5-Axis CNC Machining: A Comprehensive Guide to You

what is 5-axis machining

If you’re in the manufacturing industry, you may have heard the term “5-axis machining” thrown around. But what exactly is it? And how does it differ from traditional machining methods?

In this blog post, we’ll break down the basics of 5-axis machining and explain why it’s becoming increasingly popular in the industry. Whether you’re a seasoned professional or just starting out, understanding 5 axis CNC machining can give you a competitive edge and open up new possibilities for your business. So let’s dive in and explore this cutting-edge technology together!

To understand 5-axis machining, we first need to grasp the fundamentals of CNC machining. CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machining involves using computer software to control the movement of machine tools, such as mills and lathes. These machine tools operate along specific axes, the main reference points for movement.

Traditionally, 3-axis machining has been the go-to method for many manufacturing tasks. In 3-axis machining, the tool moves along the X, Y, and Z axes. While effective for simpler tasks, this approach has limitations when dealing with complex and intricate designs.

Advancements to 4 and 5-Axis CNC Machining

Recognizing the need for more versatile solutions, the industry progressed to 4-axis machining, which introduced an additional rotational axis, usually along the A or B axis. This innovation enabled manufacturers to work on multiple sides of a workpiece without frequent repositioning.

The next leap in CNC machining came with 5-axis machining, which added two more axes to the equation. This multi-axis capability allows for unprecedented freedom of movement, enabling the tool to approach the workpiece from any angle. As a result, manufacturers can easily achieve intricate geometries and complex shapes.

What Is 5-Axis Machining?

5-axis machining is an advanced manufacturing technique that has revolutionized the world of CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machining. Unlike traditional 3-axis machining, which operates along the X, Y, and Z axes, 5-axis machining adds two rotational axes, typically A and B, allowing the cutting tool to tilt and swivel. A 5-axis CNC machine allows the machining of five different surfaces simultaneously.

This dynamic movement grants the machine unparalleled freedom to approach the workpiece from any angle, making it ideal for producing intricate and complex geometries with exceptional precision. Accessing multiple faces of the workpiece without repositioning reduces setup time, increases efficiency, and delivers a superior surface finish.

5 axis machine

How 5-Axis Machining Works

At the heart of 5-axis CNC milling lies the ability to achieve simultaneous motion along five axes: X, Y, Z, and two rotational axes, typically A and B. The A axis rotates around the X-axis, while the B axis rotates around the Y-axis. This combination of movement allows the tool to tilt and swivel, facilitating access to various faces of the workpiece without the need for repositioning.

The flexibility of 5-axis milling enables manufacturers to produce parts with minimal setups, reducing the chance of errors and increasing overall efficiency. Moreover, the continuous and smooth tool motion produces a higher-quality surface finish.

Benefits of 5-Axis CNC Machining

Enhanced Precision and Accuracy: By approaching the workpiece from different angles, 5-axis machining ensures better tool engagement and minimizes cutting vibration, resulting in higher precision and accuracy. With shorter cutting tools, there is little to no vibration, which reduces the incidence of marks on the surface of finished products.

Reduction in Setup Time: Traditional machining methods often require multiple setups to access different areas of the workpiece. 5-axis machining eliminates the need for repositioning, significantly reducing setup time and increasing productivity.

Increased Tool Life and Efficiency: Maintaining a constant tool orientation throughout the machining process reduces wear and tear on cutting tools, resulting in longer tool life and cost savings.

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Types of 5-Axis CNC Machines

There are three primary types of 5 axis CNC machines, each with its unique configuration and capabilities:

Head_Head 5 Axis Machine

Head/Head: In this type, the spindle head (the top part that holds the cutting tool) and the rotary axis are on the machine’s head. This setup allows simultaneous movement along both rotational axes, offering exceptional flexibility and precision in machining complex shapes and contours.

Head_Table 5 Axis Machine

Head/Table: In Head/Table 5-axis machines, the spindle head is fixed while the rotary axis is integrated into the table. The workpiece is positioned on the table, and the head can move in various directions to access different angles, enabling the machining of intricate features on the workpiece.

Table_Table 5 Axis Machine

Table/Table: The Table/Table configuration boasts two rotary axes in the machine’s table. The workpiece is secured to the table, and both the table and the head can move independently, providing simultaneous motion along both rotational axes. This type of machine offers a versatile solution for producing complex parts with high precision.

Different Operation Styles of 5-axis CNC Machining

Trunnion Style:

Trunnion Style

The Trunnion style 5-axis CNC machining operates with a fixed table and a rotating trunnion or rotary table. The workpiece is mounted on the trunnion, which can rotate around its axis, allowing the cutting tool to access various angles. This style offers excellent stability during machining and is well-suited for heavy and large workpieces. The Trunnion style excels at handling complex 3D contours and multi-sided parts, making it a preferred choice for the aerospace and automotive industries.


  • High stability and rigidity during machining.
  • Suitable for heavy and large workpieces.
  • Ideal for complex 3D shapes and multi-sided parts.


