4-Axis CNC Machining and 5-Axis CNC Machining

CNC Machining

Axes used in CNC machining have a great deal of application in product manufacturing. This is due to their significance as well as the fact that 4- and 5-axis CNC machining is often used by the majority of contemporary CNC machines.

You will learn about 5-axis and 4-axis CNC machining in this article. This will cover their fundamental ideas, how they differ, and how to pick the best one for your machining projects.

Please read more about how to choose 4-axis CNC machining and 5-axis CNC machining.

What does 3-Axis CNC Machining Entail?

To comprehend the operational principles of 4-axis and 5-axis CNC machining, it’s essential to grasp the fundamentals of 3-axis machining—a prevalent method still extensively employed in CNC machining.

In a typical 3-axis CNC machining procedure, three mechanisms contribute to part creation. The first involves the vertical movement of the spindle, while the other two entail lateral and longitudinal movements.

Drawbacks of 3-axis CNC Machining

3-axis CNC machining operates along three axes (XYZ). While this approach is effective, it does have notable limitations. One limitation is the consistent angle maintained by the cutting tool, making it challenging to access and cut materials in hard-to-reach areas of the workpiece. Additionally, the need for multiple setups for a part can significantly diminish productivity. These constraints have led to the widespread adoption of 4-axis and 5-axis CNC machining.

What is 4-Axis CNC Machining?

Given the constraints of 3-axis machining as outlined earlier, the popularity of 4-axis and 5-axis CNC machining has risen. The 4-axis CNC machining process maintains the same basic operational principles but introduces an additional axis.

In a 4-axis CNC machine, the spindle moves vertically, horizontally, and longitudinally, while the workpiece remains fixed on the machine table. Additionally, the 4-axis CNC machining involves rotation along the X-axis, referred to as the A-axis. This supplementary axis enhances the machine’s capabilities, making it adept at tasks such as hole drilling and cut-outs.

Generally, 4-axis CNC machining is favored over its 3-axis counterpart due to its ability to enhance production speed and accuracy.

4-axis CNC machining

What is 5-Axis CNC Machining?

5-axis CNC machining shares similarities with the 3-axis process but introduces two crucial features: two extra axes and increased cutting flexibility.

In 5-axis CNC machining, the spindle and cutting tool move along the traditional three axes, with additional rotations on the X-axis (A-axis), Y-axis (B-axis), and Z-axis (C-axis). The machine can employ any two of these rotational axes, depending on its configuration.

This versatility enables 5-axis CNC machining to perform various tasks, including milling and turning, consolidating the workload on a single machine for multiple part productions.

5-Axis CNC Machining - 5-Axis Machine

3+2 Axis CNC Machining

A subset of 5-axis machining, 3+2-axis machining acts as a middle ground between 3-axis and 5-axis systems. Also known as positional 5-axis machining, it offers rapid and highly efficient performance.

In 3+2-axis machining, the cutting tool maintains a constant angle as the spindle or table rotates around the two extra axes. This means the tool is not always perpendicular to the part, resulting in cuts that may not be perfect.

Indexed 3+2-axis machining is a variant where the cutting tool’s angle can be manually adjusted between cuts, providing additional flexibility.

Simultaneous 5-axis CNC Machining

In simultaneous 5-axis machining, the cutting tool can consistently remain perpendicular to the part, offering continuous operation. This approach yields a superior surface finish and facilitates access to challenging areas, albeit at a slower pace compared to 3+2-axis machining.

Distinguishing Between 4-Axis and 5-Axis CNC Machining

The primary disparity between 4-axis CNC machining and 5-axis CNC machining revolves around the additional axes each system incorporates, leading to nuanced distinctions.

