5 Axis CNC Milling Machine Purchase Guide

The 5 axis CNC machine tool is a mainstay on many manufacturing plants and shop floors. While these systems once were reserved for undertaking complicated and specialized applications, large and small manufacturers now realize the value in using a 5 axis machine for every project. Many of them have been able to minimize lead times, bolster efficiency, and improve profitability as a result.

One of the most obvious advantages of a 5 axis CNC milling machine is the reduction in time it takes to complete a project. Whereas a standard 3 axis machine might require several different set-ups and more than five hours to complete, its 5 axis counterpart can complete the part in just a couple operations that take less than two hours from start to finish.

What is 5 axis CNC milling machine

Some jobs are very complex profiled. Such as turbine impellers. Such jobs have features like curved vanes having back turns. So the tool cannot be positioned even by four axes to reach every nook and corner of the job. To machine such a job, a 5 Axes machine is required. A 5 axes machine has 3 regular axes of VMC machine as well as 2 rotary axes for most complex job machining, so people also call it a 5 axis machining center.

5 axis machining involves all the axes of 4 axis machining, with an additional rotational axis. 5 axis milling machines are the best CNC milling machines available today, capable of creating precise and intricate parts for artificial bones, aerospace products, titanium pieces, oil and gas machine parts, car molds, medical, architectural, and military products. The 5th axis in 5 axis milling machine is around the B-axis, which rotates around the Y-axis in the X-Y-Z plane. This multidimensional rotation and tool movement allows for B-axis unparalleled precision, finish and speed in the production of a piece. 5 axis machining can create very complex parts, which is why it is so important for high level uses, such as aerospace applications.

5 axis CNC milling machine

why 5 axis machining?

Some people mistakenly think five-axis technology is only for the most complex parts. While it certainly excels at that, a significant majority of the applications are simply used to enable the machining of five sides of a workpiece in a single setup. With three-axis machining, jobs might require two, three or more setups to get at all the features of the part.

With the done-in-one approach, those additional setups are eliminated in addition to the potential for error each time you reposition a part. The justification for a 5 axis machine on these grounds is simple, with dramatic reductions in total setup, machine time and reduced fixturing.

5 axis machining

Another inherent advantage of 5 axis machining is it can use shorter tools because the tool/tool holder combination can be tipped away from otherwise interfering surfaces or features on the workpiece. This is particularly important in die and mold work where the use of toolholder extensions is common to reach deep cavity surfaces. A shorter tool results in less vibration, allowing for heavier or faster cutting, better surface finish and longer tool life.

5 axis CNC milling machine type

5 axis CNC milling machines are different from 4 axis CNC milling machines. There are several types of 5 axis CNC milling machines. Their mechanical structures are different. Different types of 5 axis machining centers have their own advantages. Let's take a look at their differences.

3+2 5-axis CNC milling machine

The simplest and least expensive way to get at five sides of a part is with a 3+2 machine configuration. For small to medium machines, that typically means a 5 axis machining center with a tilting rotary table to position the part. This, of course, can be accomplished with an auxiliary 2 axis table on a standard 3 axis machining center. But a machine with an integrated tilt table offers better machining performance and is easier to set up and program.

With a 3+2 machining center, the fourth and fifth axes are locked down while the part is machined. Still, almost any plane of the workpiece can be presented to the spindle, and surprisingly complicated parts can be cut efficiently.

In fact, the 3+2 5-axis CNC milling machine only adds a 5-axis CNC rotary table on the 3 axis CNC milling machine. This method is less cost-effective and can be modified by almost all 3 axis CNC machines.

3+2 5-axis CNC milling machine

trunnion-type 5 axis CNC milling machine

The rotary axes in trunnion-style 5 axis CNC milling machine are expressed via the movement of the table, whereas swivel-rotate-style machines express their rotary axes by swiveling the spindle. Both styles have their own unique advantages. For instance, trunnion-style machines offer larger work volumes, since there’s no need to compensate for the space taken up by the swiveling spindle. On the other hand, swivel-rotate-style machines can support heavier parts, since the table is always horizontal.

trunnion-type 5 axis CNC milling machine

swivel head-type 5 axis CNC milling machine

swivel head-type 5 axis CNC milling machine has the following advantages:

  • Heavier Parts: Because the table is stationary, the swivel head/rotary table machines are used with heavier parts.
  • Versatility. You can add a vise for greater versatility because of the large table size. Use the extra space to finish the sixth side of the part or do 3-axis work.
  • Minimizes tool interference Because the swivel head tilts the tool, you don’t need to worry about tool interference with the machine’s spindle head.
  • Better chip control With the swivel head/rotary table configuration, you can run the machine horizontally and gain better chip control.
swivel head-type 5 axis CNC milling machine

5 axis CNC milling machine cost

What is the cost of a 5 axis CNC milling machine compared to a 4 axis CNC milling machine? This is a concern of many people.

If you choose the 3+2 type 5 axis machining center, the biggest cost difference is the 5 axis CNC rotary table. The cost of the 5 axis CNC rotary table of different sizes is very different, and there is a big price difference between different 5 axis CNC controllers. These affect the cost of the 3+2 type 5 axis CNC milling machine.

The cost of different types of 5-axis CNC milling machines is as follows:

  • 3+2 5-axis CNC milling machine $35K-200K
  • Trunnion-type 5 axis CNC milling machine $200K-500K
  • Swivel head-type 5 axis CNC milling machine $150K-500K
  • Mini 5-axis CNC milling machine $6K-10K
  • 3+2 5-axis Small CNC milling machine $30K-40K

It should be noted that the 5 axis CNC milling machine is a very expensive investment and requires very professional CNC skills. If you are a 5 axis machining amateur, you can choose the desktop mini 5 axis CNC milling machine, such as Pocket NC V2.

You can also consider buying a small 5 axis CNC milling machine. TAICNC's 3+2 type small 5 axis CNC milling machine is also very economical and practical. Below is our small 5-axis machining center video:

The 5 axis machining center made in China has cost advantages and is precise and stable. Below is a demonstration video of a 5 axis machining center made in China. You can contact us if you have any needs.

How to choose 5 axis CNC milling machine​

Do you still know how to choose a 5 axis CNC milling machine?

First, consider your parts. How big are they? How much do they weigh? What levels of accuracy do they require?

For example, if the parts are small to medium size, with today’s technology, a tilting-table-type machine is going to be the best bet. If the parts are large and heavy, an articulating head—possibly on a gantry-style machine or a horizontal machining center—may be the only option. This consideration alone will narrow your choices and help you compare features of various machine models within the required range.