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The main differences between 3-axis and 5-axis machining

Mechanical parts manufacturing techniques have evolved considerably in recent years to meet the needs and expectations of the various production sectors. As such, machining, which allows products to be created with great precision thanks to its modelling process, is no exception.

While machine shops once used machines that worked a part on 3 axes for the most part, this can now be done on 5 axes. Although both have their advantages, an understanding of the fundamental differences between these two machining techniques is essential.

About 3-axis machining

Until very recently, mechanical and engineering parts were machined using conventional machine tools such as milling machines to work the material on 3 axes: X, Y and Z.  However, this technique based on the use of long tools has major limitations when it comes to manufacturing a deep part with narrow cavities. The work can then become very laborious, and the final result will often have a poor finish.

Nowadays, 3-axis machining is considered a classic machining technique. However, it is still used by some machine shops to create various shallow parts.

What does 5-axis machining consist of?

As its name suggests, the cutting tool in 5-axis machining no longer moves on 3 different axes, but in 5 directions: the 3 usual linear axes (X, Y and Z) as well as 2 rotary axes (A and B) around which the tool in question rotates. This means that in a single operation, a part can be processed on 5 sides.

5-axis machining is now used in high-precision industrial fields that require extreme precision. For example, it is used in sectors such as industrial mechanics, aeronautics, automotive (motor sport), medicine and aviation, to name a few.

The many advantages of 5-axis machining

5-axis machining has many advantages, all of which have a significant impact on machine shop productivity and profitability. Processing all five sides of a part with a single machine requires less preparation, reducing turnaround times and eliminating the need to move parts across multiple workstations or equipment.

When compared to 3-axis machining, 5-axis machining also stands out for its high level of accuracy due to the use of shorter machining tools. The working speed is also higher, while the vibration generated by the machine is reduced.

The greatest advantage of 5-axis machining, however, is that it increases the limits of the types of part shapes that can be machined.

How do you choose between these 2 machining techniques?

In conclusion, as with any machining task, size, characteristics and precision requirements must all be considered when choosing the machining technique to use. However, it is clear that if your parts need to have a perfect surface and have a highly complex geometry, you will probably have more success with 5-axis machining.

If you want to benefit from a machine shop that combines advanced technologies and experience, contact Braidwood Industries Ltd. to machine your gears or other mechanical parts. Operating in Quebec since 2000, we stand out from our competitors with our attention to detail and the diversity of solutions we offer.

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