located on the other sides. On average this takes anywhere from 15 minutes when custom fixturing is not required, to 3 hours when custom fixturing has to be made in order to hold the part securely. Now imagine if a six-sided part like a cube needs to be machined on all sides. This action of reorienting the part could add days and thousands of dollars to the cost of the manufacturing of the part. In order to combat this added cost, parts are typically manufactured in large volumes, amortizing the added fixturing cost over hundreds or thousands of parts to greatly reduce the cost per part. A 5-axis machine helps eliminate the multiple setups by rotating the entire vice and part. A 5-axis machine is very similar to a 3-axis machine, but with the addition of two rotating axes that rotate around the y and z-axis. These rotational axis are called the b, and c axis. By rotating these axis then holding the part in a new orientation 5 of the 6 sides of a part can now be drilled or machined with the machine doing all the reorienting of the part!