Anatomy of a Multi-axis CNC Milling Machine

Rotary CuttersFollowing the advent of computer-aided manufacturing in the 80s, mills evolved into machining centers. Unlike other CNC machines, a milling machine differs in terms of tooling, classification, and configuration.

A milling machine mostly performs turning operations, wherein multiple axes support the rotation and orientation of the rotary cutters to achieve desired material removal. Multi-axis machines can support the manufacturing of more complex custom parts and precision gears, on scales from small individual parts to large, heavy-duty gang milling operations. Here are the features of multi-axis CNC mills.

Axis Configuration

In milling operations, the configuration of axes varies depending on the classification of the manufactured parts. Unlike the 2.5 axis CNC milling, multi-axis machines support rotation around multiple axes along multiple orientations and paths, which can be configured in the CNC.

Computer Numerical Control (CNC)

The CNC control for a milling machine offers various configurations for different operations. The multiaxis feature allows the machine to perform a variety of movements with the given number of axis. This technology is responsible for the development of complex tool-path methods for advanced milling.


In CNC milling, there is a high degree of standardisation of the tooling. It includes different milling cutters fitted for specific applications and held in various tooling configurations, such as SK or ISO, HSK, CAT, and BT. These tooling configurations differ in terms of tool-holder stability and turning speed.

Unique Features

What makes milling machines distinct from other CNC machining centers is that a mill has an automatic tool changer built in the same work envelope, as well as tool carousels, coolant systems, and enclosures.

According to, these features and configurations allow manufacturers to make custom parts and mechanical gears at high-resolution textures. Multi-axis milling operations reduce the amount of human labour, by specifying instructions on the CNC for desire operations.
Due to high rotation speeds and tool-handle stability and durability, multi-axis mills are capable of achieving better surface finish and manufacturing more complex parts with curved holes compared with pre-80s mills. These machines can make anything, from fine jewelry to fine woodworking and aerospace parts.