A Guide to 5-Axis Machining


    There is no question that the democratization of 5-axis machining has completely changed the way we go about engineering and manufacturing most of the machines that we use in our day to day life. The ability to move a cutting tool along five different axes simultaneously as one of the products of the current technological age will probably be looked back on as one of the most significant inventions in modern human engineering. In this article, we’ll go over some of the basic core tenants of 5-Axis machines and how they have proved so effective in today’s era of engineering.

    What Is A 5-Axis Machine?

    If you think about the traditional Cartesian plane, you have three axes, an X, Y, and Z-axis. Around each of these axes are included additional “banked” A, B, and C axes. While there are 6-axis machines out there, they offer few additional benefits that a 5-axis machine delivers so most of the CNC machining involves 5-axis machines. This rotational capability thanks to force-driven spindle drives is what makes a huge difference when it comes to CNC machines that have the ability to work across five different planes.

    Why Use a 5-Axis Machine?

    When you have access to cheaper 2-axis or 3-axis machines, what is the point of using a 5-axis one? While it is true that 5-axis machines are quite a bit more expensive than the others, even though the cost is going down, 5-axis machining involves the cutting tool being able to continuously adjust itself along all five-axes. This reorientation along the rotational axes results in a more precise cut when programmed into the computer or, for example, the Mitsubishi spindle drive.

    What About 3D Printing?

    Also known as additive manufacturing, with the rise of software technology, you would think that 3D printing would be the way of the future and make 5-Axis subtractive manufacturing completely obsolete. Another view, however, is that the two will work together and become complementary processes as subtractive manufacturing still has rigorous testing processes that have not been perfected in additive or 3D printing manufacturing yet. On the other hand, 3D printing does allow for the opportunity to design parts and tools that can be beneficial but might not be possible to develop via subtractive manufacturing through programming tools like spindle drives.

    Thanks to the relatively cheaper cost of developing and producing 5-axis CNC machines, the barrier to obtaining them has never been lower. This is a great thing as manufacturing businesses can have easy access to these high-quality machines in order to produce high-quality parts. Additionally, using them along with 3D printers looks to be the wave of the future. Hopefully, this guide has given you a bit of a clearer understanding of 5-Axis CNC machines.