3! 4! 5! Development history of 5-axis cnc machine

  • Updated: June 25, 2024

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Michael Yu

As a compound talent with History, Filmmaking, and Digital Manufacturing background, Michael Yu has dedicated his life to dispelling misconceptions about the manufacturing sector and transforming it into a fascinating and competent industry.
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As Francis Bacon said, ‘History makes a man wise’. In addition to learning about the fundamentals and practical applications of manufacturing processes and technologies, we need also be aware of their evolutionary history and how they got to be as they are now.

I’ll be introducing the development history of 5 axis CNC machine to our esteemed readers today so you can learn about its origins, when it first debuted, and how it differs from 3 and 4-axis machining.

What is 5-axis machining?

XMAKE-5-axis machine

5 axis machining refers to the process of using a machine tool with five axes of motion to create complex and intricate shapes and designs.

This type of machining allows for greater flexibility and precision in the manufacturing process, as it can move the cutting tool along 5 different axes simultaneously, which includes X, Y, and Z axis for linear movement, as well as A and B axes for rotary movement.

Development History of 5-Axis Machining

XMAKE-original NC

After you have basic understand about this technology, I will introduce you the history of CNC machine by how and when the first CNC machine was built, how did 3 and 4 axis upgraded to 5-axis, and the key differences between 3, 4, and 5-axis.

Origins of 5-axis CNC machine

The development history of 5 axis machining can be dates back to the early days of cnc technology in the manufacturing industry. The first NC machine(first numerically controlled) in the U.S in the late 1940s, was developed by John Parsons and Frank Stulen, two remarkable engineers.

By 1952, Massachusetts institute of technology also boosted the developments of numerical control machining in the following decades, by developing reliable servo control in 1952 and the APT(Automatic Programmed Tool) programming language for NC machines.

At that time when computer haven’t been fully developed, this machine with NC technology used punch cards to control the movements of a lathe. It might looks primitive by now, but it has revolutionary significance in CNC history. This machine revolutionized the manufacturing process by automating the movement of the cutting tools.

By 1960s. the advance of computer technology combined with the prototype machine, created the first CNC machine. It symboled the transformation of 3-axis CNC machine to 4-axis andeventually 5 to achieve high accuracy and efficiency in mass production.

Evolution of CNC and advancements in 5 axis machining

Over the years, computer numerical control technology has evolved significantly, leading to the development of modern CNC machines that are capable of high accuracyand efficiency. The evolution of CNC also paved the way for the advancements in 5-axis technology.

The development of software and progreamme has promoted the machining services. It allowed for the automation of machinery through the use of programming languages like G-code. Over the years, different programming languages were created to improve CNC machining technology.

5-axis is also benefited a lot from the 3+2 machining technique, which allows for greater flexibility and efficiency in machining parts. This technique combines the capabilities of CAD (computer-aided design) and CAM (computer-aided manufacturing) to produce complex geometries with ease.

It is impossible to overlook the innovation in hardware in addition to the advancements in software and technology. Replaceable spindle box machining centers have been around since the 1970s, when machining centers began to evolve quickly. They have numerous multi-axis spindle boxes with automatically replaceable tools that can be used to simultaneously machine multiple holes in workpieces.

In today’s CNC services, 5-axis are evident in the modern CNC machining centers. Due to its versatility and accuracy, It has wide applications by making complex parts and components for many industries, like automotive, aerospace, and medical.

