The Most Common Questions About 5-Axis Milling

Computer numerical control (CNC) milling can accomplish a surprising variety of sculptural feats with 5-axis milling in Ukiah, CA. Whether you want to mill a block of metal for machinery components or you prefer to create artistic sculptures using modern tools, 5-axis milling is an incredibly useful tool. Like sculpting a statue from a block of marble, the concept is the same: 5-axis milling removes the unnecessary materials until the desired form is achieved. It’s more complicated, but the results are faster and more consistent than many other processes.

Here are answers to some of the most common questions about 5-axis milling.

What is 5-axis milling?

In 5-axis CNC milling, a CNC is used to move cutting tools and parts along five different axes, all at the same time. This allows the CNC to cut complex parts efficiently. It allows users to create single-setup machining, helps avoid collisions and improves the tool lifespan. All of these factors make 5-axis milling significantly more efficient and desirable than milling with two or three axes. While 5-axis milling is often used in aerospace machining, its versatility makes it a good solution for a number of different applications.

What are the five axes?

Picture the common three-dimensional axes, X, Y and Z. (You might have to get out an old math textbook to remember this.) Those are the three main axes in 5-axis milling. The fourth axis is A, which rotates around the X axis, and the fifth is B, which rotates around the Y axis. (You could add a sixth rotational axis around the Z—and some machines do—but ultimately it doesn’t add enough benefit to be as common as 5-axis milling.)

In a vertical machining center, the X and Y axes are horizontal and the Z is vertical, while in a horizontal machining center, the Y- and Z-axis positions are reversed.

Why would I use 5-axis milling?

For many applications, 3-axis milling is cheaper and just as effective in getting the job done. However, if you want to do it faster, 5-axis milling is usually the way to go. There are a few drawbacks—5-axis milling requires more moving parts. That means that there’s more potential for part crashing, and the more moving parts, the greater the wear and tear on the system. It’s also far more complicated to program a CNC for 5-axis milling, so you may spend more time at the outset to make up for the reduced milling time. There’s also an increased risk of errors, thanks to those multiple moving parts.

Ultimately, 5-axis milling offers the ability to machine extremely complex parts. Since there are fewer setups involved, there’s less potential for imprecision, and these tools often produce a better surface finish.

If you need to quickly, precisely and efficiently manufacture complex parts, 5-axis CNC machining may be the right solution in Ukiah, CA. The team at Evden Enterprises can help you determine whether your project is best suited for 5-axis milling or another machining method. Call today to learn more.