Take five: fast, efficient and economical machining

Take five: fast, efficient and economical machining

In machining terminology, ‘5-axis’ simply describes the number of directions in which the cutting tool can move.

For example, on a 5-axis machining centre, the cutting tool is able to move along the X, Y and Z linear axes as well as being able to rotate about the X and Y axes – respectively the A and B rotational axes. This freedom of movement allows the tool to approach the workpiece from any direction without having to be reset or re-clamped.

During a 5-axis machining operation, continuous adjustments of the cutting tool are made in all five axes ensuring that the tool tip always presents perpendicularly to the part. This simultaneous engagement of all five axes enables complex contoured surfaces to be created as closely as possible in one continuous machining operation.

5-axis machining should not be confused with ‘3+2-axis’ machining. 3+2-axis machining – sometimes referred to as 5-sided or positional 5-axis machining – involves executing a 3-axis program with the cutting tool locked at an angle determined by its two rotational axes. 3+2-axis machining that involves reorientation of the toolbit along the rotational axes between cuts is called ‘5-axis indexed’.

While both 5-axis and 3+2-axis machining processes produce similar end-results, because 3+2-axis machining requires tool reorientations between cuts, the process takes that much longer to produce an equivalent part. However, there are machine configurations that overcome this time disadvantage.

Thanks to the acquisition of a Triflex Modular multi-station CNC machine centre, for example, we’re able to provide simultaneous five-sided machining without re-clamping to offer high-speed milling with previously unheard of short cycle times.

This machine delivers the highest degrees of precision, volume and flexibility at an impressive rate of 70 parts per hour compared with an output of 24 parts per hour for an existing configuration machining an equivalent part. That’s almost a 300% productivity improvement!

The Triflex can be used to manufacture parts in a wide range of materials but is particularly suitable for machining aluminium die castings in high volumes. It consists of four fixtures mounted on a central trunion which indexes 90 degrees, the fixtures indexing independently in increments of one degree.

The fixtures are serviced by five machining stations consisting of CNC spindle units which hold eight tools and have independent X, Y and Z axis movements. As each fixture holds two parts for operations one and two, a finished part comes off each fixture in every 52-second cycle.

The Triflex also achieves extremely short chip-to-chip time and offers separate loading and unloading stations.

5 axis machining capability, especially in the form of the Triflex allows us to develop and manufacture high quality, customer specified components and assemblies that deliver exceptional value. It’s multi-tasking, high precision, fast machining, underlining our commitment to providing the very best technical and commercial solutions for our customers.

Learn more about our machining capabilities here.