“High-speed 5-axis CNC routers not only move the head at a high rate, but also the tool at high RPM, which is key for machining carbon fiber parts,” says David Steranko, VP of sales for Anderson America (Pineville, NC, US). “These machines have the ability to pay back the capital expense rapidly as well,” he notes. For example, in the past, fabricators bought large-format metal machining centers costing $4-5 million. “CNC routers were viewed as not precise enough,” says Steranko, “but advances over the past decade have enabled the precision and even higher speed, without the cost.” He notes these large-part capable, high-speed 5-axis CNC routers cost $500,000 to $900,000.
Steranko says the shape, thickness and size of parts being demanded today typically won’t fit standard 5-axis CNC routers. “The challenge for us is to have bigger, faster machines but maintain high precision.” He says this has indeed been mastered, as can be seen in the video, and these machines can also machine multiple parts at the same time. “One customer is using twin tables so that the machine runs 24 hrs/day, 7 days/week,” says Steranko. “This is two to three times the performance of old machining centers.”
For those not as involved in the machining end of composites operations, here is a primer from our sister magazine, Modern Machine Shop: