Mastering Multi-axis Machining

Despite complexities in its set up, the benefits of well-implemented multi-axis machining far outweigh any pitfalls along the route. For many manufacturers looking to harness the benefits of automation, multi-axis machining can provide a sensible, efficient step in that journey: a proven technology that can reduce human error and improve tolerances through increased automation, simplifying operations and improving product quality. 

Multi-axis machining offers the opportunity to condense multiple machine operations into one, save total production time and production cost, and improve performance on tolerances. The reduced set up time that comes with a multi-axis machine decreases burden rate on mechanics that don’t have to re-load as many parts. Decreasing the number of set-ups also offers the opportunity to machine complex shapes in fewer steps, reducing the potential for operator error and ensuring the accuracy of the final product.

Of course, adoption is highly dependent on the production needs and orientation of individual manufacturers, and varies between business size and sector. There can be a tendency to hold on to, and try to obtain the maximum value from, legacy equipment before investing in new systems, and this may be contributing to the slow adoption of more efficient, modern machines. There is also a behavioral issue around reluctance to change. If operators are used to a certain style, and they know how to program and design for it, any change comes with disruption and upheaval.

Clearly, multi-axis machining can bring significant benefits to manufacturers that implement it correctly. However, there is a certain reticence in the market to embrace multi-axis machining fully, due to perceived complications in set up and uncertainty about ROI. One of the key issues OPTIS sees with the implementation of multi-axis machining in this area is the fact that machine tool makers often sell manufacturers more complex machines than are really necessary. A lot of companies may have bought 5-axis machines, for example, but operate them as they would a 3-axis, wasting capacity and reducing the ROI on the machine. 

To ensure you don’t get oversold, and for practical advice and best practice steps towards implementing multi-axis machining in your facility, explore the Machining Masters suite of content from Castrol OPTIS.

About the author

Rick Gambaccini