MMS Blog

By: Barry Rogers 19. February 2018

Buying a Five-Axis: Selecting the Right Machine

Not all five-axis machines are alike. Here’s where the application for which they will be used must be considered. You need to know what cutting speeds you’re going to run, for example. The type of spindle, the arrangement of rotary axes, rapid traverse rates, feed rates and available horsepower are other major considerations. Do you intend to machine primarily aluminum, stainless steel or titanium? How rigid does the machine need to be? What surface-finish quality do you require? What part accuracy are you trying to achieve? These are all questions you’ll need to answer in order to select the right machine for your application.

If you’re primarily machining aluminum, you may prefer a spindle capable of higher speed, such as 20,000 rpm, with higher rapid traverse rates, especially if you’re using smaller-diameter tools. Likewise, if you’re machining stainless or alloy steel for complex mold surfaces, you will likely be using small tools and high spindle speeds to achieve exceptionally smooth surface finishes.

Critical parts require tight tolerances, and these tolerances often cannot be met without powerful software. When Ramco Machine was contracted to machine camera-mount brackets out of Invar for a NASA satellite mission, it knew that it could meet the challenges and tight tolerances needed with the help of its five-axis machine and CAM software from Open Mind Technologies (Needham, Massachusetts).

Mike Jezowski is a vice president at Rowley, Massachusetts-based Ramco Machine, which was founded in the early 1980s by his parents. It began as a small machine shop that took on a range of jobs and has grown to include 30 employees. Mike and his brother Tim, also a vice president, handle day-to-day operations. The company specializes in complex milled and turned parts with stringent tolerances and fast turnaround times. Its range of projects include jobs for robotics companies and medical manufacturers.

How does a shop deal with the “Big Brother” feeling among employees that results from implementing machine-tool-performance data collection, and is this feeling sufficient reason not to adopt machine monitoring?

Bill Metz of valve manufacturer Richards Industries was asked this two-part question at Modern Machine Shop’s recent Top Shops Conference. Richards Industries is a Top Shops Honors Program winner, and Mr. Metz appeared on stage in a Q&A session with representatives from other Honors Program companies. For Richards, machine monitoring has played a major role in the company’s continuous-improvement success.

We make note of Matt Guse’s recruitment efforts from time to time. The owner of MRS Machining is blessed to oversee a thriving contract machining business, but he is routinely challenged to find enough employees to staff his rural Wisconsin shop. In his attempts to meet mechanically adept young people who might succeed in the work of CNC machining, he has undertaken efforts we’ve reported on including joining the school board, hosting annual tours of his shop, supporting a local high school manufacturing program and even refereeing football.

His latest successful tactic: radio advertising.

Keeping up with technology in today’s competitive manufacturing landscape requires a dedication to education. That means taking a proactive approach to learning in all its various forms: online resources, training opportunities, and especially industry events like conferences and trade shows.

Leading up to any industry event, attendees and exhibitors alike have their time and attention dedicated to keeping up with business, leaving little time for anything else. But with 2018 in full swing and trade show season around the corner, it’s important to start thinking ahead.

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