How to Choose Between Desktop CNC 3-Axis and 5-Axis Machines

Which parts can only be machined by five-axis machine and cannot be machined by three-axis machine?

Five-axis machining, compared to three-axis machining, offers greater flexibility and capability as it can move along five independent axes. Here are some advantages and processing capabilities of five-axis machining relative to three-axis machining:

  1. Multi-directional Cutting: Five-axis machine tools can simultaneously translate along the X, Y, Z axes and rotate around the A and C axes, allowing cutting in multiple directions.
  2. Slope Machining: Five-axis machine tools can cut the workpiece surface at an angle, achieving more complex shapes and contours.
  3. Complex Surface Machining: For complex surfaces or curves, five-axis machine tools can more easily maintain tool consistency with the workpiece surface, achieving high-precision machining.
  4. Spiral Tool Paths: Five-axis machine tools can use spiral tool paths, reducing cutting forces, improving tool life, and enhancing surface quality.
  5. Fewer Fixture Requirements: Through five-axis machining, the need for complex fixtures can be reduced, as the workpiece can be cut at various angles, minimizing the need for re-clamping.
  6. Machining Complex Geometric Shapes: Five-axis machine tools are suitable for machining complex geometric shapes such as spiral grooves and blades.

Overall, five-axis machining provides a more flexible, efficient, and high-precision machining method, making it suitable for manufacturing complex components and molds.

What are some typical components for five-axis machining?

Five-axis machining is suitable for a variety of complex parts that require intricate shapes and precise contours. Here are some typical components that benefit from five-axis machining:

  1. Aircraft Engine Components: Complex parts like turbine blades and engine components with intricate shapes and surfaces.
  2. Medical Implants: Personalized and complex-shaped medical implants, such as bone implants and prosthetics.
  3. Mold and Die Components: Complex molds and dies used in the manufacturing of plastic or metal parts.
  4. Aerospace Components: Parts for aircraft and spacecraft, especially those with complex geometries and structures.
  5. Automotive Components: Engine components, transmission parts, and other automotive components with intricate shapes.
  6. Turbomachinery Components: Parts for turbines, compressors, and other turbomachinery that require precise shaping.
  7. Artistic Sculptures: Complex sculptures and artistic pieces with intricate details and curves.
  8. Complex Gears: Gears with non-traditional shapes or helical gears that benefit from multi-axis machining.
  9. Impellers and Propellers: Components like impellers in pumps or propellers in marine applications with complex shapes.
  10. Orthopedic Instruments: Tools and instruments used in orthopedic surgeries that require precision and complex shaping.

These examples showcase the versatility of five-axis machining in handling intricate, three-dimensional, and complex geometries across various industries.

Should I choose a three-axis CNC machine or a five-axis CNC machine?

Five-axis CNC machine tools and three-axis CNC machine tools have significant differences in processing capabilities, flexibility, and applicability. Here are the main characteristics and the respective advantages and disadvantages:

Three-axis CNC Machine


  1. Simplicity and ease of use: Operations are relatively simple, making it easy to learn and use.
  2. Lower cost: Compared to five-axis machines, three-axis machines are generally more economical.
  3. Suitable for simple parts: For parts with relatively simple geometry, three-axis machines are sufficient.


  1. Limited processing capabilities: Three-axis machines are constrained by the number of motion axes, making it difficult to handle complex surfaces and parts with multiple intersecting features.
  2. Constraints on producing complex-shaped parts: Three-axis machines may not meet precision and surface finish requirements for parts with complex geometric shapes.

Five-axis CNC Machine


  1. Wider range of processing capabilities: Able to cut the workpiece at multiple angles simultaneously, suitable for machining complex surfaces and geometric shapes.
  2. Reduced tooling requirements: Due to the ability to cut from multiple angles, the need for complex tooling is reduced.
  3. Increased production efficiency: Completing multiple machining steps in one setup enhances overall production efficiency.


  1. Higher complexity and cost: The mechanical structure and control systems of five-axis machines are more complex, leading to higher equipment costs.
  2. Higher operational and programming difficulty: Operations and programming for five-axis machines are more complex, requiring experienced operators and programmers.

In summary, the choice between three-axis and five-axis CNC machine tools depends on specific machining needs and budget considerations. For simple-shaped parts, three-axis machines may be more cost-effective, while for complex-shaped and high-precision parts, five-axis machines are more suitable.