How to Pick a CNC 5-Axis Milling Center

Prosper-Tech's First Introduction to 5-axis Milling: Haas UMC-750

Prosper-Tech first invested in 5-axis milling technology in 2017 with the purchase of a UMC-750 from Haas. The machine was a great entry into 5-axis machining and a proved to be a workhorse to employ the new fixturing techniques, tooling, and operating strategies that multi-axis machining requires.

With the success of the UMC-750, demand grew for Prosper-Tech to take on more and more high-complexity parts from our customers. The current workload and potential parts from our customers were analyzed and what was clear was that we needed to complement our UMC-750 workhorse with a machine that could handle the tightest geometric tolerances where positions across sides of parts had to be held under 10 microns.

Investing in True Geometric Accuracy and Reliability: Grob G350

In 2021, Prosper-Tech invested in a Grob G350. The true geometric accuracy, reliability, and quality of this machine has raised our 5-axis services to new levels. We reapplied our fixturing techniques using Erowa zero-point pallet systems and were challenged to use more 5-axis toolpaths that are available through HyperMill, our CAM software that we use. Shrink fit tooling was added as well as investments in tooling to have a library of cutting tools to make the most challenging parts.

As Prosper-Tech again analyzed its offerings to customers, another improvement area was discovered. Through time-studies of our production jobs, we discovered that on average 20-30% of machine cycle times were comprised of “non-cut time” i.e. tool changes and indexing. Most of those jobs also only required 3+2 machining, not simultaneous 5-axis.

Our Process for Selecting a Machine

We then set a list of criteria and began researching offerings by machine tool builders. We were looking for a machine that had the best offering of:

·       Indexing and tool change times

·       Value between machine cost and machine accuracies

·       Robust and proven design

·       After-sale support

·       Ease of operation

·       Floorspace requirements

·       Integration with our existing work-holding approaches

What we discovered was a market consisting of lean-style BT30 machines that had speed and value while also complementing our existing technologies. We selected the parts that we would be moving to this new machine and found the best combination of all our criteria in the Brother U500xd1.

Selecting a Production Ready Machine: Brother U500xd1

Our first Brother Speedio U500 machine in 2023.

We discovered that the BT30 dual-contact could easily machine our target part materials, mostly aluminum and stainless steel. The500mm swing on the U500 could fit the target parts and the 11.8” of z-travel could fit our Erowa work holding approach. The 28-tool capacity was also a must have for us, as we typically machine higher-feature count parts that require additional tools.

Although the U500xd1 was a newer model, it is built on the proven S500 frame with the T200 4th axis technology reapplied. We were impressed at how robust the design was and how it was truly designed to be operator friendly and low maintenance. The new controller also came with a modern interface that we felt would have a low learning curve, regardless of the experience of the operator.

Ultimately, the machine had everything we needed in <1sec tool change times,  <5-micron xyz repeatability, 4+1 capabilities, work envelope, minimal floorspace requirements and modern productivity options (high-pressure TSC, tool probe, part probe, etc). What it didn’t have was features and options that we didn’t need, which often drive-up price. The price matched the value of the machine and we felt comfortable with Yamazen’s support of their Brother machines in the field.

Our CAM partners, HyperMill, supported us as we needed a new post-processor. Our existing Erowa chucks mounted directly to the U500. The Brother machine came with pneumatic ports on the machine table and great capability to integrate with automation in the future. We use an Erowa ERC80 to tend both our UMC 750 and Grob G350 and will look to add another ERC80 onto theU500xd1 as production orders ramp-up.


Contact us to learn more about our CNC milling services by fitting the right job to the right machine.

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Andrew Devroy

VP Sales and Operations

September 25, 2023

Prosper-Tech Machine & Tool offers services for build-to-print precision machining. Located in Macomb County in Richmond, Michigan, we serve the medical, defense, and aerospace/space industries.

Your Precision Machining Partner