Whether to Buy a 5-Axis CNC for Windows and Stairs

      Is the versatility of 5-axis equipment worth the extra cost? June 29, 2009

At the moment I am torn between an SCM 5 axis CNC machine and an SCM 3.5 axis CNC machine for solid wood machining of windows and stairs. I can only see that I would ever need a 3.5 axis machine as I do not feel there is a need for curved handrail 5-axis machining. Letís face it, the only real use for a 5 axis machine in the wood working industry is for curved handrail and flaired stairs which I never get asked for. The dilemma I face is that if I go for the 3.5 axis I will never know if a 5-axis would of brought me more profitable work that I cannot do with the former. There is not really that much difference in price between an SCM 5 axis and 3.5 axis, although it is still about 25K sterling difference. Can anyone help me in my choice of machines?

Forum Responses
(CNC Forum)
From contributor J:
I am also curious what experienced users think about this as I donít own a CNC yet. When I talked to other shops using CNC for doors and windows more than one owner said they would go 5 axes if they could do it over. They reasons they gave were the chance of inaccuracy when using aggregates for drilling and mortising, the fact the aggregates wear out at some point, more room in the tool holder and if youíre buying more than three or four aggregate that is almost enough for the upgrade anyway.

From contributor B:
We have been running a 4-axis CNC with aggregates to manufacture stile and rail doors for five years now. We acquired a 5-axis Routech (SCMI) five months ago. The difference in performance is astounding. Aggregates are limited to an RPM range that router bits perform poorly in, they introduce an additional element of inaccuracy in that they are not as ridged in the c-axis plane, and they are expensive, fragile and costly to maintain. We still run our 4-axis machine, but the 5-axis is used when precision and complexity is required. The increased productivity and quality of parts was worth the cost of the machine. Downstream assembly and finish time has been greatly reduced.

From contributor A:
If I had a choice I would definitely choose a 5-axis for what you are doing. I would however choose a 5-axis with a very large tool changer and drill bank on the side. I program a 5-axis for stair railing and it only has a 12 position changer. I already have nearly 30 regular tools mostly profiled so that's something I would definitely upgrade to. There are a few used SCM Chronos 5-axis for sale right now in the US. Make sure your machine is equipped with 5-axis tool compensation and invest in a good CAD/CAM software program.

From the original questioner:
Things like inaccuracies of aggregates and speed limitations are something I would have never known about and the sales people would of never admitted to me. I was also concerned about the size of the tool changer I would need. The Prisma 5 axis machine comes with a 24 position tool changer and for an extra 8K I could have an extra 24 position tool changer to make 48 positions in total, which I will probably have.

From contributor T:
I have been using CNCs since 1995 and have done many very intricate projects including solid wood compound curve entry door parts, custom molding, spiral stair case parts, carvings, etc. and I can tell you from personal experience that the vast majority of the people who think they need a 5 axis or have a 5 axis application are wrong. With only a few exceptions, you can do most anything you need on a 3 or 4 axis machine. Aside from the cost difference, 3 and 4 axis programming is much easier, and 3 axis machines tend to be much more rigid. In high end machining, rigidity is everything. Most people have just never had anyone who can teach them how to machine these intricate parts. You show them to your typical salesman (trunk slammer) had he says 5 axis cause he really doesnít know any better and besides, itís a more expensive machine so his commission is higher.

Would you like to add information to this article?
Interested in writing or submitting an article?
Have a question about this article?

Have you reviewed the related Knowledge Base areas below?
  • KnowledgeBase: Knowledge Base

  • KnowledgeBase: Computerization

  • KnowledgeBase: Computerization: CNC Machinery and Techniques

    Would you like to add information to this article? ... Click Here

    If you have a question regarding a Knowledge Base article, your best chance at uncovering an answer is to search the entire Knowledge Base for related articles or to post your question at the appropriate WOODWEB Forum. Before posting your message, be sure to
    review our Forum Guidelines.

    Questions entered in the Knowledge Base Article comment form will not generate responses! A list of WOODWEB Forums can be found at WOODWEB's Site Map.

    When you post your question at the Forum, be sure to include references to the Knowledge Base article that inspired your question. The more information you provide with your question, the better your chances are of receiving responses.

    Return to beginning of article.

    Refer a Friend || Read This Important Information || Site Map || Privacy Policy || Site User Agreement

    Letters, questions or comments? E-Mail us and let us know what you think. Be sure to review our Frequently Asked Questions page.

    Contact us to discuss advertising or to report problems with this site.

    To report a problem, send an e-mail to our Webmaster

    Copyright © 1996-2019 - WOODWEB ® Inc.
    All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any manner without permission of the Editor.
    Review WOODWEB's Copyright Policy.

    The editors, writers, and staff at WOODWEB try to promote safe practices. What is safe for one woodworker under certain conditions may not be safe for others in different circumstances. Readers should undertake the use of materials and methods discussed at WOODWEB after considerate evaluation, and at their own risk.

    WOODWEB, Inc.
    335 Bedell Road
    Montrose, PA 18801

    Contact WOODWEB

  • WOODWEB - the leading resource for professional woodworkers

      Home » Knowledge Base » Knowledge Base Article