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A new insight into 5-axis machining


Using the latest technology to increase productivity and efficiency was the rationale behind the decision taken by Insight Precision Engineering to install a 5-axis machine in 2007. The company operates as a subcontractor across a wide range of industries and adapting to the needs of the market has been a key factor in its success for the past 25 years.

To make the most of the 5-axis capabilities, Insight decided to equip the new machine with a Hilma MC125Z Concentric vice from Roemheld. Having looked at a number of potential suppliers, they were impressed with the overall package that Roemheld offered and the fact that they were happy to offer a demo vice.

The Managing Director of Insight, Chris Poole, said: “Using the free demo definitely sold the vice to us as it performed perfectly for our needs. In fact, we refused to give it back until the new vice we purchased was installed.”

One of the benefits that the Roemheld vice offers is its ability to grip on just 3mm and Insight have welcomed this reduction of wastage. Previously, they were gripping on up to 10mm and were consequently having to mill a large amount of excess material away.

Although 5-axis machining was a new departure for the company which had previously been using 3 and 4-axis machines, it has offered many operating advantages. An example is that it has enabled them to run batches for 16 hours and more with minimal operator involvement. Concentric machining has also significantly improved the degree of error which allows Insight to consistently obtain high accuracy in one pass.

Hilma vices are known for their robustness and durability and so the lack of maintenance and operator involvement required has also proved beneficial within the production cycle.

Insight was originally set up as the machining arm of an electronics firm, but over the years has evolved with the needs of the market. Today, Insight manufactures machine tool parts, manifold and valve blocks and is a tier supplier to toolmaking, defence and emergency service industries. As well as offering 5-axis machining, the company also offers CNC turning and milling along with internal and external grinding using both ferrous and non-ferrous materials.

Because of the flexible way that Insight operates, it can adapt to the needs of its customers. Chris Smedley, Production Engineer for Insight, said: “There is no such thing as a typical batch run for us – we can be producing thousands or one-offs at any given time. That is why investing in 5-axis machining was the right way forward for us.”

The ability to produce one-offs means customers can avoid holding stock as Insight will produce component parts as required. The company works very closely with its customers and a big part of its success has been this ability to respond to individual requirements. Chris Poole said: “We have developed a good customer base over the years and just as we work hard to meet their needs, in turn, they are very fair to us and respect the fact that we are not a large organisation.”

Insight has 11 members of staff and has a three quarter of a million pound turnover. Many of the engineers have been with the company from the beginning and staff turnover is minimal as they all work together well as a team. That is why, rather than expansion, the company prefers to focus on investment in new technology to work more efficiently.

Chris Poole said: “We are surviving in a competitive marketplace and we are very happy with the size of our operation and the way in which we work. We will continue to invest in the latest technology that we believe will benefit our manufacturing capabilities. That is why we like working with suppliers like Roemheld who offer quality products that enable us to get the most out of our investment.”