5-Axis Machining vs 3-Axis Machining: What is the Difference?

Engineering is under increased demand to achieve tighter tolerance levels and greater accuracy than ever before, as different sectors of industry, including aerospace, medical, automotives, and defence, require more complex and durable components. Computer Numerical Control (CNC) has had a transformative effect on precision engineering, particularly in 5-axis machining.
Choosing the right method for your next project is crucial to achieve the desired outcomes and cost-efficiency, so in this guide we’ll help you to understand the difference between 3-axis and 5-axis machining.

3-Axis CNC Machining: Explained

3-axis CNC machining is used across many sectors of industry and is one of the most common methods for creating simple components and most geometries. 3-axis machining uses cutting tools to produce a desired component by working on it from three angles: X, Y, and Z. These correspond to the height, width, and depth of the part.
A 3-axis CNC machine is relatively easy and quick to set-up. Once the operator has entered the milling instructions into the software, the machine will automatically carry out the operation. The material block remains in a fixed position, on the machine bed or in a vice, and the cutting tools are applied along the three axes to form the finished component.
Because this method involves the workpiece being manipulated along three axes, non-conventional shapes, or those with complex designs such as cavities, are harder to produce. Machine operators may have to reposition the workpiece, slowing down the process and increasing costs.

5-Axis CNC Machining: Explained

5-axis milling machines work in a similar way to 3-axis versions, except they utilise an additional two rotary axes (A and B), thus creating a workspace that has five dimensions.
This allows for the part to be rotated so that it can be machined from five angles simultaneously, leading to greater precision than can be achieved with 3-axis machining. It is also possible to machine intricate parts with a single set-up, dispelling the need for an operator to manually reconfigure the workpiece partway through the process.
In summary, why choose 5-axis over 3-axis machining?

  • Five axes allow for more complex machining with only one set-up required.
  • 5-axis CNC machines use shorter cutting tools, which reduces tool vibration and improves precision.
  • The machine head can be orientated towards the workpiece to reduce the weight on the component, leading to longer tool lifespan and a lower chance of damage.
  • 5-axis machines are less complicated to set up than many people realise. Although the process is more detailed than with 3-axis machines, gains are made by not having to interrupt the process to reposition the workpiece.
  • Less handling of materials in 5-axis machine preparation reduces the risk of human error and imprecise results.

Contact Redline CNC To Find Out More

If you would like to learn more about how our contract 5-axis CNC machining services could benefit your next project, please get in touch with Redline CNC on 01293 820090, or send us a message.


Image Source: Pixabay

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