OPEN MIND: Five-axis milling: The difference Is In The Detail

Five-axis technology is known as a solution for handling specialist applications from the aerospace industry such as milling turbine blades, impellers, blisks and structural parts. Yet most assume that five-axis machining means milling with a fixed tool. And very few CAM systems offer serious five-axis solutions for simultaneous machining.

Five-axis simultaneous machining is a proven technology that has been in use for many years. However, it is only in recent years that this technology has crossed over into special applications and production. Many manufacturers now offer five-axis machinery that meets today’s requirements in terms of dynamics and precision at a competitive price-performance ratio. Machine and control concepts have been adapted to meet the demands of five-axis machining. Direct drives have been introduced not only for linear axes, but also for rotary axes. Perpetually rotating C-axes are no longer uncommon features on fork heads. Many machines also offer a significantly higher degree of freedom for clamping and machining parts thanks to pivoting angles in excess of 90 degrees.

Some CAM providers have risen to the challenges of five-axis simultaneous machining. The efficiency of this technology, however, is dependent on how quickly and securely the machining operation can be programmed. Traditionally, the programming task was too time consuming and unreliable for many parts. This is where five-axis technology from OPEN MIND Technologies AG distinguishes itself from the competition. Many innovative detail functions ensure our solution is easy to operate and to program. They also make our technology an economical answer for much more than specialist applications alone.

Cost-effective leader
hyperMILL 5AXIS, the five-axis module available with hyperMILL CAM software, enables users to benefit from the advantages of five-axis milling with comparative ease:
- Unlike conventional 3D milling, ball mills can be used with alternative tools to obtain higher stock removal rates thanks to the greater distances between paths.
- Shape elements with a fixed orientation to curved surfaces are easier to program and mill thanks to continuous machining.
- Cutting conditions can be improved.
- The lower risk of chatter and tool breakage and reduced deflection of the tools as a result of the shorter clamping lengths ensure a secure milling operation and facilitate more efficient technology parameters.
- Undercut geometries can be milled.
- Continuous machining across larger areas requires fewer individual operations and enables more rapid programming and improved surface qualities.

Five-axis machining – frequently the best solution
The conventional 3D milling procedures used to manufacture turbine blades, blisks and impellers or structural parts with optimal weights for the aerospace industry often incur considerable expense. However, thanks to the noticeably larger path distances offered by top milling and swarf cutting with end mills or torus cutters, it is possible to achieve a significant reduction in machining times.

Calculations show that five-axis technology can reduce the time it takes to manufacture a large tool for the inner panel of an engine bonnet from 67 to 6.7 hours. Smaller tools with high, steep walls, such as forging dies, die casting tools or injection moulding dies, which are still manufactured using eroding, can be milled using five-axis machining. For a long time, this technology has not been competitive as secure programming was generally too costly.

Engraving and milling simple grooves or chamfers which follow the curvature of a surface, or cutting and deburring edges can often not be realised without five-axis simultaneous milling or, if other methods are used, only at great expense. With the five-axis technology from OPEN MIND Technologies these machining tasks can be made simple and user-friendly and do not require any manual post-editing to prevent collisions.

Designed for a wide range of applications
hyperMILL 5AXIS is the first technology to offer a new process that makes five-axis technology applicable to a wide range of geometries. Similar to milling with fixed axes, it is necessary to specify the tilt angle relative to the geometry’s Z axis. The system only changes the angle to automatically avoid a collision. The orientation of the tool is calculated automatically in relation to the Z axis or can be defined manually by specifying guide curves. This new procedure offers a wide range of benefits.

- Easy to programme, as this method is based on milling with a fixed axis (also known as 3+2).
- High degree of flexibility in terms of path guidance, with milling movements that are easy to predict.
- Low dependency on surface quality since machining can always be performed over and beyond all surface limits.
- High surface quality as the fifth axis is only moved to avoid collisions.
- Reduced programming times since possible collisions between the shank, holder and tool head relative to the entire contour can be avoided automatically.

Efficient strategies for cost-effective production
In addition to five-axis simultaneous machining, a further highlight of the hyperMILL 5AXIS is its automatic indexing feature. The tool path is automatically divided into sections which are then milled collision free using a fixed positioning of the tool axis. The individual sections are connected through a minimal five-axis simultaneous movement. Since the synchronous movement of all five axes is not performed along the surface, but instead along a few paths in the air, automatic indexing, in comparison to true five-axis simultaneous machining, is also suitable for use on machines with low dynamics. As heat input, tool wear, shape and positional tolerances and surface finishes develop continuously in comparison with conventional machining with a fixed tool, the need for manual reworking is reduced or can, in some cases, be eliminated altogether.

When it comes to programming drilling operations with different tool positions, the hyperMILL 5AXIS offers an outstanding solution. The orientation of holes is automatically recognised from the geometry data, and the individual drilling positions are linked together in a path-optimised simultaneous movement monitored for collisions. The task of programming this job, which would easily have taken several days using conventional methods, can be completed in a matter of minutes. In addition to drilling points on surfaces or drilling axes, fully constructed holes can also be used as a reference when working with hyperMILL, which ensures a great deal of flexibility when using CAD data. The five-axis drilling processes from OPEN MIND Technologies AG makes it possible to generate even complex holes and threads. This is a considerable advantage when it comes to reacting quickly to client needs.

Undercut machining is another important topic. If a high-quality surface finish is required, then the practice of milling with various fixed tilt angles rapidly reaches its limits. And the surface would have to be reworked as well. Alongside producing a better surface finish, continual machining using five-axis technology offers an alternative that can reduce machining times as well. Mould channels are a typical example of extreme undercutting geometries, where defining, verifying and testing a program for an indexed machining job makes high demands in terms of time and costs. However, the five-axis technology from OPEN MIND Technologies AG offers a very efficient method for programming and machining these shapes.

Benefit from intelligent technologies!
The basis for simpler programming and efficient machining is being able to work directly with the surfaces. There are no restrictions in terms of the number of individual surfaces allowed, the quality of the surface patches (overlaps, gaps), the orientation of the surfaces and the profile of the ISO lines. It is no longer necessary to trim, close gaps or unify surfaces, and elaborate surface feedbacks become obsolete as well. This considerably reduces the work required for preparing the data. The automatic collision control and avoidance make it possible to machine reliably using special tools such as ball mills with a cutting angle greater than 180�, tools with thicker shanks and any type of holder as well as short tools, where the holder can also enter the tube. Overall, this reduces the amount of time it takes to program machining from several days to just a few hours. The integration of the five-axis module into hyperMILL CAM software contributes to a simplified workflow. Furthermore, all machining strategies, from 2D to 3D and HSC right through to five-axis cycles, can be accessed from a simple Windows-based user interface.

A further example of intelligent technologies is feature technology. �Features’ significantly reduce programming time whenever predefined machining sequences can be assigned to characteristic mould elements. Existing machining know-how can be integrated quickly and reliably. hyperMILL offers a highly developed technology enabling the user to define technology sequences quickly and easily, save them in a feature list and transfer them to the job list for the geometries in question at a click of the mouse. This technology is not limited to conventional 2D machining. It can also be used for 3D and five-axis machining for products such as impellers and blisks. The degree of automation available for job sequences in this system is truly revolutionary.

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Review Article
  • 5 Axis show in Milan, Italy December 05, 2008
    Reviewed by '2bSMART'
    In Italy, last month took place OMNIUM 2008 - Open Mind User Meeting - Conference and expo. The most rated item was definitely 5 axis tools manamenet by hyperMILL. If you need information in Italian Language you can refer to OPEN MIND Italian Corporate Blog: you fill find all the support you need.

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