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A guide to 5-Axis Desktop CNC

No longer are large budgets or huge machines required for 5-axis CNC, desktop 5 axis is here- and here to stay. Want to know more? Read through this blog post to get a better understanding of 5-Axis desktop CNC 3D …

Tom Watkins

May 21, 2020

No longer are large budgets or huge machines required for 5-axis CNC, desktop 5 axis is here- and here to stay. Want to know more? Read through this blog post to get a better understanding of 5-Axis desktop CNC 3D printers.

Pocket NC Screencap 3
Pocket NC Screencap 3

What is CNC?

CNC stands for ‘computer numerical control’, it is a type of machining that uses subtractive manufacturing technology. The material removes material from a solid block using types of cutting tools. Typically, CNC devices have been known to have a 3-axis system that moves: left-right, back-forth and up-down. But now, a 5-Axis version is available and best of all, you can have it on your desk too.

A 5-axis desktop CNC is truly an effective way of manufacturing complex metal components quickly and for an affordable cost.

The 5 axis element of rotating along the left-right, back-forth and up-down axis creates a greater manoeuvrability. Therefore a device can use shorter cutting tools at a faster speed, resulting in improved finishes and fantastic detailing. The head of the machine is also positioned closer to the surface of the cutte. Therefore leading to a tool that has a longer life, and you can guarantee that the product it creates will look and act as you want it too.

How can a desktop CNC help me?

It can be used from a business point of view to explore different products. May this be for end use parts or to test a prototype design, the possibilities are endless. When engineers and designers first work on a product, they must keep in mind the limitations of the mass production process. However 3D printers and 5-axis desktop CNC can create aspects of design which would have previously been considered unachievable. This opens an entirely new world in the design phase, which could change the future of some products.

Businesses are using this technology not just for prototypes but to quickly create components of a system that are needed quickly. This machine allows for the creation of parts which otherwise might be unattainable or have a long wait time to access them.

While we’ve been referencing businesses here, there is always the desire by hobbyists to push technology further and to do something that mainstream culture hasn’t achieved yet. Some individuals keep a 5-axis desktop CNC in their homes to create toys, jewellery and DIY components.

The Pocket NC- Desktop 5 Axis

The version of a 5-Axis desktop CNC that we distribute is produced by Pocket NC and has recently been optimised. The new version of this design has increased speed, rigidity and accuracy. Pocket NC have reduced part counts in the machine and made the trunnion from one solid aluminium billet.  Each unit itself is also produced using multi-axis machining, removing human error from the equation.

This type of technology is capable of cutting any material with a hardness equivalent of 4140 Steel. This could be: types of aluminium, wax, wood etc and while the machine could, we do not recommend cutting ceramics or gemstones etc as this could shorten the life of tooling.

A problem that has existed when these machines were first introduced was the lack of CAD/CAM software. The software has been typically overly complicated or expensive – but this has changed. The Pocket NC team provide their software free for maker, educational, or startup useage and CAM packages can create the tool paths for the Pocket NC.

It’s not just the software that’s easy, it’s everything to do with the 5-axis desktop CNC.  You can get started by simply connecting a USB from the machine to your computer and go to your machine’s web address in Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox or common web browser. The programme is easy to operate and has an intuitive interface.  Users can seamlessly switch between imperial and metric units, upload programs and more. 

If you want a non-committal conversation about this technology, or if you want to trial the technology, see a case study or see it in action then please free to contact us on or 01926 333 777. We’re always happy to help you find the right 3D printer for your requirements.

Please feel free to look at our other blog posts, or to contact us for further details

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