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Between increased competition, Industry 4.0, and the continual widening of the skilled labor gap, the machining industry is seeing some rapid changes around the technology used on the shop floor. The demand for 5-axis machining is higher than ever. In 2020, sales in 5-axis vertical machines are expected to increase by 18%, and 5-axis horizontal machines are expected to increase by 20%.

But why exactly is this the case? In this post, we will explore the changing landscape and how to prepare your shop and employees for the increased 5-axis demand.

Growing Industries

Within the metalworking industry, aerospace is the fastest-growing segment due to high demand from emerging markets like India and China, the global growth of passenger and freight air transport, and increased competition between aircraft manufacturers. At the beginning of 2019, between Airbus and Boeing – the two largest aircraft manufacturers – there was an order backlog of 13,450 aircrafts, which doesn’t account for incoming orders. This backlog is estimated to take seven years to fill, even with record numbers of aircrafts going out the door.

How does this tie into 5-axis? With the high volumes required by these aerospace companies, as well as the demand for high surface finish qualities, tight tolerances, and high manufacturing speeds, 5-axis machines help to meet these demands more easily. 5-axis machines allow for:

  • Uniform stock allowance makes it easier to meet tolerances
  • Optimum material removal creates less waste and is more efficient
  • Working with short tools reduces chatter and provides better surface finish
  • Shorter machining times produces higher volumes

Increased Specialization

Let’s face it; competition is fierce in the machining industry. With all the technology available today, your competitors can do exactly what you’re doing. So how do you differentiate and compete in today’s market? Specialization and digitization.

As design capabilities have improved, the complexities of parts have also increased. It is not uncommon to hear of shops having to machine parts that require multiple compound angles, while also maintaining extremely tight tolerances. 5-axis machines allow for more complex programming and machining processes that take less time and are easier to program than ever before.

By specializing in complex parts and processes, shops can be more selective about their quotes. They will have an increased chance of winning due to the abilities that their shop possesses for intricate machining processes. According to the Top Shops survey conducted by Gardener Intelligence, the top 25% of machine shops have a Quote-To-Book ratio of less than 55%. The survey illustrates that top-performing shops are selective about the jobs they take on and do not take every job that comes across the table. The shops understand the value they provide through their specialized capabilities.

Developing Machinists

With the skilled labor shortage on the rise, it is vital to attract the younger generation into the machining and manufacturing industry. As a new generation of machinists starts to enter the workforce, it is crucial to understand what they are looking for when it comes to job satisfaction. With industry 4.0, machining is increasingly leaning towards programming and digitalization, allowing for young machinists to use the technological skills that they have grown up with. 5-axis is becoming increasingly more prominent in trade schools, with 100 schools offering 5-axis courses and a nationwide 5-axis skills competition taking place every year. All these efforts have begun to shift the attitude towards machining from being old-fashioned to high tech and cutting edge.


Through these market trends, competitive landscape, and changing machinist demographic, 5-axis is becoming increasingly important in maintaining productivity, profitability, and competitiveness of machine shops. While it might seem daunting, the investment in 5-axis machining can heavily pay off in the long run.

Read Other Take-a-ways from TopShops 2019


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