Parts manufacturing techniques have greatly evolved over the past few years in response to the highly evolving needs of the various production sectors. Machining, which is one of the primary techniques, is done by removing shavings from raw materials to create high-precision parts. In the past, this was routinely done using relatively rudimentary 3-axis machining tools, but has now been greatly modernized due to increased use of digitally controlled (CNC) 5-axis machining. But what do these two machining techniques entail? And what are the main things that differentiate 3-axis machining from its 5-axis variant? The answers are in this article.
Traditional 3-Axis Machining
3-axis machining is one of the most widely used techniques to make mechanical parts. For many decades, it has been well known to manufacturers and other players in the industrial sector, as well as in many other domains like architecture, design and art. It is a relatively simple process, using conventional machining tools like the milling machine, which allows material to be worked on 3 axes (X,Y and Z). The machining tool then proceeds to remove shavings in three basic directions corresponding to the axis of a flat surface. It is very suitable for parts that are not too deep, but this technique is greatly limited when trying to handle a deeper part with narrow cavities. The work can then become very labour-intensive, and renders a finish that is less than perfect.
As new needs emerge and new computer-aided manufacturing technologies (CAM) enter the marketplace, new machining technologies with 3+1 axis, 3+2 axis, then 5-axis have since been developed.
5-Axis Machining: A More Advanced Technology
As its name indicates, 5-axis machining uses a tool which moves in five different directions corresponding to the 3 linear X, Y and Z axes, to which are added two axes, A and B, around which the tool rotates. With such a configuration, the part can be approached from all directions and can be worked from five sides in a single operation.
Unlike 3-axis machining, this technique is extremely suitable for deeper parts made from harder materials, and it guarantees a high degree of precision due to using shorter machining tools. The machining speed is also faster, while tool vibration is reduced.
In addition, whereas operating 3-axis machining is simpler, 5-axis machining requires longer preparation time but less material handling.
Digital Controls, the Advantage of 5-Axis Machining
Over the past few years, a lot of hardware and software has been developed enabling full computer-based control of the machining tools used for 5-axis machining. These digital controls enable efficient handling of a multitude of materials and curved surfaces with a high degree of precision. This kind of computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) also allows for the process to be partially or completely automated. In addition to high quality, precision products, this technology also has many advantages. There are faster machining speeds, higher yields, and the ability to manufacture very large-sized parts, etc.
At USIMM, we use manufacturing technology that is ideal for the requirements of your different projects. We can use 3-axis or 5-axis machining as needed in order to ensure a truly customized result on all kinds of non-metallic materials including plastics, Plexiglas, polystyrene, wood, foam, MDF, etc. Also, in addition to manufacturing by digital cutting, our team also provides comprehensive support of your project, from 3D scanning to bringing it to life.