The major benefit of five-axis machining is the ability to machine complex shapes in a single set-up. This gives greater machining productivity compared to performing the job in a series of set ups, as well as significantly reducing the time and cost of preparing fixtures. Furthermore, with multiple set-ups, there is always a possibility of incorrect alignment each time the part is moved.
Another important advantage of five-axis machining is that it enables shorter cutting tools to be used since the head can be lowered towards the job and the cutter oriented towards the surface. As a result, higher cutting speeds can be achieved without putting excessive load on the cutter, so increasing tool life and reducing breakages.
The use of shorter cutters also reduces the vibration of the tool that can result when machining deep cores or cavities with three-axis machines. This allows a higher quality surface finish to be obtained, so reducing, or even eliminating, the need for time-consuming hand finishing.
Another major benefit from the use of five-axis machining is the ability to machine extremely complex parts from solid that would otherwise have to be cast. For prototypes and very small runs, this approach is much quicker and cheaper. It can give lead times of one or two weeks, instead of two months or more that would be needed for castings.
Five-axis machining can give also huge time savings in the drilling of holes. While this may seem trivial in comparison to the difficulty of machining a complex core or cavity, drilling a series of holes with different compound angles is extremely time consuming. If a three-axis machine is used, a different set-up must be used for each hole. With a five-axis machine, the head can be oriented along the correct axis for each hole automatically, allowing drilling to be completed much more quickly.