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What Is a 5 Axis Milling Machine?

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  • Written By: Jean Marie Asta
  • Edited By: Jessica Seminara
  • Last Modified Date: 20 September 2016
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A 5 axis milling machine is a piece of mechanical equipment used in a metal shop to shape work pieces in a precise way. These machines use three dimensional (3D) models generated by computers to mechanically perform actions on a metal object, creating a nearly exact replica of the digital model that they interpret. Both the platform the work piece is attached to and the routing tool are capable of automated motion, moving independently at different angles to achieve the desired cuts necessary to make a product or part.

Prior to the invention of the 5 axis milling machine, different kinds of milling machines were needed to perform certain angles of cuts into a material. Although they were mechanically powered, they needed to be hand guided by an operator. This presented a number of problems for manufacturers, as they would need many different large machines, which would all need to be manually operated to some degree. The possibility of human error, plus the cost and space constraints of owning a number of these machines was a problem.

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To use a 5 axis milling machine, an operator needs to create a model on a computer of the product or part the shop wishes to create. Workers will then attach the raw material to the machine’s work table, and attach the appropriate router or drill bit to the automated arm of the machine. The 5 axis milling machine interprets the information from the computer, allowing it to shape the material to meet the user’s needs. The computer will also let workers know when they need to install a new drill or router bit in the machine.

A major advantage of the 5 axis milling machine is that it increases the safety of a workplace. Older milling machines were only capable of performing cuts and drilling at certain angles. They were also somewhat dangerous to operate. A 5 axis milling machine doesn’t need for the operator to be near the cutting or other fast moving parts of the machine. All of the functions of the machine are performed within the safety of an enclosure that the operator can avoid while the machine is in use.

Although a 5 axis milling machine is more expensive than any single standard milling machine, for manufacturers with milling-heavy work environments it could be a wise investment. It will save space on the floor, dramatically decrease the number of errors that occur, and allow for work to be completed faster. These machines are just one of many ways that computers are making industrial functions safer and more efficient.

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