Behind the scenes

MBARI’s machine shop welcomes a new five-axis milling machine


The new five-axis milling machine in MBARI’s machine shop looks like something out of a sci-fi movie, complete with blue running lights and a sleek futuristic design.

May 11, 2016

Five axes are better than three when it comes to milling parts for complex technology. Ray Thompson, MBARI’s machine shop supervisor, remarked that a five-axis machine allows our scientists and engineers to “design around the technology”.  In other words, they can design a very complex, multi-faceted component that can be cut and shaped in one operation. Until now, the machinists were milling parts on a standard three-axis milling machine. This meant if they were working on a six-sided rectangular object they had to stop the machine and manually rotate and reset the object a few times. This disruption increases the possibility of error and the length of time required to complete the job. Another important advantage of the five-axis machine is that MBARI machinists can now produce in house many parts that were formerly ordered from other manufacturing facilities.

Other advantages of this amazing machine are that it automatically changes out its tools per desired application, lubricates and cools the tools with filtered coolant, cleans the debris from the workspace via an automated conveyor belt, filters the exterior air, and keeps the window clear with a clear view screen, a device that can also be found on the windows of ships for visual navigation. In short, a five-axis milling machine reduces milling time and improves productivity, precision, and reliability. It also encourages more communication with the scientists and engineers during the manufacturing process. With five axes, the sky is the limit, or perhaps, in this case, the ocean is the limit.