05-08-19 5 Axis Machining
Next Generation of Five-Axis Machining
Several technologies are converging to take five-axis machining to the next level. Mold and die makers will benefit from more capable machining centers, milling tools and CAD/CAM systems that are rendering five-axis machining remarkably more productive, yet easier to own and operate.
Five-axis machining technology has grown increasingly capable over the years, but there still have been drawbacks that made some shops think it was out of their reach. And to be fair, there have been inherent limitations that kept five-axis technology from achieving its potential from a pure machining productivity perspective.
That’s changing rapidly with advancements in machine tool technology, as well as with enabling technologies such as cutting tools and CAD/CAM software. Combined, these advancements render five-axis machining processes that are astonishingly more productive than that of a few years ago. Though perhaps counterintuitive to some, a more expensive machine and cutting tool will result in the lowest cost per part, and sometimes by a lot.
The combination of these technologies enables faster generation of smooth and accurate 3D surfaces in difficult materials, and increased tool life. Mold and die makers will likely be the first to recognize the benefits, but these process improvements also serve a wide range of 3D applications such as biomedical and aerospace.
The advantages of 5XC and how it's changing the game for five-axis machining is discussed
E.g. The Machine Tool
Historically, five-axis machine design has essentially used a 3+2 configuration, with the “3” being a three-axis machining center and the “+2” being a rotary/tilt table or head. That’s not to say you couldn't contour with all five axes, but that “+2” was typically the weak link from a machining perspective in both positioning speed and accuracy. You’d typically see + 3 - 5 arc sec. in positioning accuracy and 30 to 50 rpm in speed.
Three-axis machining forces the use of long tools to reach certain
workpiece features. Five-axis machining facilitates a more rigid tool and toolholder set, allowing for more aggressive machining.
Just as critical is upgraded control technology that does much more than process program blocks faster. It also can automatically smooth 3D tool paths, “know” the true position of the entire cutting tool and workpiece to provide real-time collision avoidance, and even dynamically map and compensate automatically for small tool position errors caused by workpiece inertia.
At the end it can be obtained:
Significantly reduced cycle times
Smoother, more accurate machined surfaces
Less need for secondary processes – EDM and benching
Lower tooling costs
Simply, today’s more capable five-axis technology delivers a much better return on your investments in equipment, tooling, software and people. That adds up to more profitable jobs, and ultimately a more successful business.
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