decorative wave

3- vs 5-Axis Fitting

Is it impossible to match 3-axis quality in a 5-axis machine?

Simple answer. No.

3-axis machining is certainly easier to set up and program, and the outcome is normally better quality than from 5-axis machining. But there is one reason why this happens – a lack of experience in 5-axis milling.
But there is one reason why this happens – a lack of experience in 5-axis milling.

What we need to understand is how a 5-axis machine works. The propagation of errors in a multi-axis machine is not linear and a small error in the setup of one of the axes may dramatically affect the final result. What’s more, the way the machine moves and the effect of an error in the centre of rotation is something that has to be dealt with before attempting ultra-high-quality machining. The last thing to take care of is the programming. Unless you have a program like FFCAM, which can transform a 3-axis toolpath into a 5-axis one with just one click, programming a 5-axis component is time-consuming and risky because of the possibilities of collisions if all this is not taken into account.

So why should we go for a 5-axis machine in this case? There are a number of advantages:
  • Possibility to extend shorter tools - extended tool life - better surface quality
  • Ability to cut parts that cannot be produced on 3-axis machines
  • Fewer setups
  • Fewer EDM processes


Our conditions

In this case, to demonstrate the capacities of both type of machining, we have a fitting sample. One part produced in 3 axis, the other in 5 axis. 

In terms of the machining itself, we use the machine D200Z and we cut steel 2343 with 54 HRc hardness. The part itself is 70 x 70 x 50 mm. The results were as follows:
  • To demonstrate the capacities of both types of machining in this case, we have a suitable sample. One part produced by 3-axis, the other by 5-axis machining.

In terms of the actual machining, we use the D200Z vertical machining centre and are cutting 2343 steel with 54 HRC hardness. The part itself is 70 x 70 x 50 mm. The results were as follows:
3-axis machining time: 2 hours 20 minutes
5-axis machining time: 2 hours 35 minutes


Designed with an integral chuck to maximise work-zone volume and load capacity, the D200Z accommodates workpiece sizes of up to 300 mm in diameter and 210 mm high and 75 kg in weight. The X, Y and Z axes (350 mm, 300 mm and 250 mm travels) provide swift movement with rapid traverse and cutting feed-rates of 60 m/min. The D200Z has also adopted a unique, lightweight B-axis tilting structure with 180° tilt capability (0 to +180°) at 100 rpm. Both the B-axis and rotational C-axis (360° continuous at 150 rpm) feature direct-drive motors for agile, accurate, high-speed, responsive angular and rotational operation.
​Wide base castings and core-cooled ballscrews serve as a base platform for all other machine components, enhancing overall process stability. The machine’s 30,000-rpm, HSK-E50 spindle is designed with a high-tech spindle core and jacket cooling system to tightly control thermal growth, deflection and vibration during high-speed machining operations. As a result, the D200Z extends tool life and has exceptional surface finishes even in applications requiring fine tool blends and matches.