HSC machinesClick image to enlargeby John Baresic

Why you may want to consider five axis machining for your shop

As demands for complex machining continues to grow, more manufacturers are considering the move to five axis machining.

The interest in five axis machining lies primarily in its ability to machine in five axes simultaneously, and the degree of freedom it offers manufacturers. Manufacturers considering five axis machining technology may be daunted by the learning curve: simultaneous five axis machining involves more complex programming than machining with three or four axis machines. Despite this, manufacturers should invest in this technology if they want to remain competitive. And while there is a learning curve, there are also industry resources manufacturers can rely on; machine tool builders with decades of experience in the technology can provide technical know-how to help manufacturers realize the benefits of five axis machining. Here are five of the top benefits of simultaneous five axis machining.

1. Complete machining in a single setup
Often, a workpiece can be machined completely in a single setup, which of course results in an increase in productivity and in the precision of the workpiece. Even subsequent processing steps can be eliminated completely in some cases. Modern tools and rapid cutting speeds, for example, mean that even hard materials can now be machined with maximum precision and the best surface qualities.

2. Ready-made optimized machining
In five axis machining, the milling tool is guided in five axes in relation to the surface of the component. So the working angle of the tool can be changed at every point along the milling path. This in turn ensures the angle is always optimal where chip removal and cutting speed are concerned. The cutting conditions on the cutting edge of the tool remain constant and the strategies for the milling path calculation can be aligned flexibly to the geometry requirements.

3. Shorter cycle times
Compared to conventional milling processes, the free geometrical orientation of the tool axis enables shorter machining times due to the high milling line widths that can be achieved. In addition, five axis milling allows the use of relative shorter and sturdier tools. Shorter tools in turn have a positive effect on cutting values, chip cross sections and tool deflection. The vibrations on the tool cutting edge are also lower. As a result, it is much easier to achieve excellent surface qualities and a high level of dimension and shape accuracy. As well, more stable process conditions with minimum vibrations lengthen the service life of the tools. Also important is the reduced number of tools. This can reduce tool costs by up to 50 per cent compared with three axis milling.

4. Flexible machining.
Five axis machining offers several possibilities for realizing adjustable working angles of the tool to the workpiece. Firstly, the tool or workpiece can be rotated. Secondly, there are several ways of arranging the rotary axes. The respective application is decisive here for the correct axis configuration. So it is vital for customers to have the support of a partner with an extensive portfolio of options that can provide impartial consultation.

5. Improved productivity.
When compared to three axis machining, five axis machines provide manufacturers with the ability to improve productivity. Users can produce complex parts with cross bores and undercuts, for example, that would not be possible on a three axis machine, or would be possible only with multiple changeovers. Machining processes are reduced significantly. An inclined surface would have to be processed any number of times with three axis technology, whereas the same surface is ready in a single step on a five axis machine equipped with a face milling cutter–and with higher precision, as re-clamping errors are eliminated. SMT

John Baresic is product sales manager with DMG MORI SEIKI ELLISON Canada Inc.


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