Axis to Axes

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A simple drill press has one axis.  The workpiece is fixed in position and the spinning tool is moved into and out of the workpiece.  The capability of movement into and out of the workpiece is the axis.  If the surface on which the workpiece is fixed is capable of moving from side to side in a controlled manner the machine has two axes capability. Typically the drill spindle moving into and out of the work piece would be referred to as the Z axis and the side to side movement would be referred to as the X axis.  If the surface on which the workpiece is fixed is also capable of moving forward and backward in a controlled manner the machine has three axes capability and the new axis is referred to as the Y.   Brown and Sharpe invented the first three axes Universal Milling Machine in 1861.  The Universal Milling Machine revolutionized industry and kicked off several decades of rapid technological improvement.

The universal milling machine was invented in 1861 and kicked off several decades of rapid technological improvement.

Beyond the three axes universal milling machine

Adding the capability to rotate the work piece in a controlled manner is a fourth axis.  Fourth axis capability allows the machine to produce features at angles that would require an additional fixture on a three axis machine.  The capability of moving the machine in all four axis at once allows complex angles and curves that would be extremely difficult and time consuming to produce otherwise.  Adding the capability of rotating the workpiece along both the X and Y axis is five axis machining and opens up a world of possibilities.

Teton's Newest addition

Teton Machine Company’s latest addition is a DMG Mori DMU 50 equipped with a PH 150 pallet system DMU 50 3rd Generation ( .  This remarkable machine offers fifth axis capability, 20,000 RPM spindle speed and a 25 “x 20”x 18” work envelope.  The pallet system allows us to stage the next job without interrupting the existing job or waiting for it to finish.  The ability to machine complex geometry in a single work holding step allows us to produce very complex parts to very tight tolerances.  The pallet system allows us to do it very efficiently. 

DMU 50 3rd. Generation – YouTube

Turning axes

Axes in a turning environment are similar.  A lathe rotates the workpiece.  Movement directly into or out of the workpiece is movement along the X axis.  Moving the tool in line with the workpiece is movement in the Z axis.  Moving the tool perpendicular to the X axis is movement along the Y axis. 

Multi axes lathes and swiss lathes

Adding live tooling to produce drilled cross holes, milled features and other similar operations eliminates the need to produce the turned features on one machine and the milled features on a second machine.   Adding a sub-spindle allows for production of complete parts without a separate machine set-up to deal with features on the portion of the part being held in the spindle during the initial operation. Using work piece rotation for index capability and other technological innovations add even more axes.

Comprehensive Machining capability

Teton employs computer controlled vertical and horizontal mills with fourth and fifth axis capability.  We also employ computer controlled lathes and Swiss style lathes with sub-spindles, live tooling and even B axis capability which swings a tool around the workpiece to produce complex angled features.  Some machines are capable of performing work on the main spindle and sub spindle at the same time.  We pride ourselves on producing complex geometry in one operation.  Developing processes that produce complex parts with a minimum of human intervention eliminates risk of error and ensures parts meet exactly the same specifications from production run to production run. 

Located in Payette, Idaho, Teton Machine provides a wide range of precision machining services for leading companies across the United States. As an employee-owned company, all of us have a vested interest in providing the highest quality service in our industry. Companies who work with us recognize and appreciate this commitment, which has played a major role in our ongoing growth. 

Whether you need CNC milling, CNC turning, Swiss machining, product consulting, or are unsure what machining process best suits you, we’d love to hear from you. We know and understand manufacturing, and will be happy to share our industry knowledge with you.


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