Multiaxis machining is a manufacturing process that uses computer numerical controlled tools to manufacture parts by milling away material, using water jet cutting or laser cutting. The traditional three access CNC is augmented with rotation on one or more axis. The number of axes on these machines can be from 4 to 9.
Here we see a part being made by such a machine:
This machine uses a laser:
This machine, a water jet:
This video shows how programs for these machines work. The process of the machine is shown through animation.
A brief history of multi axis machining:
The need for multi-axis machining started with the aerospace industry in the 50s, and preceded the use of numerical computing in machine control. One early machine was humorously referred to as the “Opium Mill” because it was so far out. The machine was a nightmare for template makers. Without numerical computing it never would have been practical.
In the past, the programming systems ran on huge main frame computers. Today that programming will run on erosional computers. There are still many companies in the US that do not feel 5-axis machining is required, or think that the advanced technology is beyond their reach. The US Department of Defense views 5-axis machining as such an advanced technology that the machines and control systems are listed on the commodity control list, meaning that machines and software made in the US require license to be exported to foreign countries.
There are a lot of materials that can be used with these machines. Some examples from the Wordingham Technologies shop in Victor, New York.
- Alloy Steels
- Bronze Alloys
- Carbon SteelCastings
- Stainless Steel
- ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene)
- Acetal / Delrin
- PolycarbonatePolyetheretherketone (PEEK)
- Polyetherimide / Ultem
- PTFE (PolyTetraFluoroEthylene)
- PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride)
- PVDF (Polyvinylidene Fluoride)
Material sizes vary depending on the number of axes and type of machine. Wordingham accepts sizes ranging from 28″x15″x6″ to 9″x6″x5″ depending on the axes (length, width, height). They make parts for several industries, including aerospace, biometric, fiber optic illumination, law enforcement, metrology, night vision and projection optics.
Links to other mutli axis shops:
Gregor Technologies LLC, Connecticut — Established in 1989, they seem to provide service mostly to the military, security, medical and commercial product industries.
Carr Machine and Tool Inc, Illinois — Family owned business associated with several charities, including the Chron’s and Colitis Foundation of America and the American Red Cross for Haitian Relief. They make parts in short run to production quantities, 1-1000 parts.
Advanced Pattern Works LLC, also Illinois — They service everything from big companies like Boeing to “small to medium-sized companies requiring specific custom work, and even individuals looking for assistance with prototypes and new ideas.” They were involved in making the 184 memorial units as part of a memorial to the September 11 attacks on the Pentagon. They have two 5-axis CNC machines.
Advanced Pattern Works uses master cam software, solid part files, .prp, .igs, .stp files. Pricing varies on size of the part and complexity of part. Average job is about $5000. As much $75,000 to as little as $800.