Computer Numerical Control (CNC) Milling is the most common form of CNC. CNC mills can perform the functions of drilling and often turning. CNC Mills are classified according to the number of axes that they possess. Axes are labeled as x and y for horizontal movement, and z for vertical movement, as shown in this view of a manual mill table. A standard manual light-duty mill (such as a Bridgeport™) is typically assumed to have four axes:
- Table x.
- Table y.
- Table z.
- Milling Head z.
The number of axes of a milling machine is a common subject of casual "shop talk" and is often interpreted in varying ways. We present here what we have seen typically presented by manufacturers. A five-axis CNC milling machine has an extra axis in the form of a horizontal pivot for the milling head, as shown below. This allows extra flexibility for machining with the end mill at an angle with respect to the table. A six-axis CNC milling machine would have another horizontal pivot for the milling head, this time perpendicular to the fifth axis.
CNC milling machines are traditionally programmed using a set of commands known as G-codes. G-codes represent specific CNC functions in alphanumeric format.