The Difference Between 3-axis, 4-axis and 5-axis Milling Machine
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The Difference Between 3-axis, 4-axis and 5-axis Milling Machine

Views: 6666     Author: Site Editor     Publish Time: 2019-06-25      Origin: Site


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In the past few years, part manufacturing technology has changed a lot to meet the changing needs of various production sectors. Milling is one of the main technologies to manufacture high-precision parts by removing shavings from raw materials. In the past, this was usually done using relatively basic 3-axis machining tools, but due to the increased use of CNC 5-axis machining, modernization has now been greatly improved.How to make the right milling choice for your specific part and application needs is very necessary no matter medical, aerospace, optical, or other. When it comes to choosing 3-axis, 4-axis or 5-axis milling for the components in your production, manufacturing will be the key decider in your choice, including cost, turnaround times, and precision. But what are those two kinds of CNC milling machine? What is the difference between 3-axis, 4-axis and 5-axis milling? The answer is in this article.


1. What are 3-axis, 4-axis and 5-axis milling machine?

2. What do they design for?


What are 3-axis, 4-axis and 5-axis milling machine

  • 3-axis milling

3-axis milling evolved from the practice of rotary filing, a milling process that operates on two axes, the X-axis and the Y-axis. In three-axis machining, when the cutting tool moves along the 3 axes, the workpiece remains stationary to mill the part. 3-axis milling is still one of the most widely used techniques for creating mechanical parts and can be used for automatic/interactive operations, milling slots, drilling and cutting sharp edges. Since 3-axis machining is performed on only 3 axes, it is relatively simple and allows material to be moved from back to front, side to side, and up and down in the 3 axes.

3-axis milling is one of the most widely used techniques for manufacturing machine parts. For decades, it has been known to manufacturers and other participants in the industrial sector as well as in architecture, design and the arts. It is well suited for components that are not too deep, but this technique is greatly limited when trying to deal with deeper sections with narrow cavities. Then, the work can become very labor intensive and not perfect.


  • 4-axis machining

4-axis milling involves the same process involved in 3-axis milling where a cutting tool is used to remove material from the workpiece to produce the desired shape and contour. However, in the case of 4-axis milling, milling is performed on the additional shaft. The 4-axis CNC machine runs on the X-axis, Y-axis and Z-axis, just like a 3-axis machine, but it also includes a rotation around the X-axis, called the A-axis. This is the 4th axis added to our milling process. In most cases, the workpiece will rotate to allow cutting around the B-axis. 4-axis milling is useful when you need to make holes and cuts around the sides or around the part. They can provide fast and efficient work based on computer digital input to get accurate results.


  • 5-axis milling

The 5-axis milling machine is the best CNC milling machine on the market, creating precise and complex parts for artificial bones, aerospace products, titanium parts, oil and gas mechanical parts, automotive molds, medical, construction and military products. The 5th axis of the 5-axis milling machine surrounds the B-axis and rotates around the Y-axis in the X-Y-Z plane. This multi-dimensional rotation and tool movement gives the B-axis unmatched precision, finish and speed in the production. 5-axis machining creates very complex parts, which is why it is important for advanced applications such as aerospace applications. However, 5-axis milling is also becoming more popular as it offers single-step milling options (shortened lead times) for better access to part geometry and improved tool life and efficiency by tilting the table to the ideal cutting position.

Unlike 3-axis milling, this technology is ideal for deeper parts made of harder materials and ensures high precision thanks to the use of shorter milling tools. The milling speed is also faster, while reducing tool vibration.

In the past few years, a number of hardware and software have been developed to provide complete computer control of processing tools for 5-axis milling. These digital controls efficiently process a wide range of materials and surfaces with high precision. This computer aided manufacturing (CAM) also allows the process to be partially or fully automated. In addition to high quality, sophisticated products, this technology has many advantages. Faster processing, higher throughput, and the ability to make very large parts.


What do they design for?

  • 3 axis

From the practice of rotary filling, 3-axis milling is the average manual milling technique for cutting parts on three axes; X, Y and Z axis. Although many machines have moving beds, the 3-axis milling is stationary and the tool itself is running. The 3-axis model is versatile and the precise machine is designed for:

Automatic/interactive operation

Milling slot


Cutting sharp edges

3-axis milling produces the same products as 5-axis machines, but 3-axis machines do not provide the same detail or efficiency as their predecessors. The 3-axis can cut a single feature during operation, but it does not match the quality or profitability of the 5-axis.


  • 4 axis

Similar to the 3-axis CNC vertical milling machine, the 4-axis milling machine operates vertically and can function in time. They are user friendly and have manual and computer boot operations. The 4-axis is just one step away from the high-quality, precision engraving, drilling and milling of 5-axis machines compared to detailed work and precision. Despite its shortcomings, 4-axis CNC machines can be used for different purposes, including:


Technical research


Hobby prototype building

Advertising Design

Creative art

Medical device creation

The 4-axis is a versatile CNC tool that can run on wood, foam, composite panels, aluminum alloys and even PCBs with a slightly higher function than the 3 axes.


  • 5-axis

At present, the best CNC milling machine, 5-axis milling is a fast working, precise micro-machining power plant. As a miracle of the 21st century, 5-axis CNC machines offer impeccable products and parts. Unlike the 3-axis, this extremely fast milling machine has an efficient and impressive production capacity:

Artificial bone

Aerospace products

Titanium creation - practical and artistic purposes

Oil and gas machinery parts

Car mould

medical technology

Building door frame

Military grade products

The 5-axis CNC cuts the world's most complex and cumbersome design. It runs much faster than 3-axis CNC machines and offers the highest precision and quality vertical milling available today.


In the end, we have talked about the differences between 3-axis, 4-axis and 5-axis milling machine and what they design for respectively. So which type of milling, 3-axis or 4-axis or 5-axis, should you choose for your project will all depends on your unique requirements, budget and time line. For expert advice, talk with us to find the right match for your needs.


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