DMU 50 Ecoline - 5 axis CNC

A Cut Above The Rest

A Guide to Using the 5-AXIS CNC

Imagine what Michelangelo or any of the great artists could have done with a 5-axis milling machine. Although it would have defeated the purpose, but if the Renaissance artist could have traded his hammer and chisel for a computer numerical control (CNC) and the right machine tools, we could have had thousands of statues of David carved from a host of different materials.

Whether you’re sculpting a magnum opus from marble or milling a block from titanium, the basic principles are the same – begin with a block of material and remove the unnecessary areas until the target object is revealed. This sounds more simple than it really is as the process is quite complicated, especially for 5-axis machining.

We have the ability to use a vast array of programs to output the code that the machine will read (CNC code) and can program the machine to change tools during the manufacturing process, so it can take a bit of advanced programming knowledge to produce a part. 

So What is 5-axis CNC Machining?

In the simplest terms, 5-axis machining involves using a CNC to move a part or cutting tool along five axis. In the case of the DMU50 it moves the spinning tool in x,y,z direction and rotates the table in b (-5 to +110 degrees) and c (0 – 360 degrees of rotation). This enables the machining of very complex parts, which is why 5-axis is especially popular for aerospace, and medical applications. However, several factors have contributed to the wider adoption of 5-axis machining. These include:

  • A push toward single-setup machining to reduce lead time and increase efficiency (less set up time = less cost)
  • The ability to avoid collision with the tool holder by tilting the cutting tool or the table, which also allows better access to part geometry
  • Improved accuracy of parts – If you don’t have to manually move it and set it up there is less chance of errors

Is your part appropriate for the CNC?

As with all manufacturing processes there are limitations on what the machine is capable of, and also, is your part and what you are trying to achieve appropriate for the machine in question? We have CNC machines better suited to particular tasks (and materials). If what you are trying to achieve is a model to show scale, then using a machine that can take 20hrs to program, hundreds of dollars worth of tools and material might not be the best option. Many times students want to jump to the finished product before doing the initial prototype development. If in doubt, seek advice from technical staff as to whether your part is CNC ready and which machine would be best suited.

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