Five-axis CNC machines are the cheapest they have ever been. Our exchange rate is good and suppliers are learning to make machines more efficiently. Manufacturers will now consider a 5-axis machine where before they thought they were out of their reach.

Of course, for flat panel work such as kitchens and bathrooms or even occasional and office furniture a three axis machine may be quite sufficient but for solid wood profiles you need more than three axes. Four axes will give you the ability to rotate the head and use a saw on other than a zero or 90 degree angle. Four and a half axes will allow you to tilt the saw or cutter before you perform the same operation. Five axes will allow you to cut everything.

A five-axis machine is particularly useful if you make complex shapes like stairs, doors and windows and it’s in this area that Weinig and Holz-Her are particularly proficient. Weinig knows wood and has specialised in solid wood processing for over 100 years. In 2010 Holz-Her joined Weinig, adding their considerable expertise to the expanding Weinig group of companies. Holz-Her is a specialist Austrian-based company for edge banders, processing centres, pressure beam saws and panel dividing saws.

At the Melbourne open house, the Weinig group had a Holz-Her Multirex 7225 machine cutting components for curved windows, doors and several other products. CNC machines are becoming more efficient due to both the design of the machine and in the software used to process your product. The Multirex 7225 is capable of routing up to 7.2 metres in length and 1.6 metres in depth but a shorter machine of 4.5 metres is more common. Machining height is 300mm (Z-axis stroke of 565mm) and the positioning speed is 142 metres a minute. These travelling speeds are rarely achieved on any machine brand but the machine frame’s ability to support speeds up to this amount are a testament to the strength of the Multirex.

These days, parts must ideally be processed in the one operation. This means that the wooden piece goes onto the machine and every process is done before it is taken off. Both long sides and ends could be machined using several different tools. If it’s a complex part you may need to change tools but if it’s simpler, one tool could do the job. This is dependent on the design of the tool AND your machine and if both complement each other, your output booms. The Multirex machine has the height capacity and the spindle strength to allow multiple-stacked tools to be used eliminating, in many cases, the need for a time-consuming tool change.

With these two features the Multirex is capable of machining the length of a joinery sash with (say) the top part of the stacked tool and by simply raising the tool 45mm or so, cut the end profile with the lower part of the tool. It’s quick, easy to program and, in many cases, eliminates the need for a tool change during the job.

The gimbal-mounted (up to) 17kW spindle ensures a strong application of the heaviest tools available. Leitz tooling was on hand to demonstrate how the tool can contribute more to the machining process by stacking tools common to the profile, one on top of the other.

Another great feature of the Multirex is the waste conveyor mounted on the front of the machine. Waste falls from the cutting area down to this front conveyor and not into the centre body of the frame where the waste could foul on any cabling there. Next is the overhead beam, which, on this machine, is one-piece. Some other brands use two pieces bolted together to get the 1.6 metre (front to rear) travel. Third there are the solid wood-specific tubeless vacuum cups along with a ten-year warranty on the lineal guides to really stamp this as a true, quality workhorse.

Holz-Her can supply a machine with the full VarioDrive automatic positioning of the rails and pods but a new user can achieve a high level of productivity with the basic solid consoles. This is due to the fact that many pods need to be turned or be different sizes for the various joinery components. The software will tell the operator exactly where they should be placed so maybe the added expense is not necessary, especially for first-time 5-axes users. A unique feature of the Holz-Her table is that even the table rails run on linear guides for superb accuracy.

CNC window, door and stair production brings back traditional woodworking joints with a single pass of the cutter. Where you may be processing your components several times with several machines and cutters, the CNC does it all very simply and with a high degree of accuracy. The joints are beautifully matched using the (in this case) Leitz stacked tools and your customers will be suitably impressed.
If you are buying your first 5-axis machine (and most companies will be) make sure you check out the Multirex but above all, don’t buy a standard machine. Talking to your sales rep will get you exactly what you need and this may not be what you thought you wanted. You will increase your output and quality and, also, develop new business opportunities.