Coordinates for the CNC Mill

Provided by: ToolingU

"Coordinates for the CNC Mill" provides an overview of the coordinates used to program cutting operations on CNC mills or machining centers. It introduces the systems of both Cartesian and polar coordinates and explains the Cartesian axes for vertical and horizontal CNC mills. The class describes how coordinates are used on blueprints and applied as machine movements. This includes concepts such as incremental vs. absolute coordinates, linear and circular interpolation, machine zero, and program zero. Coordinates and axis movements are at the core of operations for a CNC machine. A foundational knowledge of these topics is necessary to understand how and why parts can be successfully made on the CNC mill or machining center.

Course Objectives:

  • Describe the Cartesian coordinate system
  • Identify the axes and origin of the Cartesian coordinate system
  • Describe the relationship between blueprints and coordinates
  • Describe polar and spherical coordinates
  • Describe the general guidelines for the locations of axes on CNC machines
  • Identify the X, Y, and Z axes on a vertical CNC mill
  • Identify the X, Y, and Z axes on a horizontal CNC mill
  • Identify the A, B, and C rotational axes
  • Describe cutting tool positions and movements associated with axes on the machining center
  • Describe contouring
  • Describe machine zero and program zero
  • Compare incremental and absolute coordinates.

Recommended Background

  • Recommended for all manufacturing personnel operating CNC machines.

Course ID







Communication, Critical Thinking, Personal Effectiveness, Cartesian Coordinate Systems, CNC Milling Basics

Method of Delivery


Estimated Effort

2.5 hrs



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