How does 5-axis CNC Machining Work?

Jan. 20, 2022

5 axis parts

In CNC machining, a part is formed by using cutting tools and subtractive machining technology, which cuts away at the workpiece to form the desired shape. The shape is predetermined by the original CAD (Computer-Aided Design) file. A program is then produced in G-Code format which feeds instructions directly to the CNC machine.


Currently, it is most common for CNC Milling machines to have 3 axes to work from, X, Y and Z. However, 5-axis CNC machines use further axes, to implement into the cutting process from additional angles, giving greater scope for more complicated and intricate designs. So, axes A, B and C can be introduced.


These axes work alongside X, Y and Z, in rotational angles, to deliver a 5-axis cutting machine capable of intricate designs, while still remaining a very high quality to the finished piece. The A, B and C axes move independently to the X, Y and Z in a rotating fashion. The specific configuration of the machine or CAD design determines which 2 of the 3 additional rotational axes are used. This 5-axis configuration comes at a greater cost due to the higher levels of calibration and automation technology needed to run the CNC machine and input the commands.


In terms of precision engineering technology, 5-axis machining can offer the best precision engineering solutions, and it is an industry-leading engineering process within the automotive, aerospace and medical industries to name a few.


Benefits of 5-Axis CNC Machining

High-quality finish

Due to the advanced capabilities of a cutting tool working with 5 axes, a higher quality finish is achievable. This is because the cutting tools can be shorter on a 5-axis CNC machine. This reduces the vibration of the tool and as a result, reducing the chance of “chatter” marks and ensures a smoother surface finish on the final part. The time consuming and costly need for hand finishing can be almost entirely eradicated, as 5-axis machines can closely follow contoured geometry that is traditionally harder to machine.

More complex shapes can be produced

5-axis CNC Machining can produce very complex geometries. For example, machining castings and parts that include many different features would, in the past, require a multitude of setups to machine and finish the desired shape. However, with a single set-up, 5-axis machining can complete a piece to its exact requirements with only one fixture in most cases.

Faster output

Due to the high speed of 5-axis machining and increased automation, there is little need for intervention or manual processes. This is commonly known as “done in one” and “one-hit machining”. The multiple axes mean the whole workpiece can be cut in one go, as opposed to the need for several operations to complete the final piece. This, in turn, results in faster output capacity.

5-Axis Machining Configurations

The 3 axes X, Y and Z work in the same fashion and calibration as a 3-axis CNC machine. The movement of the additional 2 axes working within 5-axis machining is always controlled by the CNC program inputting the instructions to the machine.


There are fundamentally two styles of CNC machining that operate with 5-axis:

Trunnion Style

A Trunnion style 5-Axis machine operates with an A-axis rotating about the X-axis, and a C-axis rotating around the Z-axis. The rotary axes are expressed via the movement of the table. This type is more suited to larger work volumes, as there is no need to compensate for the space taken up by the swivelling handle.

Swivel rotate style

A swivel rotates style 5-Axis machine operates with a B axis rotating around the Y-axis, and a C-axis rotating about the Z-axis. It differs in that the table is always horizontal during the cutting process, meaning it can support heavier parts. The rotary axes are expressed by the swivelling cutting arm.


For further information about 5-Axis CNC Machining and how it could benefit your business, contact us today. With years of expertise, we will get back to you within 24 hours with a detailed and concise quote regarding your requirements. From the first contact to the safe delivery of components and fast lead times, XYT have got you covered.

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