Key difference between 5 axis with 3 and 4 axis machining

XMAKE-difference with 3-axis

If we set the orientation by the the number of axes and the machining structure you can cutting materials along with:

Axes Number Axes move vertically move horizontally move in depth Rotary axis
3 X, Y, Z ×
4 X, Y, Z, A One rotary axis, rotate around X
5 X, Y, Z, A, B Two rotary axis, 360 degree rotate

If we differentiate it based on equipment cost, programming requirements, processing characteristics and other cost-effectiveness related areas:

Axes Number Operational complexity Efficiency Programming and Operation requirement Setup and maintain cost Precision
3 Simplest, can do single-sided process Normal Easiest, need for manual machining and programming Cheapest Good
4 More complicated, can do multi-sided process High Harder than 3 axis Higher Better
5 The most flexible, capable of processing complex 3D shapes Best Hardest, requires computer programing and skilled operator Most expensive Highest

If you care more about application field:

Axes number Applicable parts Application Scenario
3 Simple parts Relatively simple parts, like disc, sleeve and plate parts.
4 Complicated parts More comlicated parts, like box parts, blades, impellers.
5 Highly complicated parts Precision parts for many industries, like military parts, oil and gas pipelines parts, aerospace and engines, artificial parts for medical.

Based on all forms above, I believe you already understand differences these three and the benefits of 5-axis machining. But 3 and 4-axis machine also have their own advantages. Choosing the right CNC machine tool should depends on your specific processing requirements and budget.

Future of 5 Axis Machining

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The future of 5 Axis Machining looks promising with the advancements in technology, since it offers a solution to meet manufacturer’s demand of higher precision and efficiency in their processes. In the future, the development of 5-axis production will focus on reduce set-up times, improve productivity and cost-effectiveness for manufacturers.

One key trend in the future is the integration of automation and robotics. By incorporating automated systems into 5 axis machining processes, manufacturers can further increase efficiency and reduce the need for manual labor. This not only streamlines production but also enhances the overall quality of the machined parts.

Another important aspect in the future is the development of advanced software solutions, which may optimize tool paths, simulate the processes, and identify potential issues(like reduce risk and errors at work) before they occur.


XMAKE-conclusion of 5axis

In conclusion, 5 axis machining has seen significant advancements in technology over the years. The development history of 5 axis machining can be traced back to the 1940s when the concept of multi-axis machining was first introduced.

In recent years, this technology has continued to evolve with the introduction of more advanced software and hardware systems. It has bright future, and will keep making progress and integrate deeper with automomation and robots and advanced software solutions.

XMAKE and 5-axis Machining

XMAKE serves excellent 5 axis Machining, which enables intricate shapes through comprehensive tool and workpiece movement. If our esteemed reader has 5-axis or other CNC field needs, you can leave it to XMAKE and let us solve your problems.

Frequent Asked Questions

Q1: What are the benefits of 5-axis machining?

A: 5-axis machining offers increased precision, efficiency, and ability to work on intricate parts without the need for multiple setups. It also reduces cycle times and improves surface finishes.

Q2: What types of machines are used in 5-axis machining?

A: 5-axis machining is typically performed using CNC milling machines that have the capability to move the workpiece simultaneously for precise and intricate cutting operations.

Q3: How is 5-axis machining used in working on helicopter parts?

A: 5-axis machining is used in the aerospace industry to work on helicopter parts that needed high precision and complex shapes. The ability to reach all sides of a part in a single setup makes it ideal for machining such components.

Q4: What are the different types of 5-axis machining?

A: There are two main types: continuous 5-axis machining, where the tool can move continuously along all five axes, and positional 5-axis machining, where the tool can only move along the axes in specific positions.

Q5: Why have 5-axis CNC machining process gained so much popularity in recent years?

A: Because it has the ability to create complex geometries with high precision and speed. They have revolutionized the manufacturing industry by offering advanced capabilities for producing intricate parts.


  1. The history of five-axis machining – skeye machining center. (n.d.). https://cn.skeyetw.com/news/155
  2. From belt lathe to five-axis linkage: A brief discussion on the development history of Chinese machine tools – International Metalworking Network. (n.d.). https://www.mmsonline.com.cn/info/233186.shtml

  3. Five-axis CNC machine tool industry analysis Five-axis linkage CNC machine tools have become the future development trend of the high-end market with their advantages such as high precision, high surface processing quality and high processing efficiency. Five-axis linkage means that the machine tool has a basic linear axis. . . – Snowball. (2024, May 8). https://xueqiu.com/3950022522/289248768

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