What is a 5-axis CNC and what can we do with it here at Harwood Custom Composites?

We’re glad you asked.

As a solutions-focused and customer-driven company located at the Victoria International Airport here on Vancouver Island, Harwood Custom Composites was founded in 1999 on one basic principle: fulfilling the demand for high-quality aerospace composite fabrication.

Our 5-axis CNC technology is one of the many ways in which we continue to deliver on that principle.

In today’s blog, we outline what a 5-axis CNC is and what we can do with it to fulfil your manufacturing needs.

What is a 5-Axis CNC?

Firstly, Computer Numerical Control machining (more commonly known as CNC machining) is a manufacturing process where pre-programmed computer software dictates the movement of both the associated factory tools and machinery. It is used to make three-dimensional cutting tasks simple and efficient.

A 5-axis CNC is a machine that has five axes vs. two, three, or four. On a 5-axis CNC, its cutting tool moves across the standard X, Y, and Z linear axes as well as rotating on the A and B axes. In short? It can move from any direction, which grants it a significantly wider range of movement than similar machines.

“The advantage of a 5-axis CNC is that you can cut a perpendicular edge as an exact match to the prototype drawings,” says Jon Harwood, founder of Harwood Custom Composites. “For us, what we appreciate most about it is the accuracy of the machine and the capabilities it has opened up for us, like being able to trim more designs and drilling holes at complex angles. We also have a fairly large envelope, which permits us to do decently large composite parts for our clients.”

What Harwood Custom Composites Can Do With a 5-Axis CNC?

“Our 5-axis is a starting point for so many of our projects, whether we have to build a form tool or layup tool,” Jon says regarding his team’s process. “No matter what you’re making, fabricating tools is always the first step. On the other side of that, after the other parts are done many of them come back to the 5-axis to get the CNC trimmed. It ends up following a lot of our jobs: at the start the 5-axis is key, and at the end the 5-axis is key. It’s a fairly busy piece of equipment!

“It’s also the only 5-axis on Vancouver Island that we know about other than the one located at Camosun College. As far as the industry goes, there are lots of 5-axis milling machines but no one has 5-axis routers like we do, so our router has 5 by 8 feet to expand the envelope. Having it has allowed us to work in the electric car industry, on airline parts, on wood components, and so much more.”

Ready to get your project started with Harwood Custom Composites’ 5-axis CNC? Reach out today to chat with Jon and his team.