If mechanical milling was a plane in motion, that plane would fly in so many directions that you would be both dizzy and stupefied. More importantly, there are planes of motion over which a mechanical milling machine moves, giving the tools involved almost unlimited, rapid range of motion. The following discusses those planes, or axes, in detail so that you know just what kind of amazing possible things can be done with one of these milling machines.
X, Y, and Z Axes
Almost all standard mechanical milling machines are "x,y,z" machines, or three-axis machines. A miller will place a solid material on the platform of these machines, program the machine to cut horizontally for width and depth, and vertically for height. The x- and y-axes are both along horizontal planes, but the z-axis is along the vertical plane. Each plane is designated a letter, like in geometry or trigonometry, so that no one is confused by which direction to mill when given projects from clients on which to work. Likewise, other, highly specialized milling machines have even more axes that allow millers to create more complex projects from three-dimensional blocks of material.
A and B Axes
Multi-axis, or five-axes machines, have two additional axes that aid millers with rapid creation of objects on multiple, three-dimensional planes. The two additional axes are labeled "a" and "b." Both of these allow for rotation around the vertical and horizontal axes of x, y, and z, thus speeding up the milling process and producing a product from a larger piece of standing material. It is considered much more efficient because the miller does not have to stop, take time to turn the material this direction and that, and continue the milling processes to get the expected and desired results. Watching one of these multi-axes machines can be quite dizzying because they use a laser or water "laser" to cut and blast away bits of material while spinning and flipping in all directions around the material being cut, bored, drilled, and shaped.
From Point A to Point Z
With all of these axes/planes involved, and with how quickly milling machines operate, you can order up just about any project imaginable. It will be finished in matter of an hour to weeks, depending how many of the project item you order. The machine's many tools will fly along from point A on the a-axis to point Z on the z-axis as quickly as a jet moves from one major city to the next.