The finished landing gear part was produced through the collaboration of nine Partners in THINC companies working together to develop the best approach for companies without 5-axis machines.

We’ve all heard the argument. An expensive, highly adaptable machine tool can be less expensive to run, in the long term, because higher productivity will lower costs-per-part. However, getting over that initial sticker shock can be daunting for many manufacturers.

A group of manufacturing experts representing machine tool builders, cutting tool companies, workholding producers, and other specialists recently gathered to figure out how to offer the capabilities of an expensive machine without the big upfront costs.

“Most demonstrations are devised to show technological advances in terms of mechanical or electrical performance,” says John Soukup, team leader and regional sales manager (Southeast) for workholding producer Hainbuch America Corp. “While new technologies can create cost savings in the long run, few are intended to address the question of initial affordability. It became our team’s goal to develop a system that combined the three Ps: Performance, Portability, and Price.”

At the base of the group’s systems is an 8" Nikken, 5-axis rotary table.

Soukup’s group was one of several participating in Okuma Partners In THINC’s Winter Showcase in Charlotte, North Carolina, in December 2017. The group used the products and expertise of Okuma (machining centers), Hainbuch, Kennametal (tooling), Haimer-USA (shrink-fit toolholders), MP Systems (high-pressure coolant and chiller systems), Lyndex-Nikken (5-axis rotary tables), Blaser Swisslube (ester-based coolant), Siemens PL (systems software), and VMH International (systems integration).

“Success can be achieved when companies that are leaders in their fields work together to solve customer challenges,” says Wade Anderson, Okuma product specialist and tech center manager. “As the aerospace, medical, and energy sectors have increased the demand for complex, high-precision parts in relatively limited quantities, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and their suppliers are faced with the problem of justifying the expense of a dedicated 5-axis machine.”

To lower system costs, the partners created a discrete, 5-axis module that could be mounted on a 3- or 4-axis machine. To demonstrate the idea, they used an Okuma GENOS M56O-V machining center featuring a 1,300mm x 560mm table; X, Y, and Z travels of 1,050mm x 560mm x 460mm; a 15,000rpm spindle; and a 32-tool magazine.

“The GENOS M560-V was the logical choice” to demonstrate lower-cost 5-axis machining, Anderson says, because it is popular with “customers who are looking for an entry-level machining center without sacrificing quality and performance.”

The Okuma GENOS M560-V machining center was used in the demonstration of how to run 5-axis machining even if you don’t own a 5-axis machine.
Photo courtesy of Okuma

At the base of the group’s system is an 8" Nikken, 5-axis rotary table equipped with a wear-resistant carbide worm screw and an iron-nitride worm wheel. The table will hold up to 150 lb and is actuated by servo motors linked to the machine control. Rotation is a full 360°, and tilting extends from 0° to 105°.

“In 5-axis applications, the tolerances are invariably tight,” says Bob Berongi, regional sales manager at Lyndex-Nikken. “The use of carbide and iron-nitride in the worm screw and wheel is essential to maintaining those parameters and to extending the life of the table.”

Demo part

To demonstrate capabilities, the partners produced a complex, 7075 T-6 heat-treated aluminum landing gear part that required high tolerances and a high finish. Each of the group’s partners provided expertise to ensure high-quality, low-cost production (see sidebar).

“If a manufacturer or a job shop attempted to assemble a unit such as this, they would, in all probability, call on their traditional suppliers – some of which might not carry the products or possess the knowledge equal to the task,” Anderson says. “By selectively choosing our Partners in THINC, you can be assured that what was developed here is the product of the ‘best of the best.’”

Soukup adds, “All of us who worked on this project are extremely happy with the results. Thanks to our combined efforts, we evolved a cost-effective system that puts top-line 5-axis performance within reach for our customers. And that is our goal.”

Blaser Swisslube


Hainbuch America Corp.

Kennametal Inc.

Lyndex-Nikken Inc.

MP Systems

Okuma America Corp.

Siemens NX

VMH International