Increase Your Machine’s Capacity with a 4th or 5th Axis

Written by John Butz from MDNA Member Firm, Resell CNC. |Published on Feb. 28, 2019

Time is money.  Would you like to make more money with your VMC?  Would you like to be more efficient and productive with your VMC?  The easiest way to increase your VMC capacity is by adding Indexers, Rotary Tables, and Trunnion Tables.

Vertical machining centers cost considerably less than horizontal machining centers.  Today, affordable Indexers, 4th Axis rotary tables and trunnion tables have turned simple 3 Axis Vertical Machining Centers into productivity machines.  While many of us would love to buy the latest and greatest Horizontal Machining Center with all the bells and whistles for doing complex parts the price tag often keeps many shop owners from making that step. Many shops find horizontal machining Centers just too expensive and hard to justify for the type of work or quantity of parts being produced.  In the past Horizontal Machining Centers were 3-4 times the amount of a Vertical Machining Center.  This produced a challenge for shop owners who needed 4 and 5 axis production.  Therefore, many shop engineers used multiple machines to complete the parts.  In today’s competitive world touching the part cost money.  Every time a part has to be moved from one machine to another creates extra time and increases quality concerns. When you do more machining in one operation and avoid handling the workpiece, productivity and accuracy goes up. Unclamping and re-fixturing a workpiece is timely and increases the risk of error. 

Haas T5C4 Tilting 4 Head 5C Indexer

If you’re going to retrofit an existing machine, contact either the original supplier or the companies that offer the rotary tables.  There are several manufactures of indexers and rotary tables that allow VMC to be more versatile and productive.  Some of the best known brands are HAAS, Kitigawa, Tsudakoma, Sunnen, Nikken, SMW, Yuasa, and Troke.  These accessory items really work and give shop owners many benefits of a HMC at a fraction of the price.  The accuracy, rigidity and speed of these rotary units are helping the 3 Axis VMC become a little brother to the more expensive HMC.  Today, more and more owners are taking advantage of used CNC Indexers,  used 4th Axis Rotary Tables and used 5 Axis Trunnion tables.  Haas Automation has made it easy and inexpensive to add on 4 and 5 axis new or used Haas rotary products for Vertical Machining Centers.   While many of the other manufactures continue to make it difficult to add on accessories in the field,  Haas automation has simplified the process by installing a new or used 4th axis indexer with drive card and wiring.  These parts can be ordered from your local HFO – Haas distributor or the Haas  website.  Haas makes it very easy when adding used HAAS 4th axis products to their VMC.

Haas TRT210 Tilting Rotary Table

The most common choices to increase capabilities on your Vertical Machining Center are Indexers and 4th Axis rotary tables.

The word indexer can be misleading.  Many Index tables have full rotary capabilities while others have minimum increment of indexing, such as 15 degree, 5 degrees, or 1 degree.  The most popular indexer is the Haas HA5C collet closer indexer.  Haas 5C indexers are easy to program, interface and setup.  The HA5C 5C collet Indexer will need 4th –axis drive for full 4th axis operation or a rotary control box for stand- alone operation.   Indexers  hold parts by means of a manual or air-actuated collet. Round parts, or parts mounted to a shaft, insert quickly and easily into the collet. Collet indexers lend themselves well to production of multiple small parts, with some manufacturers offering multiple-spindles,  1-2-3 or 4 headed spindle designs for  increased productivity. 

Haas HA5C Indexer
Haas HA5C Indexer

4th-Axis Rotary Tables for your Vertical Machining Center

Rotary Tables greatly increase productivity for VMC’s.   4th axis rotary tables give us the ability to automatically position the workpiece so that multiple sides of a part can be machined with one setup.  Rotary tables can be mounted vertically or horizontally for added versatility.  Chucks and fixtures can easily be mounted on the table depending on the size and configuration of the material being milled or drilled.  Typically, this reduces machine idle time and increases accuracy and productivity. When multiple parts are mounted on a rotary table, setup time, cycle time and the number of tool changes are reduced. One example, would be a part with angled flats or cross holes being machined with one setup on a rotary table, in contrast with multiple setups.  Other fixtures and tooling, such as tombstones, allow multiple sides of multiple parts to be machined with fewer tool changes.  The most common rotary table is the HAAS HRT160 (6.3” table) and the HAAS HRT210 (8.3” table). Both units require a HAAS 4th Axis drive for full 4th axis operation, or a HAAS rotary control box for stand-alone operation. 

Haas HRT210 Rotary Table
Haas HRT210 Rotary Table

Adding 4th & 5th Axis rotary tables and  Trunnion Tables to maximize your Vertical Machining Center.

4th & 5th Axis Rotary tables & Indexers can turn your VMC into a 5 Axis simultaneous machining center. 4th and 5th Axis capability increases dramatically and so does productivity.   With the ability to position to nearly any angle for multi sided parts you vertical machining center can transform the way you process parts.  Adding a 5th axis of motion (tilting the 4th axis) can provide even more versatility, and allow machining of very complex parts in one single setup. This opens up all kinds of opportunities for new jobs.  Machining in 5-axes can produce extraordinary detail and amazing complex curves. Work typically not produced on a VMC. There are two kinds of 5-axis rotary tables, tilting tables and trunnion tables. Tilting tables consist of one rotary unit mounted to the platter of another to provide two axes of motion, usually 360 degrees of rotation and ±120 degrees of tilt. Trunnion tables provide support for heavier machining. Both types provide precise positioning in the 4th and 5th axes.

Haas TR160 Dual Axis Trunnion Table
Haas TR160 Dual Axis Trunnion Table

Make your VMC more efficient and productive by adding an Indexer, 4th Axis Rotary Table or a 5 Axis Trunnion Table. Retrofitting is affordable, worthwhile and relatively inexpensive.  Buying a pre-owned Haas or used HAAS 4th Axis table will save you even more money.  HAAS makes it affordable and simple to add on used HAAS CNC accessories or HAAS rotary tables to their VMC’s.

About the Author: John Butz is the CEO and Founder of Resell CNC (  Resell CNC (MDNA Member Firm) is one of the largest buyers and sellers of CNC machines and accessories in North America and has twice been named by INC 500 fastest growing companies in America. 


If you are interested in finding Used 4th Axis Rotary Tables see  Resell CNC is has many different HAAS Indexers and Rotary tables to choose from.  Many of the rotary tables are from the HAAS factory and packaged in original Haas crates.  Now you can save up to 65% off. For more information, please contact  Resell CNC. 844.478.8181 or email

For more information on equipment or to buy, sell or trade them you can also contact any of MDNA’s machinery dealers, located around the world, by using the Find Members>Search tool on Or you can Find MDNA Members by region here.