What is the difference between 3 and 5 axis CNC machining?

5-axis CNC

Increasingly sophisticated CNC machines, software and human skill has meant that machining products, parts and components has changed considerably in a short period of time. 5 axis CNC is one of the results of these changes.

These changes have meant the ability to manufacture increasingly complex products can be achieved in timely and cost-effective ways.

One of the developments that has enabled this change is the development of 5 axis machining. In the past most machining used 3-axis machining tools, but improved digital control has led to the development of 5-axis machining. But what do these two machining techniques entail? And what are the main things that differentiate 3-axis machining from its 5-axis variant? The answers are in this article.

3 Axis Machining vs 5 axis CNC machining

Traditionally material was worked on 3 axes (X,Y and Z). Machining removes material on these three basic directions corresponding to the axis of a flat surface.

5-axis machining tooling that moves in five different directions corresponding to the 3 linear X, Y and Z axes +  two axes, A and B, around which the tool rotates. With such a configuration, the part can be approached from all directions and can be worked from five sides in a single operation.

3-axis machining 5-axis machining
Shallower products / parts Deeper  product s / parts
Shorter parts Taller parts
Less complex parts More complex or greater precision
Shorter preparation time Longer preparation time
More material handling Less material handling
Faster completion times Longer completion / turnaround


Improved machinery, every more sophisticated software and CAD technology has increased the efficiency of even the most complex 5axis projects, making such projects more achievable and affordable. Faster machining speeds and reduced downtime in switching between tooling has helped increase yields, turnaround and project efficiency.

Wrights Plastics has many years expertise with 3axis and 5axis machining. To discuss your CNC routing project email us on sales@wrightsplastics.co.uk or call us on 0121 580 3080


Posted on

3rd April 2019

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