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What Is 3-axis, 4-axis, and 5-axis CNC Machining?

CNC machining has become one of the most critical manufacturing processes used in workshops globally. By adding computer control to previous manual processes, the accuracy and precision of machining parts have made significant advances. Additionally, due to the increasingly complex requirements of various industries, CNC machines have undergone many evolutions to better satisfy customers' needs. The development of CNC machining technology has given birth to various forms and variations, including 3-axis, 4-axis, and 5-axis CNC machines.

What Is 3-Axis CNC Machining?

3-axis CNC machining is the simplest and most common form. This process uses rotating tools that move along three axes to machine a fixed workpiece.

Cutting tools move along the X, Y, and Z axes to trim excess material from parts. Additionally, it can even move simultaneously along these multiple axes to create the desired design.

This means that CNC machines can cut into the workpiece from side to side, front to back, and up and down. However, the worktable that holds the fixed workpiece cannot move freely. Despite more advanced systems available in the industry today, 3-axis CNC machining still widely used. So, let's take a look at some advantages of keeping it.

Low cost

3-axis CNC machining is best suited for quick production of basic geometric shapes and simple components. Additionally, programming and setting up computers for production runs are relatively easy in 3-axis machining.


3-axis CNC machining is a highly versatile part manufacturing process. By simply changing the tools, drilling, milling, and even turning operations can be performed. These machines also integrate with automatic tool changers, thus expanding their capabilities.

What Is 4-Axis CNC Machining?

4-axis CNC machining offers a significant upgrade over 3-axis machining. It adds extra freedom through rotary motion, making machining complex features possible and more direct. In 4-axis CNC machining, the tool moves freely along the X, Y, and Z axes to machine the workpiece. However, the workpiece does not remain stationary on the worktable as in 3-axis machining.

4-axis CNC machine tools can rotate the workpiece around the X-axis in a plane called the A-axis. Therefore, you can cut along the contours of the workpiece as the tool moves along it, and the worktable rotates it. Many advantages come from choosing 4-axis CNC machine tools for your manufacturing project.

Higher design complexity can be achieved

As the worktable rotates around the X-axis, a 4-axis CNC machine can produce intricate parts with complex details. Additionally, the additional rotation allows for access and machining of parts on other faces at strange angles to create the final product.

High precision and accuracy

4-axis CNC machining can access multiple faces of a workpiece without the need for adjustments or tool replacement. Therefore, parts made with it are highly accurate and in compliance with strict standards.

Higher speed and lower production costs

Most of the work done on a four-axis CNC machine can be completed with just one installation. Therefore, work can proceed smoothly without the need to stop or intervene to replace fixtures and tools. Additionally, production costs are significantly reduced, especially compared to 3-axis machining, as multiple fixtures are not required to secure the part.

What Is 5-Axis CNC Machining?

5-axis CNC machining is the most accurate and advanced method for manufacturing complex, precision metal parts in a workshop. In a 5-axis CNC machine, the tool moves on the X, Y, and Z axes, just like in a 3-axis machine. In addition, the worktable can rotate the workpiece around the X and Y axes.

These rotating planes are called the A and B axes, respectively. These additional rotations open up other faces of the workpiece that were previously inaccessible for machining. Therefore, precise 3D machining can be performed on a five-axis CNC machine because the machine moves on the XYZ axes while simultaneously rotating on the A and B planes.

As a professional CNC China company, Richconn provides both 4-axis and 5-axis CNC machining services. Feel free to contact us at any time.

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