Taking advantage of 5-axis machining strategies

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  • Ability to handle heavier parts. The table doesn’t tilt and the entire weight of the part is transferred directly down through the base of the machine to the floor, making it a very rigid setup for heavier parts.
  • Ability to handle larger parts. The table design does not limit the size of the part to one that can be placed between the table risers, as the trunnion-style machine does.
  • Ability to use shorter tools. The swivel head allows the use of shorter or more standard-length tooling because all tool rotations occur above the part, whereas on a trunnion-style machine the spindle has to reach out over the tilting table. The closer the table tilts toward 90 degrees, the farther the spindle has to reach.
  • Versatility. The head-table design is more versatile than a trunnion- or head-head type of configuration because, in addition to 5-axis machining, the entire table can be used for multiple vise setups, plate work and machining the sixth side of a part (in preparation for a 5-axis setup) in 3-axis mode. A tombstone can also be used on the C-axis table to simulate a horizontal machine setup to enable more parts to be machined in one setup.

Why it pays to be an early adopter of technology

4. 5-axis machines break down more often and cost more to repair than 3-axis machines

The reliability of 5-axis machining centres is on par with 3-axis machining centres. As for service, all of the components are the same with the exception of components for the 5-axis trunnion table or the swivel head, which might be a little more expensive to repair and replace. The only additional expense associated with a 5-axis machine is the annual centreline measurement required to retain accuracy, which might be more expensive than the ballbar test on a 3-axis machining centre.


When you prepare to purchase your next machining centre, give serious consideration to adopting 5-axis technology. The incremental increase in costs compared to a 3-axis machine will generally be absorbed quickly by increased efficiency.

* Reprinted with permission from MoldMaking Technology, Gardner Business Media,