Demystifying 5-Axis Machining| Lets Bust Some Myths

by Virginia Wilbur

CNC machining offers a lot of comforts when manufacturing parts and prototypes. 5-Axis machining has numerous benefits over standard vertical milling machines. However, the art of 5-Axis machining can be confusing. Let us learn some more about 5-Axis machining and bust some common myths and misconceptions.

The Cartesian plane describes the positioning on an object on three-dimensional axes; X, Y, and Z. The same concept applies to a 5-Axis machine except from the two additional axes. In a 5-Axis milling machine, the cutting tool revolves around the X, Y, and Z axes and rotates around the A, B (or C) axes. The table and the cutting tool move harmoniously in patterns to avoid collisions in the machines. There are software’s engineered specifically to avoid crashing in the machines.

The difference between 5-Axis machining and 3+2 Axis machining

To differentiate the two, you need to understand their functional disparities. A 5-Axis machine offers three linear axes where the cutting tool revolves and two additional rotational axes. This machine allows for repetitive action without resetting the workpiece over and over. A 3+2 Axis machine offers the same features, but the workpiece is held at a fixed position, meaning that the process cannot be replicated without resetting the workpiece.

Types of 5-Axis CNC machines

5-axis machines can be categorized into three;

  • Head/Head
  • Table/Head
  • Table/Table


Under this type of 5-Axis CNC machine, the revolving and rotating axes are found on the heat of the cutting tool. A 5-Axis apex moves through a fixed table that keeps the workpiece in position. The revolving axes have movement restrictions. Since the apex can move around the workpiece, it makes this machine the best for large parts.


At this juncture, the rotary shafts are located on the table while the revolving axes are situated on the cutting tool’s head. There is limited movement on the revolving axes.


This type of machine has all the rotary axes located on the table. Like all the others, there is limited movement in the revolving axes. This type of machine does not have a large work envelope restricting it to fewer parts, unlike the other types.

Common myths about 5-Axis machining

  1. Controls are too complex. A lot of people believe that the controls in a 5-Axis machine are too complex to deal with. They forget that these machines’ controls are customizable, and you do not need rocket science to operate a machine.
  2. 5-Axis machines are too expensive. If you are using standard vertical machining, you require some add-ons to achieve the work done by a 5-Axis machine. These add-ons cost you money, and the output of a 5-axis machine covers your expenses easily.
  3. 5-Axis machining requires a lot of training. With computer-aided designs, the need for human intervention is reduced significantly, meaning that to operate a machine, you do not require a lot of special training.

There are 6-Axis machines but the work done is no different from a 5-Axis machine. It is worth noting the difference between a 5-Axis machine and a 3+2 Axis machine, so you don’t get mixed up with the two.

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