  • Variation in Axes
    4-axis CNC machining features one supplementary axis, the A-axis, while 5-axis CNC machining integrates two extras, which may manifest as the A-axis, B-axis, or C-axis, depending on the machine’s configuration.
  • Rotation within Axes
    In 4-axis CNC machining, rotation is confined to the A-axis, whereas 5-axis CNC machining permits rotation on two of the three axes, namely the A-axis, B-axis, and C-axis.
  • Flexibility
    The added axis in 5-axis CNC machining surpasses that of 4-axis CNC machining, offering not only an extra dimension but also non-localized flexibility. In the context here, “localized” refers to the fact that the extra axis in 4-axis CNC machining is consistently aligned with the X-axis. Conversely, in 5-axis CNC machining, this extra axis can be distributed across two of the XYZ axes. This non-localized property grants 5-axis CNC machining a superior level of flexibility over 4-axis CNC machining.
  • Cost
    The enhanced features and functionalities of 5-axis CNC machining contribute to its higher cost compared to 4-axis CNC machining.

Irrespective of their specific configurations, both 4-axis and 5-axis machines exhibit greater versatility in moving their cutting tools, enabling a more extensive range of angles than 3-axis machines. This capability facilitates complex machining operations, enhances accuracy, and can eliminate the need for multiple setups.

Advantages of 4-Axis and 5-Axis CNC Machining

The utilization of 4-axis CNC machining and 5-axis CNC machining presents a myriad of benefits, allowing you to choose the most suitable option. These advantages encompass heightened accuracy, reduced setup time, and the capacity to fabricate more intricate parts.

Additional specific benefits hinge on the machine’s configuration or whether 3+2-axis or continuous 5-axis machining is employed.

In general, 3+2-axis machining provides advantages such as:

  • Swift machining.
  • Straightforward setup.
  • Minimal risk of tool interference.

Continuous 5-axis machining offers advantages such as:

  • Superlative surface finish.
  • Improved access to intricate part geometries.
  • Diminished tool wear.

Applications of 4-Axis and 5-Axis CNC Machining

The significance of 4-axis CNC machining and 5-axis CNC machining extends to various applications in product manufacturing. Depending on the chosen axis, these technologies prove valuable in crafting molds with deep cavities, generating intricate 3D shapes, and machining on tilted surfaces of a part without compromising precision.

Among the two, 5-axis CNC machining finds extensive use in a diverse array of parts. Notably, it has gained prominence in the production of components like impellers and turbine blades, characterized by contoured surfaces impractical for 3-axis machining.

Choosing Between 4-Axis and 5-Axis CNC Machining

Deciding between 4-axis CNC machining and 5-axis CNC machining for your project involves considering a few key factors. The three crucial elements to contemplate are:

Your Budget:
The cost increases from 3-axis to 4-axis and further to 5-axis, reflecting the augmented capabilities, functions, and features with each progression.

Your Requirements:
Opt for 5-axis CNC machining for intricate and complex parts. Conversely, for projects focused on producing small and straightforward components, 3-axis and 4-axis prove ideal.

Operating Procedures:
The complexity of operation escalates with the axis number. In situations demanding a straightforward operating procedure, 3-axis is the simplest, followed by 4-axis CNC machining.

CNC Machining Services at Sungplastic

Understanding the differences between 4-axis and 5-axis CNC machining as a novice is the first step in creating the ideal result. This is due to the fact that the majority of CNC machines use the 3-, 4-, and 5-axis CNC machining processes. Consequently, the differences between the three are discussed in this article.

Have you considered utilizing one of the two procedures for your project? Our skilled staff has extensive experience with CNC machining, so we can ensure that the items we provide meet your needs. Please get in touch with us to get an instant quotation and analysis!


What is XYZ axis CNC?
The XYZ axes delineate the direction of movement for CNC machines. The X-axis signifies left and right movements, the Y-axis represents forward and backward movements, and the Z-axis indicates up and down movements. Both 4-axis and 5-axis CNC machining operate based on these axes, incorporating a rotational effect within the axis. In 4-axis CNC machining, the rotational effect occurs on the X-axis, whereas in 5-axis CNC machining, it is observed in two of the axes.

What is a 6-axis CNC?
A 6-axis CNC machining process also exists, primarily designed for high-volume machining. The utilization of 6-axis CNC machining is exceptionally efficient, resulting in significant time savings during production.

Get a free quote and design analysis today.

We’ll reply to you within 6 working hours.
We respect your privacy.

+86 139 2927 4777 (WhatsApp, Wechat)