Machine tool manufacturers and software developers offer plenty of tips and technology to optimize 5-axis milling. Automation, collision avoidance programs, and new control features aim to make 5-axis milling applications as productive, consistent, and accurate as possible.
“The most obvious benefit of the adaption of 5-axis technology is that a part can be manufactured in one setup or at least in far fewer setup operations than a traditional 3-axis process,” wrote Michael Cope, product technical specialist at Hurco, Indianapolis, in his book The Power of FIVE: A Definitive Guide to 5-Axis Machining.
Other benefits of 5-axis technology include improved accuracy, the ability to machine very complex parts from a single solid billet, and reduced operational costs and manpower.
Doosan Machine Tools, Pine Brook, N.J., for example, recently released new technology in this space. The DVF 5000 is part of a new machine family that also will include the DVF 6500 and DVF 8000. These 5-axis vertical machining centres (VMC) have automatic work changers (AWC), or pallet changers, and can perform 5-sided machining.
“They also have the ability to hook up to a linear pallet system,” said Doosan Director of Sales Andrew McNamara.
At the Doosan International Machine Tool Fair (DIMF), held May 15-17, 2019, in Changwon, South Korea, Doosan took automated palletizing a step further. At DIMF the company hooked up the yet-to-be-released DVF 6500 VMC to a linear pallet system (LPS) and a horizontal machining centre.
“You can run lights-out, 24/7, and the machines get the pallets they need as they need them. That’s not new technology, but it’s becoming more popular now,” said McNamara.
“Any kind of versatility you add, the better you’re going to be. Typically, a 5-axis job runs for quite a while. If a customer can do it lights-out with multiple pallets, he’s going to be that much better off,” added Robert Appleton, deputy general manager, application engineering at Doosan.
Doosan has established a relationship with software company CAMplete Solutions, Kitchener, Ont., which offers a suite of productivity-enhancing software for multiaxis machines.
“We work very closely with them. We appreciate their expertise,” said Appleton.
TruePath is CAMplete’s flagship product. It was the initial product that launched the company and is specific for 5-axis milling, said Ivan Mikesic, technical support manager.
The software is a preventive program that works with existing CAM systems to highlight potential collisions and other problems.
“When you’re doing 5-axis, you program your part in your CAM system like you typically would do. In this case, let’s say MasterCAM. Then you start to add some 5-axis toolpaths in different planes. Once you’ve done that, you’ve got your part programmed in MasterCAM, you export the data to our software. We have a plug-in that captures the data to make it easy for the user. You then pick your machine, press finish, and it posts the code for you. You can then run the simulation and it’s going to tell you if there are any collisions,” explained Mikesic.
Needless to say, avoiding collisions is very important for any 5-axis machining.
“Once things start moving around, you really need to make sure you’re doing some kind of verification and simulation to make sure you don’t crash. You easily can have a very costly collision. A common collision is the spindle with the table. Depending on the machine, you’re easily looking at $15,000,” said Mikesic.
While collision avoidance is important, so is productivity.
“Your machine should be running parts and making money. The prove out of the program is done [in your office]. If you have an issue with interference or a part’s too big for the machine, you can just move it to another machine,” said Mikesic.
Control technology is equally important as the machine tool and the software.
Hurco offers advanced 5-axis control technologies, including tool centre point (TCP) management, which eliminates the need to account for the machining centre’s centrelines of rotation; toolpath linearization, which eliminates gouging of the workpiece; and tool vector retract that tells the spindle to retract out of the hole or pocket along the tool vector angle.
A remote monitoring system from the company called UltiMonitor™ lets shop owners and managers remotely log in and view the machine’s current state.
“They can even chat with the operator and see what the operator is doing and troubleshoot programs,” said Cope.
The company recently introduced a new technology called 3D import, which allows machine operators to bring a STEP file into the Hurco control, said Cope. “We can program conversationally from that STEP file. It will automatically create the needed transform plane data.”
Understand the basics
For all these high-tech systems, industry experts urge machine operators not to overlook the basics to get the best 5-axis milling results.
“You always start with tolerance and work from there,” said Appleton.
Part-size and accuracy considerations are also important, not to mention workholding and tooling.
“We find the best workholding is the modular kind. Everybody’s making modular workholding these days for 5-axis because you need to secure your part very well,” said Appleton.
There are unique considerations for tooling, too.
“Typically in 5-axis machining, since you’re twisting and tilting, you have to have a lot of extended-length tools, which you might not have had before. You also need more shrink-fit type, higher-end tooling that allows you to get better dampening, better grip, and less runout of the tool,” said McNamara.
Future developments on the 5-axis milling front include more emphasis on multifunction machines.
“People want to do more with their machines. We’re starting to put turning [capability] into our 5-axis milling machines, just like we have milling in our 5-axis turning machines,” said McNamara.
Contributing writer Nate Hendley can be reached at email@example.com.
CAMplete Solutions Inc., www.camplete.com
Doosan Machine Tools, www.doosanmachinetools.us