Computer numerical control (CNC) machines have come a long way in less than a century of existence. The original CNC machine built in the 50s revolutionized the production of components by subtractive manufacturing across three axes, opening up the possibility for the machining of complex shapes and designs that were previously difficult or impossible to manufacture. The machines available today, with anywhere between 5 and 9 axes can produce products with unbelievably complex geometries, quickly and efficiently. To understand why, we first have to understand a bit about what it means for a machine to have multiple axes.
What is a Multi-Axis Machine?
Though technically a 3-axis cnc machine is operating on multiple axes, we typically only refer to machines of 5 axes or more as “multi-axis” as it’s at this level or higher that more complex geometries with deeper cuts can be produced. But why exactly is a higher number of axes important in machining? With fewer axes that the cutting and milling tools can ride on to approach a turning piece of bar stock, the angles that the tools can reach relative to the piece are limited. SImply put, the more axes available, the more opportunity to get closer to the stock and perform cutting operations at various angles, allowing for more complex machining without the need to move or rotate the stock material. Combined with the addition of a separate spindle and a variety of tooling, and you have a machine capable of completing complex cuts quickly, efficiently and with higher accuracy.
For this reason, investing in multi-axis CNC machining produces greater productivity and improves numerous manufacturing metrics, delivering a measurable and significant ROI through several advantages over machining on a traditional 3-axis cnc machine.
6 Benefits of Multi-Axis Machining
1.Higher Precision and Accuracy
Multi axis CNC machines operate with greater precision to deliver accurately machined and smoother parts that would be difficult or even impossible to achieve with a 3-axis machine. With a traditional 3-axis cnc machine, the tooling can only approach the workpiece at a few points, limiting the angles from which the stock can be cut away.
Therefore, to create more complex parts with a 3-axis machine, the workpiece would have to be moved and repositioned for various cuts. Each time a workpiece is moved within the machining process, accuracy and precision are compromised. The multi-axis machines we have access to today can reach workpieces at various angles, and operate more closely to the workpiece, allowing for a complex array of geometries to be performed within a single setup, with no repositioning required.
2. Improved Production Speed (Lead Times)
The tangential arrangement of the cutting tools to the material with multi-axis machining allows for more material to be removed with each rotation, increasing the speed that single applications can be performed. When this is combined with expanded tooling capabilities and multi-axis simultaneous machining from a single setup, cycle times improve significantly. This can lead to drastically reduced lead times.
3. Fewer Setups
With multi axis machines, you can set up your workpieces at one time to handle all milling/turning operations needed to fabricate complex geometries. You’ll produce parts faster, minimize operational costs, and reduce most errors prevalent in conventional 3-axis machines.
4. More Complex Part Geometries
The ability of multi-axis CNC machining to move workpieces over more dimensions without removing them gives it a significant advantage over conventional 3-axis machining. Cnc machines with 5 axes or more can get tools very close to the working material at various angles, creating the ability for deep cuts and complex shapes that were not achievable from only 3-axes machines. The greater the axes, the better the machine can handle complex designs with high precision.
Any time a workpiece needs to be repositioned for a separate set of cutting operations, a degree of precision is lost. High level multi-axis cnc machines, like our 9-axis Miyano, deliver the most complex parts with extreme precision. These machines attack the most complicated angles to create complex geometries with premium finishes at tighter tolerances.
5. Better Surface Finishes
Multi axis machines bring the cutting tools closer to the working material. Shorter cutting tools produce better surface finishes because the shortened length makes them less susceptible to machining vibration. This produces a cleaner product directly from the machining process and minimizes the need for additional touch ups.
6. Improved Drilling Capabilities
Multi-axis cnc machines change the game for drilling applications. Each time a part is moved in a CNC operation, there’s an opportunity for error or loss of precision. Since parts hold their position through various applications in multi-axis machining, precision is maintained even through separate drilling applications with different variants. The additional axes also allow the machine to reach tighter and more complex angles, completing more complex drilling applications with finer finishes.
Industries that Rely on Multi-Axis Machining
Multi-axis machining is the name of the game for any production that requires a high level of accuracy and precision of its parts, without fail. This could apply to nearly any industry in manufacturing; however, there are a few that rely on multi-axis machining more regularly than others, such as the following:
- Aerospace – Typical aerospace components produced by multi axis CNC tools include valves and turbine blades requiring precise execution on complex geometries.
- Automotive – The high throughput of multi axis equipment make these machines ideal for the low-mix, high-volume production needed for the automotive industry while maintaining the highest quality.
- Medical – Medical instruments, drills, implants, devices, and equipment parts must meet strict quality standards. The ability of multi axis machines to produce the necessary quality at greater speed and the highest accuracy gives medical component manufacturers greater confidence.
- Energy – The oil and gas production industry parts produced from extremely hard steels and exotic alloys using multi axis machines. The complex components that energy equipment needs. Such parts include wind turbines and compressor blades.
The introduction of multi-axis machining in cnc revolutionized manufacturing by opening the floodgates for the production of complex parts with previously unattainable levels of accuracy, quality and control. This is why it’s important to select a cnc machining company that has machines of 5 axes or more in use. At M&M Automatic, we are always looking for the best ways to offer our customers the quality they expect with the lowest lead times and operate cnc turning machines with up to 9 axes for maximum speed and precision. Feel free to contact us to hear about how we can assist your production needs, or request a quote for your next job today.