5 Axis CNC Machine – Guide to Get the Best

5 Axis CNC Machine – Guide to Get the Best

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5 axis cnc machine

Are you looking for the right 5 axis cnc machine for your next project? Well getting a 5 axis cnc milling machine does not have to be hard. Follow the guide below to make sure you get the best machine for your specific project needs.

What to Look For

First of all, to get the right cnc 5 axis milling machine, it is important to figure out all the different parts of the machine and get all these parts right to get a great machine as a whole. This can be split up into the spindle axis orientation, control, purpose, table design, size, accessories, power source, tooling and software. I will look at all of these factors to help you choose the right machine.

5 axis cnc machine

Spindle axis orientation

There are two main types of orientation to go for here for a 5 axis cnc machine. The most common is a vertical mill. And of course, the other orientation is a horizontal milling machine.

For a vertical mill, the spindle axis is vertical and for the horizontal, the spindle axis is horizontally oriented. There are advantages and disadvantages to both, depending on whether or not the mill is a turret or bed mill. Horizontal mills are the most common and look like regular mills. A horizontal mill has the cutters mounted on a horizontal arbor across the cutting table.

It really depends on the type of cnc work you will be doing for this. Vertical mills are more geared towards diesinking work, while heavier and longer work-pieces will probably be suited for placement on the bed of a horizontal mill.

Control

In this case, you will be using cnc. There are other types of control, such as by hand (manual), mechanically, automated with cams or digitally automated using nc or cnc software. You will also need to figure out how you want the machine to change tooling.

Will it be done manually, semi-automatically or fully automatically? If the machine is to use multiple tools for one job, it may be easier to have the machine change automatically. Otherwise, you may be able to get away with a manual change if you do not foresee your projects requiring tooling changes all the time.

5 axis cnc milling machine

Purpose

Think about what the purpose of the machine is. Will it be doing engraving as well as milling? How big do you really need the machine? How fast do you need it to go through projects? How often will you be using the machine?

Outsourcing has become a lot cheaper recently, so for many companies, it is a lot cheaper to outsource the occasional cnc project as opposed to buying an in-house machine. Of course, many companies benefit from having a 5 axis machine in their workshop to get work produced on the fly, quickly and easily.

Table Design

This is one of the most important aspects of the machine. You will need to decide on size. Some mini cnc milling machines can go as small as a 5 inch bed size. While larger 5 axis cnc milling machines can go upwards to tens of feet, or even more.

This means you will need to think about how big the table or ‘bed’ size is going to be. Think about all the existing and future projects that ou will need to get done. Of course, you can get away with splitting up a single project to be cut separately then joined back together again. But for some projects, the strength in material will need to be retained, so can not be joined together again. This is where the bed size of the machine will really have to be the right size for the job.

Another thing to think about are vises and clamps. You will need space and grooves on the machine to attach any vises or clamps to hold your material to the table.

cnc 5 axis milling machine

Size

This refers to the overall frame size of the cnc machine. This will determine how much space your workshop will need to give up to get the cnc machine in. Remember you will need to allow space if the bed is to move or if the tooling is going to move. You will also need space to prepare the machine and make sure that it will be able to be lifted and placed on the machine without damaging either material or the machine.

Accessories

Accessories such as an enclosure or extra tooling will add to the cost. It really depends once again on your project scope. Enclosures are great as they stop loose pieces of materials from flying everywhere. You will also need to make sure that you will have sufficient tooling to keep the job rolling if something were to break.

Also look at accessories that you may need for changing tooling, cleaning the machine after a project and maintenance to keep everything moving and running smoothly.

Power Source

All cnc mills are powered by the software. Older mills, not cnc controlled are cranked by hand, but this is rapidly becoming obsolete and is only ever seen with hobby cnc machinists.

Tooling

Always make sure you have the correct tooling. Often times when you purchase a new cnc machine, you will have the option of adding tooling to the mix. This means you can get discount tooling that normally cost a lot to buy on its own, when you purchase with a new machine. Always get extra in case your tooling breaks during an important job. Ask to see what  the warranty is on these parts too.

Depending on what you are milling, routing or engraving, your tooling needs will be different. So be sure to consult with the manufacturer first to see what will best ft your design scope.

cnc 5 axis milling machine software

Software

Making sure that the software will be compatible with other cad/cam applications is crucial. Make sure the most important file formats such as .dxf, .dwg, .iges and .stl are supported. These are common file formats that are exported and used in cnc production.

You will also have to look at how user friendly the software is. Check whether or not it has a steep learning curve. Some cnc manufacturers provide training to help use their cnc machines. This is usually part of the package of buying a new cnc machine, but sometimes you need to train new people. This is where having easy to use software really counts.

Also look at how you will be able to use the software for things such as using 3d paths in a virtual environment to simulate tool-paths.

Another thing you will need to look at is cost to update. This is for both the machine and software. Look it how much it will cost to update software and tooling on the cnc 5 axis machine to predict how much the machine will cost to run in the long run.

Top Brands – CNC machine 5 axis

When looking for the best 5 axis cnc milling machine for sale it all comes down to your own project needs. Use the above tips to figure out what you need in each category. Instead of looking at individual machines, start with some top brands and then drill down.

Jet – Jet has a massive range of different mills and a good selection of cnc 5 axis mills.

Bolton – They have a good selection of 5 axis machines.

Shop Fox – They have  good range of mills, but although lacking in many 5 axis mills, they do have 3 axis mills for cnc.

Minitech – These guys do smaller mini cnc milling machines and offer the ability to customize different parts of the machine during purchase.

Used 5 axis cnc milling machine

Another option is to look at a used 5 axis machine for sale or consider making a homemade 5 axis cnc machine to save money. Remember to still look at the above tips before buying something used. Also, see what software and tooling the machine will come with. You could potentially save a lot of money buying used, but there are risks involved, such as having an obsolete and slow machine as well as the inability to upgrade on parts and software.

Conclusion

Remember that it all comes down to what your specific project needs are. Get a 5 axis cnc machine that will best suit this and you will be able to produce the best results.

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