Purchasing a Five-Axis CNC Machine
From contributor B:
I'm not sure why you are looking at a 5 axis machine? Do you want to be able to keep the cutter parallel to the parts for better surface finish? I use a 5 axis Motionmaster at work in a model shop. I use 3 axis 90% of the time, 3 axis plus (angle the head and then machine in 3 axis) 8% of the time, and 5 axis 2% of the time. To really use 5 axis, you will have to come up with a fixture that suspends the part well above the table. It takes a lot of room around the head when it twists around. The feed speeds are way slower than in 3 axis because of all the math the machine has to run. I don't have the best 5 axis software, but production is probably cut by 2/3 in 5 axis.
I've watched pretty wild programs running at the shows, but I think the industry that really benefits from 5 axis are the guys who trim vacuum formed plastic parts. I've never seen profiled parts machined by CNC that don't require extensive sanding after machining. I bet you could get much higher production by re-fixturing the parts on 3 axis, then sanding any slight mismatch away on the final sanding. Another reason some get 5 axis is because the cutter is not long enough to reach. I don't think that would be a problem with chair parts. Before spending that kind of money I would want the salesperson to take me to a shop that is running similar parts. Get all the information you can while the salesperson is there, but then call the other company without the salesman around to get the real info. My salesman led me down quite a path when we got our machine. They grossly underestimate the learning curve for the software and the machine. Luckily, we negotiated for a great price on a machine that was already headed down the production line without a buyer, or I would have been disappointed spending the extra for the 5 axis over the 3 axis.
From contributor C:
I've been operating and programming 5 axis machines for about 10 years now. Heian makes a very strong and dependable 5 axis router. I believe is under 300k. Check the Stiles Machinery website. I used Surfcam, Catia V4 and now Catia V5 for programming. If you are planning on buying a 5 axis machine, invest in good software. I've seen many shops not utilizing the full 5 axis capabilities because of lack of software or experience. In our shop we have four 5 axis machines and two 3 axis. We use the 5 axis all the time. Motionmasters are good and inexpensive to run but not very strong. Heian NG-151 has a Fanuc 16i control. If you need a 5 axis, check this machine. By the way, programming in 5 axis is not hard at all.
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