The manufacturing industry keeps evolving daily. Numerous innovations are made and happening every day, with this, comes even higher expectations and demands. Manufacturers need machines that can produce the products they need faster, more efficiently, and with fewer errors. A multi-axis machine can provide these benefits. Let’s look at what a multi-axis machine is and how it can provide numerous advantages to complex and simple projects.
What is Multi-Axis Machining?
In the simplest terms, multi-axis machining refers to a manufacturing process that involves tools that can move in 4 or more directions, which are used to manufacture parts or sculpt objects out of a material such as metal. It does this by milling away the excess material via laser cutting or water jet cutting. It chips away from the excess material until the only thing left is the shape or structure of the product.
Multi-axis machining was originally perform by very large complex machines mechanically. These mechanical machines are often operated at various axes. This can range from 4, 5, 6, and all the way up to 12 axes. Due to its sheer size and complexity, setting up production in these things took a huge amount of time.
However, through years of innovation, Computer Numerically Controlled machining or CNC machining was introduced in the industry. This innovation in the manufacturing process provided huge advantages. It made the production of complex parts significantly faster and more efficient. It also made producing any patterns for different materials far easier. These materials included aluminum, ceramics, steels, and plastics. The possibilities were endless in the advent of Quick Turn CNC machining.
On top of Quick Turn CNC machining, there are now software systems available that further elevates the efficiency and speed of manufacturing parts to new heights. Computer-Aided Manufacturing or CAM for short supports and aids Multi-Axis machines in many ways. One of which is its ability to convert 3-axis tool paths to 5-axis tool paths automatically. Thus, increasing the machine’s versatility and efficiency.
CAM can also provide a wide variety of support to the manufacturing process; from production to management, and storage. It eliminates or significantly lessens the human error factor which results in a more precise and consistent process. This also leads to less waste caused by wrong dimensions and inconsistency. Before the innovation of Computer-Aided Manufacturing, going from design to product required a huge amount of time and labor. It also generated more human errors which resulted in wasted materials and more importantly, time.
CAD or Computer-Aided Design is another software system that contributes to the manufacturing process using CNC machining. CAD is the process of making a computerized model of the product inside the software. These virtual models appear in 3D on computer monitors. Designers and programmers can manipulate the dimensions and geometry of the model. They do this by adjusting the relevant parameters in the software. This is to ensure that every dimension is perfect and accurate before manufacturing the model.
The data provided by CAD can give to the CAM system where it will manufacture the model based on the parameters set in the CAD software by the designers and programmers. CAD can be used to test multiple prototype models in certain situations by simulating numerous real-world conditions in the software. This can result in a perfect or near-perfect product.
These two systems, CAD and CAM, can be integrated into any manufacturing process which then elevates it to new heights. These two systems can significantly improve the automation and production of numerous parts.
Main Components of A Multi-Axis Machine
Multi-Axis machines have seen numerous iterations over the years. How fast and efficient they are have been improved quite a bit. In this section, we’ll list the three main components of a modern Multi-Axis machine.
1. The first component of a Multi-Axis Machine is its physical capabilities. This includes its spindle speed, axis orientation or operation, and torque.
2. The second component is its CNC drive system. These are the components responsible for moving the machine. These are its ball screws, servo-motors, rapid traverse systems, and the way its positioning is monitored.
3. The third main component is the CNC Controller. This is where all the data of every product to be machine is store or transferred into the machine. All of the input data is also process and executed here.
Where is Multi-Axis Machining Used
Due to the speed and efficiency of multi-axis machining, it is use in many parts of the manufacturing industry. Some enthusiasts may also use them for their simple DIY projects. The most common application of Multi-Axis machining is producing complex 3D objects such as turbine blades. This is why it’s very popular in the Aerospace industry. Other industries where multi-axis machining is widely used are:
- Aviation Industry
- National Defense
- Medical Field
- Medical Field
- Automotive Industry
- Energy and Power
Quick Turn CNC Machining is also often use in the production of prototypes and short-run production parts due to its speed. Multi-Axis Machining can also be used to manufacture parts that require cutting the interior where a 3-axis machine won’t be able to access. As the manufacturing industry grows, so does the abilities and uses of CNC machining.
The Advantages of Multi-Axis Machining on Complex and Simple Projects
Now that you know the basics of Multi-Axis Machining, let’s look at the advantages it can provide. Aside from the obvious advantage of speed and efficiency of multi-axis machining, there are numerous other benefits they can provide to manufacturers. Here are some that are worth noting.
1. Ability to Manufacture Complex Shapes
One of the most known and major advantages of multi-axis machines compared to 3-axis machines are their inherent ability to produce complex 3D objects. The additional movements it can do makes creating various arcs and angles possible. Before, these maneuvers were only possible using various clunky setups and special fixtures on the machine. This also makes producing prototypes and small-run products much faster and cheaper, which can save tons of time.
2. Fewer Setups Needed
Quick Turn CNC Machining needs significantly less setup compared to its predecessors. Multi-axis machining can pretty much machine every visible surface; this excludes the clamping or bottom area. This feature means that it doesn’t require multiple special fixtures or additional setups to get it running. Sometimes, this can even reduce the setups needed to only one. This saves a lot of time, manpower, and hassle.
3. Improves Relational Accuracy
Because fewer setups are need for Multi-Axis machining, it has better relational accuracy. Every time you want to move a part for re-fixturing or setup change, you increase the chance of experiencing imprecision. This is because the precise alignment will be lost once you move one part of the machine. Having fewer setups and using the same “home” or “zero” location will improve relational accuracy by a lot.
4. Longer Tool Life-Span
Utilizing multi-axis machining can actually increase tool life-span. It is improve as a result of the tool or table being constantly titled. This is to ensure that the optimum cutting position is maintain.
5. Provides A Much Better Surface Finish
A multi-axis machine can have a shorter cutting tool. This results in fewer vibrations occurring at very high speeds. Thus, having better surface finishes. You can achieve this by using both the fourth and fifth axes of the machine. You can then orientate the part and bring it much closer to the cutting tool. The closer the part to the cutting tool, the shorter it can be which significantly reduces vibrations. You can also save a lot of time hand-finishing the part if you already have excellent surface finishes.
6. The 3+2 Axis Machining Feature
Another huge advantage that the Multi-Axis machine has is the 3+2 axis machining. When manufacturing multiple products, some parts can only be machine using the 5-axis movement while other parts are better machine using the 3+2 axis movement. When using 3+2 axis machining, both the fourth & fifth axes are utilized to locate either the cutting tool or the work piece in a fixed position, depending on what type of machine is used. This means that you won’t need all five axes to simultaneously move.
A 3-axis machine can also provide the same toolpath; however, you would have to load and unload multiple setups, special fixtures, and even machines to achieve the same result. By using multi-axis machining, you reduce all of this hassle and prevent errors from occurring. The 3+2 Axis machining is mostly use for parts and objects that have multiple holes on different faces or angles.
In conclusion, as the manufacturing industry continues to grow in the future, so do the capabilities and usage of Quick Turn CNC Machining. In its current state, it’s already an engineering marvel. Multiple industries and small businesses have benefited from Multi-Axis Machines. From the medical industry to the nation’s defense, the parts made using multi-axis machinery have served these sectors immensely. We hope that you’ve learn a lot about what multi-axis machining is and the advantages it can offer.