5 Axis Machining Explained

Posted on January 15, 2019

How 5 Axis CNC Machining Works

5 axis CNC machines are one of the most advanced innovations within the engineering sector and metalworking industry. With advances in technology, they have also become simpler to use and configure or program using CAD/CAM software.

At first, the concept of a 5 axis CNC machine can seem strange. The three “normal” axes are XYZ which are also known as the three dimensions. However, the two extra axes may refer to either A, B or C axes. Rather than completely new axes, these refer to rotation along the XYZ axes.

Usually, the two extra axes are the A and C axes. The A axis utilises a tilting mechanism along the X axis, whereas the C axis refers typically to the base which rotates 360° on the Z axis.

5 axis machining diagram

Why Do Manufacturers Use 5 Axis Machining?


There are several advantages to 5 axis machining over 4 or traditional 3 axis machining. The key advantage is that it allows you to mill at an almost infinite number of angles in a single set-up. Usually, complex parts would have to be milled with multiple different machines, as a single 3 axis machine does not provide the manoeuvrability of a 5 axis machine.

The increased rotary capability allows the cutting tool to get closer and more level with the piece being machined, allowing for even more precision, helping with angular designs.

Another use of the extra axes is to machine sloped surfaces or planes, a task which is much more challenging to perform with a 3-axis machine.

5 axis cnc machine

Bridgeport XT630 5 Axis CNC Machine



One of the most common parts machined using 5 axes is a turbine blade. As it is a complicated surface involving many different angles, 5 axes make it much easier to machine the contours of the blade.

5 axis turbine

A Turbine Blade Being Milled

5 Benefits of 5 Axis Machining


  1. It is a Cost-Effective Way of Manufacturing Complex Parts

One of the most significant benefits is economical – consequently, you save time and money when manufacturing as being able to articulate, meaningless fixture preparation. Being able to machine complex designs in a single setup increases productivity.


  1. Improved Surface Finish and Tool life

5 axis manoeuvrability means you can use shorter cutting tools with higher cutting speeds and less vibration, resulting in improved surface finishes. These machines allow the machine head to be closer to the surface of the cutter. This allows for the use of a higher cutting speed which ultimately leads to a longer tool life as vibration is reduced.


  1. Higher Part Precision

As there is no need to move the same workpiece across multiple workstations, therefore, part accuracy is higher. This is one of the critical objectives and measurements of quality in machining.


  1. Less Competition

If you’re looking for an edge over your competitors, 5 axis CNC machines are a fantastic opportunity. By investing, you will be able to offer something to your customers that your competitors cannot. This gives a potential customer a good reason to choose you over your competitors, as it sets you apart from the crowd.


  1. Save Money

One of the largest priorities of machine shop owners is saving money. All the benefits listed above fall under the umbrella of saving users money. It is difficult to put an exact monetary value on all these factors, but any experienced CNC Operator or Machinist will be able to see the benefits both immediate and long-term.

By saving users time, you also directly save money. Improved tool life means fewer tools are needed, and improved accuracy means a lower risk of costly mistakes.

There are also many other ways 5-axis machines save you money including reduced floor space requirements, increased flexibility and spindle usage, decreased need for costly fixtures and overall lower inventory investment.

Although a 5-axis machine is certainly a significant investment, the overall decrease in expenses combined with the other benefits listed makes it a smart choice for machine shops.


Drawbacks of 5 Axis Machining

5 axis machining also means having an increased number of moving parts in your machine, which in turn raises the possibility of crashes or technical problems. Additionally, more maintenance is required for more parts.

CNC programming also may be more difficult: having 5 axes can be more complicated to program and learn when compared to traditional 3 axis machining.


5 Axis Machining at Engineering Technology Group (ETG)

We have a variety of 5 axis machines available across the range of machine tools our associates offer. This includes machines from Chiron, Quaser and Bridgeport Hardinge.

If you’re interested in saving time and money while increasing product quality through machining solutions, feel free to contact us for your turnkey solution.