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CNC or computer numerical control machining is a popular and widely-employed manufacturing method in which a pre-programmed computer software instructs the movement of various machinery and tools. Using CNC machining, engineers control a wide range of heavy and complex equipment and tools. From lathe machines to grinders and routers, this advanced manufacturing method can handle various cutting tasks.
In this method, engineers feed the instructions into the CNC machine using CAD files, and then the instructors are converted into a set of instructions. The machines execute all the programmed instructions automatically without the requirement of a physical operator. This manufacturing method brings in several benefits including, higher speeds, greater precision, improved productivity, and more.
The image is used for illustration purposes. Zeal 3D Printing is not the owner or creator of the image. (Image Source: Daniel Smyth on Unsplash)
In a CNC machine, the axes describe the type of CNC operation and the locations at which they can be done on the workpiece. There are three modes in the machine — 3-axis, 4-axis, and 5-axis. Let’s sneak a peek into all these machining modes:
3 Axis Machining
In 3 axis CNC machining, the workpiece stays stationary at a fixed point. And, the cutting tools operate along the XYZ plane to scrape the materials away from the workpiece. 3-axis machining is among the most popular cutting techniques manufacturers use to perform various quick milling and drilling operations.
3-axis CNC machining is ideal for components that don’t need intricate detailing over the surface. Manufacturers use this setup for machining the 2D and 2.5D geometry. With 3-axis, machining of all six sides is possible, but it requires a new fixturing setup for each side. Some of the widely popular applications of 3 axis machining are:
- Cutting sharp edges
- Milling slots
- Drilling holes
- Basic automatic operations
4 Axis Machining
The 4-axis machine operates the same as the 3-axis machine, but it has an additional rotary movement. This extra rotary movement is around the X-axis, which is also known as the A axis. This rotation lets the workpiece trim around the B axis.
The 4-axis method is ideal for workpieces that need cuts or holes on the side and not in the center. The extra fourth axis or A-axis automatically flips over the workpiece so that the machine can remove the excess material from both sides. This method is also ideal for drilling cylindrical holes around the sides. Some of the standard applications of this CNC machining are:
- Continuous cutting
- Special-shaped cutting
- Intermittent cutting
- Creating engraving curved surfaces
5 Axis Machining
The 5-axis machines are ideal when engineers need to operate the workpiece from five different sides simultaneously. This machine can pick any two of the three rotational axes along with the X, Y, and Z-axis. Also, the A, B, and C axis can perform a 180° rotation around the X, Y, and Z axes.
Engineers use this method to produce high-quality and intricate geometry CNC machined parts for the automotive, aerospace, and boating industry. When manufacturers need to work on very intricate designs, they use 5-axis CNC machining to get precise output. Some of the primary operations of 5 axis machine are:
- Cutting complex details
- Engrave complicated geometry on surfaces
- Machining complex shapes
- Produce high-quality finishes
CNC machining is an advanced manufacturing technique that companies from multiple industries use to produce complex geometric parts. If you need to operate workpieces with basic cutting and milling operations, then a 3-axis machine is ideal. On the other hand, if you need to draft intricate designs, then both 4-axis and 5-axis machines are the best fit.