In subtractive manufacturing choosing the best machine to create a part is imperative. From material to geometries to setup times and more, the right tool can lead to increased time and cost savings. In the aerospace industry, parts require high tolerance and can be comprised of complex geometries. Often the use of a 5-axis CNC milling machine will reduce the number of complex part setups required when machining multiple planes to respective datums.

A 5-axis CNC machine produces very precise results. These advanced machines are capable of transforming materials – like aluminum, steel, brass, and polymers – by using five kinds of distinct motion relative to the workpiece. Take, for example, billet aluminum machined along the X, Y, and Z axes in addition to two rotational motions of the workpiece. These additional motions provide enhanced flexibility and precision, which is not possible with traditional 3-axis machining methods. 5-axis machining can produce highly complex and aerodynamic parts, this type of machining has been used to produce landing gear, bulkheads, and more.

Heavy material removal, or lightweighting, is common in aerospace and automotive design. Lightweighting has become a leading reason why 5-axis machining is growing more popular within these industries. While 3-axis machining can easily remove weight during the roughing process, that technology cannot provide the clean finishing required for landing gear and aerodynamic parts with minimal part setups.

Time savings is a major advantage 5-axis machining offers over 4- and 3-axis machining and 2D machining. A 5-axis CNC machine has the ability to smoothly cut intricate shapes in a single setup. Fewer setups equate to decreased potential for error between each part datum. By reducing the number of setups, lead times are shortened, small batches can move quickly through the production process, and customer responsiveness is heightened. By minimizing re-orientations of the work holding mechanism, on average, 40 minutes per piece can be spared. For prototyping and small batch production, this time savings represents significant cost savings. With a single setup, the 5-axis machine is able to manipulate materials within the math data for the part geometry and create 360 degrees of machining within each axis.

The engineers at Saginaw Industries have years of experience machining complex geometric shapes. Patternmaking for aluminum and steel molds in one setup with five different cutting planes requires expert knowledge and premium tools to prevent tooling collisions. With the right tools and team of engineers supporting your complex design, 5-axis machining may be the most efficient solution for your part geometry.