  • Limited range of rotation compared to other styles.
  • It may require additional setup time for complex setups.

Swivel Rotate Style:

Swivel Rotate Style

The Swivel Rotate style 5-axis CNC machining employs a swiveling head and a rotary table. The swiveling head can tilt to reach different angles, while the rotary table allows workpiece rotation. This style is versatile and capable of machining intricate features on complex surfaces. It is widely used in medical and aerospace industries to produce parts with tight tolerances and challenging geometries.


  • Versatile and capable of machining complex features.
  • Suitable for parts with tight tolerances.
  • Reduced setup time for multi-angle machining.


  • It may have lower rigidity compared to the Trunnion style.
  • The swiveling head may have limitations in some orientations.

Each operation style of 5-axis CNC machining offers unique advantages and suits specific applications. The choice between these styles depends on the complexity of the parts, required tolerances, workpiece size, and production demands.

Applications of 5-Axis Machining

Aerospace Industry: The aerospace sector benefits greatly from 5-axis machining, as it allows for producing lightweight, intricate components that meet strict tolerances. Turbine blades, engine components, and structural parts are often manufactured using this technology.

Automotive Industry: In the automotive sector, 5-axis machining is crucial in crafting complex components like cylinder heads, intake manifolds, and prototypes. The ability to work with various materials, including metals and composites, makes it indispensable for the industry.

Medical and Dental Industry: 5-axis machining is extensively used in medical and dental applications to create precise and patient-specific implants, prosthetics, and surgical tools.

Artistic and Sculptural Works: The artistic world also benefits from the versatility of 5-axis machining, as it allows artists to create intricate sculptures and designs with various materials.

Tips for Effective 5-Axis Machining

Selecting the Right Machine and Software: Investing in a high-quality 5-axis machining center and suitable CAM software is crucial for optimal results. Choose a machine that meets your specific manufacturing needs and offers the required features.

Work holding Strategies: Proper work holding ensures stability and accuracy during machining. Implementing advanced clamping and fixturing techniques will lead to better results.

Tool Selection and Management: Choose appropriate cutting tools for the material and design specifications. Regular tool inspection and maintenance will extend tool life and maintain precision.

Get High-Quality Precision CNC Machined Parts From CNCFIRST. 

CNCFIRST is your go-to source for high-quality precision CNC machined parts. With years of experience in the industry, CNCFIRST has established a reputation for delivering top-notch products that meet the strictest quality standards. We provide CNC milling, turning, sheet metal fabrication, wire EDM, and more CNC services.

Our precision machine shop allows for making complex parts with multiple side features and meets your strict specification. Whether you need small or large-volume production, we can fulfill your requirements efficiently and effectively. We work with various materials, including metals, plastics, and composites, ensuring they meet each customer’s unique needs. CNCFIRST also offers comprehensive customization options, allowing you to tailor the parts to your specifications.

You can expect fast turnaround times, competitive pricing, and excellent customer service from us. Whether you are in the automotive, aerospace, or medical industry, we are committed to delivering top-notch CNC machined parts that will exceed your expectations. 


5-axis machining is a cutting-edge technique that offers numerous advantages over traditional machining methods. By allowing for greater flexibility and precision in manufacturing, 5-axis machining opens up possibilities for creating complex and intricate parts. 

Whether in the aerospace, automotive, or medical industry, incorporating 5-axis machining into your manufacturing process can greatly enhance your productivity and product quality. With its ability to handle multiple axes simultaneously, this advanced method ensures faster production times and improved accuracy.

If you’re ready to take your manufacturing capabilities to the next level, consider exploring the possibilities of 5-axis machining.


What Makes 5-Axis Machining Different From 3-Axis Machining?

In 5-axis machining, the tool can approach the workpiece from multiple angles, allowing for greater flexibility and access to intricate features. This reduces the need for repositioning, resulting in higher precision and shorter production times than 3-axis machining.

What is 3+2-Axis Machining?

3+2 machining is achieved by adding a rotary table or tilt-rotary trunnion to a vertical machine. In 3+2 axis machining, the machine locks the two rotational axes (A and B) during tool engagement, essentially converting the operation to a 3-axis mode. This approach is particularly useful when certain features require machining from specific angles.

Is 5-Axis CNC Machining Suitable For Small-Scale Manufacturing?

While 5-axis machining offers numerous advantages, it is most beneficial for complex and high-precision parts. For small-scale manufacturing, it may only sometimes be cost-effective unless the designs require the capabilities offered by 5-axis machines.

Are There Any Limitations To 5-Axis Machining?

5-axis CNC machining excels in various applications but has some limitations. Complex 5-axis programming can be time-consuming and requires skilled operators. Additionally, the initial investment in equipment and training can be substantial for smaller businesses.

Can 5-Axis Machining Work With Any Material?

5-axis machining can work with various materials, including metals, plastics, and composites. However, the choice of material may influence the cutting tools and machining parameters required for the task.