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A 5th axis vice, or called a 5-axis vice, is a vice that can move in 5 directions and it allows multiple works, 5 at top, to be done at a time. The flexibility and the quick and precise positioning make the 5th axis vice irreplaceable in precision machining and manufacturing industry. The 5th axis vice is usually incorporated with a CNC machine to manufacture delicate components of machinery.
Typically, a universal vice or a conventional vice has its base fixed or mounted to a work bench or any other surface. The work pieces that are secured on these styles of vices cannot move, and the works or other types of processing to the work pieces are limited. The worker has to remove the secured work piece from where it is and adjust the position of it so that the other sides of the work piece can be processed. Generally, in this way of working, it requires the worker to constantly move around to finish the processing or the work pieces have to be clamped, dislocated and clamped again repeatedly. The whole operation can take a lot of time and effort. As a result, the universal vices are applied in areas such as construction sites or handcraft workshops to which it is not required to process a bulk quantity of work pieces in a short given time or the process differs from pieces to pieces. In addition, the works that utilize the universal vices tend to be less delicate or less precise. By less delicate and less precise, it refers to the works that are less delicate comparing to the precision machinery level.
In the manufacturing industry, especially in manufacturing precision instruments or its component, it is positive that the materials or parts need to be firmly secured in order to be processed, for example, machining, profiling, or milling. However, the conventional clamping and positioning of a universal vice is not practical. The function is considered insufficient as well as incapable to meet the needs of such manufacturing procedures. In many cases, a certain level of flexibility in positioning the work pieces is necessary, but it is something a vice cannot do. That being said, the needs to clamp and locate work pieces still remain. As a result, the modern innovation of the vices has taken place and led the application of vices into a brand new level. The idea of axis has been introduced to the adaption of the vices.
To begin with, there are three axes that people are likely to be familiar with, the X axis, Y axis and the Z axis. With one movable axis on the base of a vice, the vice can move back and forth on a groove while the work piece is clamped and tightly secured by the jaws at the same time. This relatively simple advancement allows the work piece to take a process on one end of the axis and move immediately to the other end of the axis to take another process. With the base of a double-axis design, now a vice is allowed to move in a total of four different directions. The work piece can move back and forth as it can move from right to left too. With one more axis in the design, the flexibility doubles. The progress further goes on with the entrance of the third axis, the Z axis. With double-axis design, the vice is movable only 2 dimensionally; with a triple-axis design, the vice can now move 3 dimensionally. The vise can move up and down. A 3-axis vice is applicable enough to fit into a variety of processing procedures but the development does not stop here. It is soon realized that there is more possibility to explore.
On top of the already existing X, Y, and Z axis, a 5th axis vice adds two extra axes, the A and B axis. As the name suggested, the 5-axis vice and now move in 5 different directions. Instead of the linear movement as the previous 3 axes enables, the A and B axis allow the vice to rotate in two directions. With such configuration, a 5th axis vice allows the work piece to be processed from all direction and it can be worked from 5 sides in one single operation. Because of this feature, the level of precision machining has lifted tremendously higher than its 4-axis or 3-axis counterparts and the 5th axis vice has become a vital part in precision machining ever since.
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