5-axis simultaneous milling – is it worth it?

Unlike any other milling method, high-quality surfaces are created quickly and efficiently with 5-axis simultaneous machining on modern high-performance machines. However, many die, mold and machine manufacturers prefer to manufacture using fixed positionable axes. They tend to cast a more critical eye on multi-sided machining. Are these concerns grounded?

The advantages of 5-axis simultaneous milling are known: Time-consuming reclamping is eliminated, shorter and more stable tools can be used and cutting conditions are constant. Despite this, many companies are reluctant to go in for 5-axis simultaneous multi-sided machining. Arguments frequently heard in this regard go something like this: "The machines are too expensive," "the parts do not fit or can be manufactured just as well with 3-axis machining," "the NC programming is far too complex…" – The fact of the matter is this: Even if 5-axis simultaneous milling machines are a fixture in the equipment base, manufacturing often lags far behind its actual possibilities.

HPC and circular segment milling cutters in use. Template technology helps with CAM programming. 

Many see potential for optimization

Tebis performed a survey of 162 companies from the die, mold and mechanical engineering sectors to determine if they manufacture using 5-axis simultaneous milling machines and if they believe that they have completely exhausted the potential of these expensive high-performance machines. 21 of those surveyed indicated that these machines are not worth it for their range of parts. Three planned to purchase such a machine. What was especially astonishing: Of the 138 surveyed with 5-axis simultaneous milling machines, only 37 said that they were fully exploiting the potential of the machines. The overwhelming majority, namely 101 of those surveyed, still clearly saw potential for optimization.

5-axis simultaneous milling – the responsibility of the software

Why do many companies have such difficulties with 5-axis simultaneous milling? A lack of employee expertise is certainly one of the most frequently mentioned reasons. The software is responsible here. The goal cannot be to invest heavily in training a specialized expert. Instead, programming must be so simple that any programmer can quickly program all machining operations in the same way – regardless of whether these are 2.5D, 3+2-axis or 5-axis simultaneous operations.

Tebis has therefore modified, simplified and extended our 5-axis milling technology step-by-step over the years. Today, NC programming is largely identical for all machining types. It is always based on template technology and automated NC programming. The NC programmer does not need to design any guide curves or control surfaces. Simple selection enables multiple surfaces to be machined in a single pass, without retract movements. And intelligent preparation functions assist in this process, even for complex geometries. By the way, 5-axis simultaneous milling is also cost-effective for parts without undercuts.

5-axis milling is especially efficient in combination with modern high-performance tools such as HPC cutters for roughing and circle-segment cutters for finishing.

Text: Helmut Vergin, Tebis Product Manager

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