Machining Center or Turning Center? Comparison and Introduction

Posted on Dec 27, 2019

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Turning Center

Turning centers and machining centers together undertake most of the high-precision component manufacturing tasks today. They both are able to carry out complex 3D designs on workpieces and provide an excellent surface finish to the manufactured parts. There is no denying that without these machine tools, the construction of most equipment in certain fields, such as the aerospace industry, medical industry, automotive industry, military industry, etc. is impossible.

Machine Tools in Modern Manufacturing Industry

As technology advances, heavy-duty machinery across industries have evolved to an extent and led to the increasing demand for high-precision, fine-tolerance components. In order to meet such demand, the quality of the machining process has to improve as well and that signifies the need to invest more resources into the development of high-precision machine tools. Today, the most commonly employed machine tools are the turning centers and the machining centers.
 

Turning Center or Machining Center

Turning centers and machining centers together undertake most of the high-precision component manufacturing tasks today. They both are able to carry out complex 3D designs on workpieces and provide an excellent surface finish to the manufactured parts. There is no denying that without these machine tools, the construction of most equipment in certain fields, such as the aerospace industry, medical industry, automotive industry, military industry, etc. is impossible.

Though usually being referred to interchangeably, a turning center and a machining center each have their own merits that distinguish them from one another. So how are they different? In the following sections, we will answer this question in terms of the configuration, working principle, pros and cons, and applications of these two machines. That said, we will lean our focus more on the turning centers. Now, let’s hesitate no more and dive into this marvelous machine world at once!
 

What Is a Turning Center?

A turning center is also known as a CNC lathe or a CNC turning lathe. Generally speaking, this type of machine tool has a basic structure identical to a conventional turning lathe. They were originally designed to process cylindrical components; yet, with the assistance of power tools such as tool turrets and secondary spindles, they are granted the ability to process parts in almost any shape as long as there is a symmetrical axis to the object.

Turning Center vs. Machining Center – Working Principle
Essentially speaking, a CNC lathe processes a workpiece by means of removing the unwanted parts from its surface. By doing so, the machine creates contours, curves, profiles, and 3D shapes onto the part. One major difference between a turning lathe and a machining center is the way they cut workpieces. A turning lathe rotates (turns) a workpiece at high speeds and cuts it by advancing a stationary cutting tool against its surface. On the opposite, a machining center typically cuts a part by advancing a rotating cutting tool into the clamped part.

However, given that these machines are highly advanced and the auxiliary power tool sets equip the machine with more and more machining capability, a turning center can do not only turning but also milling, grinding, knurling, and more. The same goes with a machining center; the modern CNC machining center can perform milling, drilling, turning, etc. in one single cycle. The best way to tell a turning center from a machining center is probably by the machining process in that turning is the primary measure for a lathe to cut workpieces.
 

:: Read More: A CNC Turn Mill Lathe Makes Turning Possible in Every Angle!

Turning Center vs. Machining Center – Configuration

A conventional turning lathe has a horizontal configuration. It has the spindle as well as the workpiece positioned parallel to the floor. The spindle is installed on a headstock facing the tailstock which is located on the other end of the worktable. On the other hand, a machining center tends to have a vertical style. It has a work-holding system installed on the machine base and the cutting tool hanging over the worktable to machine the workpiece from the top.

Yet again, these modern CNC machine tools normally have the multi-axis machining capability which allows them to cut the workpiece at various angles and in different directions. To bear all the functionalities into one machine, the style of the turning center and machining center has evolved into a booth-like chamber where all the power tools are contained. Since a turning center follows the basic design of a lathe, the machine may be a bit larger in length compared with a machining center.
 

Turning Center Pros and Cons

A CNC turning lathe can perform programmed milling and turning procedures. This type of machine is a complex programmed turning tool that can handle a series of complex cutting tasks and reduce cycle time within a relatively lower cost range. As mentioned earlier, a turning center normally has a similar basic structure to a conventional lathe. The type of workpiece it can process is more limited. A machining center can process not only symmetrical objects but also those with more complex shapes.
 

Auxiliary Accessories Make a Turning Center Powerful

With the power turret, a CNC turning center can not only perform turning but also perform milling and multi-task machining tasks, which previously could only be done on the machining center. In the assembly plant of turning machinery, many power turrets are driven by a single motor with a servo function, which can ensure the best cutting results and save the best energy consumption. At the same time, they can also provide high rigidity for the workpiece and the ideal cutting ability.

In addition to power turrets, tool magazines and automatic tool changers are also the best-selling products of Taiwan's machine tool accessory suppliers, because their cost performance is higher than global competitors. In fact, Taiwan's tool magazine and ATC system provide customers with the optimal tool to tool time according to the planned cycle time engineering and can help manufacturers closely and steadily meet customers’ demands.

Because complex curves and profiles require many machining requirements, one cutting tool cannot satisfy all kinds of machining demands. The dynamic turret and its automatic tool mechanism installed in the turret body can provide additional machining capacity to the lathe machining during the processing procedure. Since the cutting tools installed on the power turret can also be rotated by the servo motor installed inside, the milling performance of these power tools is not lower than that of traditional machining centers.

 

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