For over 30 years Peterborough-based Rivercircle has developed its business, becoming a leading designer and manufacturer of special purpose test and assembly machines, and multi-cavity rubber and plastic mould tooling. It prides itself on being able to provide a complete service, keeping as much as possible, from design, through to final mechanical and electrical assembly and testing, in-house, this includes machining.

A policy of continuous investment in people and machine tools has seen it create an extensive capability with its machine shop now populated almost in its entirety with CNC machinery. Three- and four-axis machining centres with capacity up to 1700 mm by 1000 mm by 1000 mm in XYZ are complimented by turning centres, grinding and spark erosion equipment. The one thing missing was five-axis machining capacity.


The XYZ UMC-5X at Rivercircle will help improve efficiency and open new opportunities.

“Our investments in machining capacity had led us to ever more complex machines and we had been considering five-axis for a few years, but always struggled to justify the price versus capability argument,” says Jonathan Theobalds, Managing Director Rivercircle Ltd. “The size of machine we needed always appeared far too expensive, while the machines we felt we could justify on price just didn’t have the performance or capacity we needed, limiting the potential gains for the business from five-axis. Therefore, when we then introduced to the XYZ UMC-5X, which was in the right ballpark as far as price and performance was concerned, we went for it!”

In its standard configuration the XYZ UMC-5X is a highly competitive package, with its gantry-style design and rigid construction ensuring a highly capable machine. A team from Rivercircle visited XYZ’s factory in Devon to see the machine in action and talk through its potential with the XYZ sales and applications teams. Given the type of work undertaken by Rivercircle, particularly on its mould tools where materials such as P20 tool steel is commonly machined, spindle performance and overall machine rigidity where vital to making a purchasing decision.

The 600 mm diameter table provides the versatility to machine large and small components.

“There were several factors that swung in favour of the XYZ UMC-5X”, says Paul Langan, Rivercircle’s Production Manager. “The machine construction and design gave us the confidence that it would perform as we expected and, with our mould tool work the high torque (260 Nm) and 15,000 revs/min spindle is perfect for roughing and finishing tool steel. Another key point was the option of the Heidenhain control, as this is a control system that we favour here, and not having that option would have been a barrier to us placing an order. As it was, we only used one day of training to familiarise ourselves with the machine, and our CAM programming Engineer, Steve Goodson, has fully embraced the move to five-axis with no further requirement for programming support from XYZ. We have also fully integrated our Mastercam software with the machine control and the post-processors were all updated during the installation of the machine making it a seamless process.”

The XYZ UMC-5X has the option of either the Siemens 840 DSL ShopMill or the Heidenhain iTNC 640 HSCI control, both of which feature industry-leading Traori/Kinematic functions, respectively, for improved accuracy during five-axis simultaneous machining. In addition, the UMC-5X also benefits from built-in thermal growth compensation for improved accuracy and repeatability and integrated patented Smart Machining Technology for improved productivity. Other key features of the machine are its C-axis, 90 revs/min, rotation via direct drive, low maintenance, high torque motor; +/- 120 degrees on the tilting A-axis, with 2.5 sec for full movement, with rigidity aided by the use of identical sized bearing at both ends of the axis; front loading for ease of access; high accuracy linear scales on the X, Y and Z axes; 600 mm axis travel in X and Y (500 mm in Z) and a 600 mm table diameter with a capacity to carry components up to 600 kg.

Examples of the special purpose test and assembly machines designed and built by Rivercircle.

The arrival of the XYZ UMC-5X at Rivercircle will initially allow the company to improve efficiency by transferring work from three and four-axis machines that required multiple operations. It will also open new opportunities for the sub-contact side of the business. “Whether it is for our own production, or for sub-contract work, we operate in a very competitive sector supplying the first and second tier customers in the automotive, transport, pharmaceutical, construction and petrochemical sectors, among others,” says Jonathan Theobalds. “Lead-times are often short, so we have to be able to meet our delivery promises at the right quality and at the right price. This move to five-axis machining with the XYZ UMC-5X will enhance our ability to meet customer demands. The support we had from XYZ prior to placing the order and the competitive price for such a capable machine made this transition straightforward.”