3,4,5 Axis of CNC: What’s the Difference?
It is possible that many guides have already written a lot on CNC machining. But do they make it clear how computer-controlled centers with a different number of axes suit one or another particular manufacturer’s needs?
It is still difficult to obtain proper insight into the specificities of 3, 4, and 5 axis machines, which are intended for distinct purposes. Insufficient choice of a CNC machine would always result in a lack of quality of components produced or extra expenses. This post will detail each type of centers for material shaping, explain the vital differences, and provide suggestions for their choosing.
A 3-axis machine is referred to as the basic and most widely used type of CNC centers, which may be a mill, lathe, turning machine, drill, grinder, router, or any other. The distinct feature of 3-axis machines is having 3 axes known as X, Y, and Z ones, serving the purpose of moving a cutting tool or a workpiece along them while shaping material.
The way all the three axes of a standard CNC machine operate is visualized in the short gif below.
Simplified 3 Axis Machining
At the same time, there are 2.5 axis machines, an example of which is a two-and-a-half-axis mill. Such machines are capable of translating in all three axes, but the simultaneous cutting operations can be performed along 2 axes only.
Both 2 and 2.5 axis machines are considered simplified, modified, or adapted versions of basic 3-axis machines.
What is a 4 Axis Machine?
What is a 5 Axis Machine?
The way all the five axes of an advanced CNC machine operate is visualized in the short gif below
Deriving from the increased variety of angles, in which a workpiece can be cut, a 5-axis machine can offer additional operations. Milling, turning, routing, and other types of machining can be performed by an advanced CNC center, making it both effective while shaping intricate designs and complicated in preparing and maintenance.
What is the Difference?
Considering a 3-axis CNC machine as a referential model, it is possible to outline key discrepancies between it and 3 and 4 axis automated centers.
The difference between a 3 and 4 axis CNC machine is a more production-focused one. It implies that it affects the capability of a manufacturer to produce higher numbers of components within shorter terms. The mechanism of action is basically the same for both 3 and 4 axis centers, and the potential complexity of components is not changed as well. However, due to enabling rotation of a workpiece, there is no need to rearrange its fixed position before designing another side, which is beneficial for production rates.
The principal difference between 3 and 4 as well as between 3 and 5 axis machines is extra options enabled by the additional dimension. Despite neither accuracy nor production rates being benefited from the most advanced machine, it makes it possible to create intricate designs, which may be required for some components and parts. Therefore, while a 4 axis machine increases only the quality and quantity of components produced, the 5-axis one offers to perform additional operations at any angle increasing the range of potential designs.
How to Choose 3, 4, or 5 Axis CNC Machining?
When You Need More Advanced CNC Machine
- A basic piece of machinery is not capable of cutting away material in hard-to-reach sections of a workpiece in needed designs.
- Your manufacturer has large-scale orders that should be prepared in a limited time and you do not want a reduction in productivity because of the need to carry out multiple setups.
- our company may sustain additional expenses to cover up the projected demand for complex components, even if there is no such current need.
- Precision and accuracy are of greater importance compared to maintaining production costs low.
When You Do Not Need More Advanced CNC Machine
- There is a scarcity of capital, and it is not likely that projected orders for complex components are justifying extra expenses.
- Your company is focused on the production of components with simple designs only.
- You do not have specialists of partners that can perform pre-programming and constant maintenance of a more advanced machine on a regular basis.
- With respect to 4-axis machines, you do not need one if your manufacturer produces components that are to be shaped from the front side only.
The optimal CNC machine may be chosen based on a manufacturer’s current situation and needs.
Basic 3-axis centers or their simplified versions are widespread and optimal for some cases. They are more affordable, less difficult in preparing and maintenance, and suit most necessities of certain manufactures. However, more and more enterprises producing components find their standard equipment unit to not be sufficient enough.
4-axis machines can provide more precision and speed up production rates, making large-scale orders manageable. Simultaneously, 5-axis centers are all-in-one solutions offering any intricate designs in exchange for difficulty operating and extra expenses needed. Carefully decide on purchasing a CNC machine based on the orders projected.