Advantages of 5-Axis Machining for Space Components
Providing machined parts for the space market requires being able to produce very complex shapes with very tight tolerances. Increasingly, machined parts are being produced on 5-axis CNC machines. Initially these parts were machined on CNC equipment. The machines were a combination of two-axis (lathes) and three-axis (milling). Many of the more complex shapes were produced using a combination of these machines along with multiple setups. Thanks to advances in control, servo, and tooling technology, we can now accomplish 4- and 5-axis simultaneous machining. Having this 5-axis ability has significant advantages creating complex machine shapes.
Definition of 5-Axis Machining
Traditional CNC machines move in two linear axes (X and Z) for lathes and three linear axes (X, Y, and Z) for machining center. The term “5-axis” refers to the number of directions in which the cutting tool can move. On a 5-axis machine, the cutting tool moves across the X, Y, and Z linear axes, as well as rotates on the A and B axes to approach the workpiece from any direction.
There are many distinct advantages in utilizing 5-axis CNC machines over conventional three-axis machining.
Five-axis machines can usually machine nearly every visible surface, excluding the bottom or clamping area. Th ability to access these surfaces significantly reduces the need for multiple setups or special fixtures. In some instances, it reduces the number of setups to one.
Improved Tool Life
Improved tool life and cycle time reduction can result in being able to tilt the tool/table to maintain optimum cutting position and constant chip load.
A major advantage of five-axis machining is the ability to machine most complex shapes. The additional movement creates machining angles and arcs for the cutting tool and for chip relief.
Increased Relational Accuracy
Having to move the part into different chucking positions creates imprecision and tolerance stackup. Fewer chuckings and less re-fixturing leads to producing more precise parts. By using the same “zero” or “home” location, feature-to-feature accuracy is improved.
3+2 Axis Machining
There are parts that can only be machined with simultaneous 5-axis movement. But not all 5-axis parts require 5-axis simultaneous machining. Some 5-axis parts are best machined with a 3+2 movement.
In 3+2 machining, the fourth and fifth axes are used to locate the work piece (or cutting tool, depending on the type of machine) in a fixed position for cutting tool access.
The same tool paths could have been achieved in a three-axis machine, but only after loading and unloading between multiple setups, fixtures, or machines. The five-axis machine increases uptime, decreases human error, and eliminates the need for special fixtures. For parts with features or holes on multiple faces or angles, 3+2 machining is the clear choice.
Better Surface Finish
On 5-axis machines, by rotating the fourth and fifth axes, the part can be orientated to bring it closer to the cutting tool. Getting the part closer to the cutting tool allows for reduction in the length of the cutting tool. A shorter cutting tool is less susceptible to vibration at higher cutting speeds, which directly impacts surface finish.
As technology advances, so does the market’s expectations for higher quality products at competitive pricing. To meet this challenge, Intrex has made significant investments in multiple-axis equipment as well as systems software to oversee and control our entire manufacturing process.
We would welcome an opportunity to speak to you about addressing your supply chain needs.