You’ve probably heard quite a bit about “five-axis milling,” but what is it exactly? And what are its benefits? Aren’t there only three axis anyway, the X, the Y, and the Z?
First, we need to back up a bit and discuss what milling and machining are, and the process of creating individual production parts from metal, often steel, aluminum, titanium, or their alloys.
The four most common ways of creating pieces from metal are:
Each of these processes have their benefits and drawbacks, but today we’d like to focus on milling, especially the veritable “five axis milling”.
Five access milling is a subset of CNC Milling. CNC stands for Computer Numerical Control, and means work plans are plugged into a computer, which then completes the actual milling, rather than by a machinist working the mill by hand. Some milling and machining is still done by hand, mostly in small batches and for prototypes, but most machining is now done by computers.
In traditional CNC machining, there are the three common axis, X, Y, and Z. Five axis milling adds two more. In simple terms, the two additional axis are rotational axis along the X and Y axis (there also exist 6 axis mills, but they generally don’t offer much improvement for normal tasks.)
One easy way to visualize this, is imagine a billet attached to a sled-like vice in a mill. A cutting tool head, like a robotic arm, rotates around the billet, cutting into it. In traditional milling, the billet would not move on the sled. But with five axis milling the sled the piece rests on will move as well, along two rotational axis, allowing the cutting head better access to complex parts of the piece among other advantages.
(Just to note, this is only one way the additional two axis are achieved. The cutting head can rotate along the other two axis as well, but the above example is easier to visualize).
The main benefit of five-axis milling is the mill can simply do more without moving the piece. Think of a five axis mill as a one-stop-machine shop.
Five axis is particularly beloved in the aerospace industry, because of the complexity of parts and tolerances required. At Schwab Industries, Aerospace is one of our main focuses, and we’re proud to offer five axis milling, among many other amenities, to our clients.
If you’d like more information on our processes or to speak with a salesperson or expert, please contact us or call 586.566.8090