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3 min read

What are the 5 axis in CNC?

5 axis cnc

Traveling back in time to Michelangelo’s day, there were no CNC online resources or the freedom to get a CNC instant quote online. The best tools that were available to use back then were a simple chisel and a hammer. Now, even though Michelangelo was able to create the iconic David statue with those said tools, they are surely not enough for today’s day and age to keep up with higher demands.

Jumping back into the present day, you have many more options you can take advantage of to fulfill your machining needs. And whether you are looking to develop a masterpiece like he did out of metal or plastics, or are seeking to raise the bar on the types of geometries that you can machine, then leveraging cutting edge 5-axis CNC machining equipment is the best way to go.

What is 5-Axis CNC Machining?

When talking about 5-axis machining, it is a more advanced technology over the traditional 3-axis version that has been utilized for decades. This particular model is able to move in five different directions, allowing machinists to have a desired five-sided approach for a single project. Most CNC manufacturers define their particular machine’s movements using the three primary axis points: X, Y, and Z (Z being the parallel to the tool spindle).

cnc machining in progressCNC machining in progress for a stainless steel part

For reference, 3-axis can move a part in two directions (X and Y), whereas 5-axis can rotate due to the additional two rotary axes (A and B) to support the cutting approach from all directions. This means that where 5-axis CNC machining shines in its ability to create complex shapes within a single set up, which also reduces machinist’s labor time while increasing production rates.

5 axis machiningSchematic representation of 5-axis machining

About the Axis

Though we briefly covered it above, this section goes into a bit more detail on what the 5-axis in CNC actually entails. For starters, the 5 axes are paths that the tools or parts can move along simultaneously. The main ones are X, Y, and Y, and are a part of the basic Cartesian Coordinate System, which was first proposed by the well-known philosopher and mathematician, Rene Descartes, back in the 1500s. The three lines, aka axis points, intersect at a center point (the origin).

The last two axes, A and B, are a bit harder to visualize, as they rotate around the main X and Y ones. These additional points allow 5-axis CNC machining to reach advanced levels in operational streamlining over previous technologies to date.

Fact: There is also an additional axis, called C, which rotates around the Z-axis as well, but is not usually used during CNC machining processes.

  axis CNC machining 

differences between the various types of CNC machining

Key Benefits

There are tons of benefits with going with 5-axis CNC machining, with a key one being the fact that you now have more opportunity to create complex parts or designs that you once were not able to do before. No matter what the prototype is or how large it may be, you can accomplish it with 5-axis equipment while also saving time and money in the long run due to the greater precision abilities. Some other notable benefits you can expect to gain include:

  • Single setups, which can reduce the risk of human-made alignment errors that can be costly. With one set up, you can begin and end your machining goals with the confidence that error prevention is at a minimum.
  • 5-axis machining features shorter cutting tools, allowing you to lower the head to orient the cutter correctly. This drastically reduces vibration, lowers the pressure on the cutter itself, and provides a more sleek, smooth surface finish.
  • Going this solution means you will be subjected to profound rotational accuracy. Each time you remove a part from your 3-axis machine, you lose that much needed precision alignment that fosters superior quality. But with 5-axis’s reality that you can complete an entire task with one set up means not only will you reduce your risk of errors listed above, but you will also improve quality as a direct outcome of the accuracy.


If Michelangelo has access to 5-axis CNC machining or the internet to look up CNC online, then he could have pumped out hundreds, if not thousands of Renaissance masterpieces in record time. This device was built for speed, efficiency, accuracy, and diversity, and one that is undoubtedly a valuable asset today for those very reasons. And even though every manufacturing company has their own processes, more and more industries are taking advantage of 5-axis machining for its impressive benefits, making it a fundamental tool that will likely remain the preferred CNC machining method well into the future.

At Weerg we produce parts exclusively with 5-axis continuous CNC machines Hermle c42u and Mazak smooth.


Sources and further reading,the%20workpiece%20from%20any%20direction.

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