Learn About 3-axis Machining and How It Compares to 5-axis Machining

Computer numerical control machining is a subtractive manufacturing process that enables manufacturers to accurately and cost-effectively create high-precision parts. CNC machining uses cutting tools to remove excess raw material from workpieces to create precise finished products from materials such as plastics, metals, and composites.

1. Understand 3-axis machining

After the operator enters the milling instructions into the computer, the 3-axis CNC machine will automatically complete the task, using the tool to cut along the three axes of X, Y and Z, or from left to right, front to back, and up and down. Both CNC milling and CNC turning fall under the category of 3-axis machining. However, they function slightly differently.

With 3-axis machining, the block of material remains fixed in the vise or machine bed. A rotating drill or cutting tool is attached to the spindle and moves along the X, Y, and Z axes, removing shavings to accurately form the final part. 3-axis machining is ideal for producing most geometries and simple parts. In contrast, in CNC turning, the workpiece is attached to a rotating spindle while the lathe shapes the part. As the spindle holding the workpiece rotates, the center drill or cutting tool tracks the outer and inner perimeters of the component or creates a hole along the central axis. Compared with CNC milling machines, CNC lathes can produce parts faster and at a lower unit cost, which is conducive to high-volume production.

2. 3-axis machining and 5-axis machining services

The main difference between 3-axis machining and 5-axis machining is that the former can machine a workpiece from 3 axes, while the latter can machine from 5 axes. Both are highly versatile, automated and reproducible production processes that enable you to create accurate components quickly and cost-effectively. However, you may choose to use one or the other for various reasons.

If you are on a budget or just need a cutting plane, a 3-axis machine may be the best choice for you. In addition to being more affordable than 5-axis machines, 3-axis machines are simpler to program, so you don't have to incur the cost of working with expensive professional programmers and operators. In addition, setup times are shorter for 3-axis machining.

If you need to produce deeper parts or parts with complex geometries, you may want to use 5-axis machining services. With 5-axis machining, you can machine workpieces from all directions without manual rotation. With 5-axis machining services, you'll gain higher throughput, greater precision and greater freedom of motion, as well as the ability to manufacture larger parts faster.

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