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What is 5 Axis CNC Machining?

by M Sakhawat
Big Data

A CNC metal cutting machine is part of a manufacturing process with computer numerical control (CNC) added to the machines, materials, and objects. This revolutionary way of manufacturing allows for precise, high speed production by automatically programming the motions and sequences.

5 Axis CNC Machining is a technique used for machining on machines that can be moved in all six degrees, or on some occasions, five. This process allows the operator to machine on any angle and multiple planes. There are several different configurations for this type of machining, with a large amount of them being patented by various companies. A simple explanation of this machining setup is that it allows the machine to move in two axes, both perpendicular to each other and independent of the spindle’s rotation.


The first patents concerning CNC 5 Axis Machining surfaced around 1965 when Dyson Corp. patented them under control systems for prismatic parts. The patents for the most common 5 axis machine configurations were in the late 1970s when large companies such as Ford Motor Company, GE Aircraft Engines, and Hewlett-Packard began to patent their unique designs.

Theory of Operation

CNC 5 Axis Machining is similar to 3 Axis CNC machining with minor differences. The first difference is that there are two additional axes on the machine, where one is perpendicular to the Z-axis, and the other is perpendicular to both X and Y axes. These allow for tooling on multiple planes without having to reposition between cuts. The second difference between 3 Axis CNC machining and 5 Axis CNC machining is a rotational axis in the center of the machine tool. This allows for such movements as tilting, spinning, and rolling the workpiece.


CNC 5 Axis machining is a very diverse area of technology that allows it to be used for many applications; some examples are detailed below:

  • Large pieces such as airplane wings and fuselages may be very large and heavy but still need to be machined on five planes.
  • High-speed machining for critical tolerances where the workpiece also requires good surface finishes and tolerances.
  • Machining on extremely narrow angles, such as cutting keyways in shafts using a rotary axis (roll only).
  • When very small tolerances are required for an application with no room to adjust the conventional 3 Axis CNC Machine components.
  • To produce parts with multiple open cavities or uncovered areas where a part can be mounted on a rotary axis to make enclosed parts with the openings facing up.
  • Machining small cavities and interlocking shapes in a single part without making a complex assembly of smaller components. It also reduces material scrap and makes assembly of the parts much easier.


  • Due to its adaptability, CNC 5 Axis machining can machine on five planes and multiple angles. This allows for a huge variety of applications, both aesthetically and functionally. It also allows for quick changes between programs when changing from one shape to another on the same plane.
  • Accuracy is not lost when machining complex shapes because all angles can be cut to the same level of accuracy without repositioning.
  • Ability to do high-speed machining for critical tolerances where the workpiece also requires good surface finishes and tolerances.
  • Aesthetic finishing of the part by machining patterns on curved surfaces.

CNC 5 Axis machining is a large technology area with many applications. Due to its adaptability, it can be used in multiple applications. However, it does not excel in any particular application.

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