What is CNC Turning?

By Luke Smoothy | 06/05/2020

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Find out more about CNC Turning with our introductory guide. Learn more about the CNC turning process and when to use CNC turning to produce your parts.

CNC Turning is a specific type of CNC Machining, referring to the particular subtractive machining process where the final piece, or material, is spun at high speed and a cutting tool shaves away material. However, unlike the more commonly used CNC milling technique, CNC turning makes use of one of the oldest styles and forms of manufacturing. This is because CNC turning works to the same principles as a lathe, a tool that has been used by humans as far back as Ancient Egypt. 

CNC Turned Parts aluminium

What does CNC stand for?

CNC stands for Computer Numerical Control, and refers to the wider term for a manufacturing process that is led by a computer program. Parts are designed and developed using CAD (Computer-Aided Design). This CAD file will then be used to produce a computer program that will control the CNC turning machine, directing the cutting tools using long lines of code. The code or programming language is often in G-code format. This precise coding language allows CNC turning machines to make small and very precise movements of the cutting tool.

What is the process of turning?

Turning is the name given to the manufacturing process where bars of raw material is held and rotated at a high speed. As the piece rotates, a cutting tool is fed to the piece, which works at the material, cutting away to create the desired shape. Unlike other cutting styles where the cutting tools themselves move and spin, in this case, the workpiece is rotated during the cutting process. 

CNC Turning is commonly used for cylindrical shaped workpieces, however, it can be used for square or hexagonal-shaped raw materials too. The workpiece is held in place by a ‘chuck’. It is the ‘chuck’ that spins at varying RPM’s (rotations per minute).

Unlike a traditional lathe, today’s machines are numerically controlled. Often the turning process is under constant supervision and adjustment. Meticulous and exact results are possible due to the lathe being consistently monitored by a computer program. Modern CNC Turning machines have various tools, spindles, and speed capabilities. Additionally, the different sizes and shapes of the cutting tools themselves mean a wide range of geometries are possible. Tubular and circular shapes benefit the most from CNC Turning techniques. 

What is the difference between CNC Milling and Turning?

There are some core fundamental differences between CNC Milling and Turning. The core mechanisms differ, meaning there will be some processes that are more suited to milling or turning respectively.

Factors that will affect this include:

  • Shape and size of the part
  • Material in use
  • The volume of parts required
  • Finish required
  • Budget
Small Aluminium Part With Knurling finish

In terms of deciding which CNC machining process is suited to what design, the biggest determining factor is the part shape followed by the volume of parts needing to be produced. 

Benefits of CNC Turning

CNC Turning is best if you are looking to create fast and repeated parts that are symmetrical or cylindrical, with a high production volume. 

CNC Turning can produce parts of high quality and an extremely smooth finish. CNC turning is also capable of:

  • Drilling
  • Boring
  • Reaming
  • Taper turning

What is a CNC machine used for?

CNC machines can be used to manufacture highly accurate high-quality parts, via a process of subtractive machining technology. The materials that can benefit from CNC Machining include:

  • Aluminium
  • Steel
  • ABS
  • Titanium
  • Copper 
  • PP 
  • PEEK
  • Brass
  • Nylon

If you’re looking for more information on the best type of CNC machining for your project, get in touch today and one of our team will get back to you. For a fair price, quality assurance, fast lead times, regular communication and a concise quote with 24 hours, your project is in safe hands.

CNC Machining precision Anodised aluminium part

Luke Smoothy

Director and Founder of Get It Made Ltd.

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