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  • Post last modified:October 10, 2022
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Types of 5-Axis Machining Center Configurations

Like other CNC machining 5 axis CNC machining is controlled by a computer code that guides all manufacturing processes performed on the work piece by controlling the direction of the tool and the table orientation in the X, Y, and Z axis’s.

Talking about the CNC machining work of 5-axis, the process starts by d 3-D- modeling of the part. A 3D model of the desired work piece is created using computer-operated software such as AutoCAD or Solid Works. This design is then converted into a CNC code that includes each and every minute detail of the design. This code is then fed in to the CNC control unit, which will control all the moving components of 5-axis CNC machines accordingly. The common NC language that these machines can understand is the G-code. However, keep in mind that part programming varies from machine to machine. However, before beginning the procedure, the axis’s of 5 axis’s CNC machines must be configured for optimal outcomes. Further in this article I covers all the Configuration Techniques that can produce outstanding results.

Types of 5-Axis Machining Center Configurations
Types of 5-Axis Machining Center Configurations Source:Unknown

Linear and rotational axis

The machining axis is defined as a number of directions in which a CNC cutting tool can move, mostly conventional CNC machines have three axes of mobility, those are linear axis, named X, Y, and z-axis. But for 5 axis CNC machines we have three more rotational mobility options, named A, B, and C axis, The A-axis always rotate around the x-axis, the B-axis rotates around the y-axis, and the c-axis rotate around the z-axis.

At machining, only two axis’s are operational which are also known as the titling table axis and the Rotational table axis, the mechanism of both are shown in the given illustration. The combination of all these 5 axes’ able the machinist to approach the workpiece from all directions so that one can make complex designs and highly precise parts.

Linear and rotational axis
Linear and rotational axis Source:Unknown

Trunnion style or Table -Table configuration

The trunnion table is a rotary-designed table that provides two more axes to the 3 axis machine tools and increases its overall positioning accuracy. it’s the most commonly known CNC machine configuration in the industry, it is known as Table-Table 5-axis machining center configuration or trunnion style configuration. In these machines, the head is kept stationary while two rotating axis’s are contained in the trunnion table. Which helps in configuring the workpiece in the desired orientation.

This machine configuration is ideal for complex and undercuts designs, as it gives more access to the tool, the machine table is able to tilt up to 110 degrees, which is far better than the swivel configuration, and results in better undercut capabilities.

Trunnion style or Table -Table configuration
Trunnion style or Table -Table configuration Source:Unknown

Table-Table configuration is also ideal for large volume work at high speed and stability, as in this configuration the table tilts and locks in a specific position, and the Linear axis is set to be operated in full range. But before machining bulk components one should choose the machine wisely, as machining is done as per the capacity of the weight the machine bed can handle. Table-Table configuration is also a better choice for heavy metal removal. This is due to their ability to provide more torque at lower rpm. Furthermore, the stationary head design also eliminates the possibility of pushing the head out of position, during machining even for heavy cuts.

Swivel rotate style

Swivel rotates machine style gives more access to the machinist to perform operations, as in this configuration the worktable also rotates along with the head, which supports deep cavities and complex machining from maximum angles. Swivel Rotate style machines come with two types of configurations that are Head-Head and Head-table, both configurations are differentiable according to the working load capacity, ease of machining, and axis rotation.

Configuration of swivel rotate style CNC machines

As the name suggests in Head -Head configuration all the rotating axis operations are performed at the head of the machines, while the table remains stationary, and for head-table configuration, the head of the machines is rotating and the table is tilting. These types of configurations are ideal for heavy parts machining, as they are able to reach the workpiece from the B and c rotating axis.

The second most important thing which makes these swivel-style machines ideal for manufacturing is the tool reachability or access to the workpiece,  by the rotating head in these configurations the milling machining operations are performed directly above the workpiece, which results in no need for the use of longer tools, just like in trunnion machines, where spindle has to move a long distance to reach the workpiece or one has to tilt the table of the machine to 90 Degrees so that he can reach out the workpiece.

For these conditions, 5-axis machining center manufacturers always advise choosing the trunnion machine as per workload, one needs to think about the size and volume of the workpiece to be machined, the smaller the workload or size of the part, the smaller the machine, and vice versa.

Configuration of swivel rotate style CNC machines
Configuration of swivel rotate style CNC machines Source:Unknown

The swivel rotates machines are a better choice for heavyweight or bulk projects, especially the head-head configuration, as in these machines the table is fixed and the tool is operated through the rotating head, the whole weight of the workpiece is transferred to the base of the CNC machines and from where it transfers to the ground, thus makes these machines ideal for bulk machining.

One may think about the difference between table-table and head-head configuration, the Table-table configuration also withstands bulk weights, but it has certain limitations, such as the limited size of parts that can be placed between table risers of the trunnion machines.

Another difference between these two configurations is the rotating axis, the trunnion machines are operated along the rotational A-axis and C-axis, while the Swivel style machines are operable on B-axis and C-axis.


Both the 5-axis CNC machining center configurations have their own pros and cons, if you are thinking of choosing any services, it is advisable to consult any expert machinist for your required domain. Meanwhile, in this article, a technical comparison of both configurations is discussed.

Summing things up head-head configuration swivel style machines are more versatile than Table-table configuration, as these machines are able to perform multiple tasks, like the whole table may be used for multiple vise setups, for plate work, or for machining the 6th side of the part. Material, workload, surface finishing, work volume, undercuts and deep cavities are all deciding factors in choosing the right configuration. 

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Types of 5-Axis Machining Center Configurations