Buy a 5 axis VMC or 3 + 2?...
Two ways of acheiving five axis milling machining capacity include buying a dedicated 5 axis machine tool or buying a 3 axis Vertical machining centre with the addition of a 2 axis CNC rotary table. Which should you choose?
We'll both solutions have their benefits to the engineer, it often comes down to whether you're looking for the ultimate in 5 axis simultaneous machining or simply looking to 5 face machine uncomplex parts. Cost is always a consideration and without question adding a 2 axis rotary table to a 3 axis VMC is the cheapest way of offering the services of a 5 axis machine to your customers and in alot of cases it will suffice.
You can purchase a basic 3 axis VMC and as long as the control can control additional axes then adding a 2 axis rotary table to the machine should be possible even at point of purchase or in the future. Most control systems provide the facilty to add the additional axes but some don't so make sure you check this out. It is entirely
feasible to buy a VMC equipped with the interface and the right control system for extra axes for under £50,000. It is also entirely feasible to then buy a 2 axis rotary table for less than £25,000 collectively you then have a NEW 5 axis machine for less than £80,000.
What's the drawbacks? well, programming for one. You will almost certainly need to use a CAD CAM system as programming long winded will take heaps of time and encourage mistakes, also, working envelope, you will lose capacity as the addition of the rotary table will possibly restrict some of your working area. Most
importantly you will not have as much control and capability as an integrated 5 axis machine not to mention speed. The machine should perform and will 5 face machine but it won't be as capable if you're looking to produce complex parts with machined profiles.
There's no question an integrated 5 axis machine is the ultimate solution to machine shops at the top of their game. A true five axis machine is built with the software and hardware to deliver both 5 face and simultaneuos machining but you're unlikely to see change from £150,000 buying NEW, in some instances depending on
capacity is could be £300,000.
The control systems on full 5 axis machines are becoming even more sophisticated as time evolves, historically you'd need to have known all the G codes, M codes and much more, now the control software on many controls has been developed to generate this itself and just ask the user to input dimensions in a more conversational format.
If it was my choice, I'd go full 5 axis everyday of the week, it would speak volumes to your customer base but maybe not to your accountant. Many manufacturers supplying full five axis machines include Dugard, Mills CNC, Haas, Hurco, DTS and Hardinge.
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