Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machining is a manufacturing process in which programmed computer software directs the motion of the tools and machine to create various products easily and accurately. The automated machine works through removing the excess raw material from the workpiece with cutting tools, and is used in different industries such as manufacturing, metal fabrication, electronics, automotive, agriculture, and more. There are different types of CNC machines depending on their purpose and it also comes with different number of axis which determine the type of work the machine can do, the level of detail it can cut, and the workpiece locations it can manipulate.
A 3-axis CNC machine is the simplest type of CNC machine, where the workpiece is in a stationary or fixed position while the cutting tool moves across the X, Y and Z axis to achieve the desired shape of the material. The X-axis is the one that moves along with the lathe table from left to right, the Y-axis is towards the front to the back of the table and the Z-axis is the cutting tool that drops from the top or up-and-down. It is one of the most preferred and widely used CNC machines and it is best for automatic or interactive operations, milling slots, boring, tapping, drilling holes, cutting sharp edges and more. However, it is not ideal for materials that require intricate detailing or depth because operators may have to manually reposition the workpiece when it has complex geometries, resulting in slow processing speed and raise in labor and machining expenses. In order to find out that the 3-axis machining is ideal for the desired material, some of the things one must consider are the materials used, size of the production run, the workpiece requirements, accuracy and finish constraints, and the machinist’s holding capabilities.
Under the umbrella of 3-axis machining lie both CNC milling and CNC lathe that have slightly different functions:
3-axis CNC machining is important in the manufacturing industry but like any other CNC machines, it functions in a complex programming environment so the professionals who are operating and maintaining the machine must be highly skilled and trained. Aside from that, the initial capital investment and the installation costs of these machines are high. However, many companies still prefer 3-axis machining equipment because it is capable of moving the three axis in three different directions at the same time, allowing the machine to create more complex parts than 2.5 axis machining. It can also be custom designed to a client’s requirements, integrated with an automatic tool changer, or upgraded to 4 or 5 axis machining centers, making it capable of creating multiple accurate copies of one product. To summarize the 3-axis CNC machining, it provides consistency, efficiency, and reliability.
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