What Is CNC Turning and Milling?

Posted on Dec 12, 2020

CNC Lathe

CNC turning and CNC milling are two widely used high accuracy machining nowadays. They are similar but different, and the main difference lies in the rotating movements of the workpieces and the cutting tools.

What is a CNC Turning Center?

CNC turning and CNC milling are two widely used high accuracy machining nowadays. They are similar but different, and the main difference lies in the rotating movements of the workpieces and the cutting tools. To further distinguish the two, we should first understand what CNC machining and CNC turning centers are. 

When it comes to CNC turning centers, the term refers to CNC lathes which are used to remove the metal materials and create the desired shape of workpieces. With the turning action that continuously rotates the pieces in CNC lathe machines, a variety of machining operations can be applied onto the metal parts, such as cutting, sanding, knurling, drilling, deformation, and facing. The cutting mechanism in the machines is called the tooling that formed the unique profiles. 

:: Read more : CNC Mill Turn Machining Centers for Complex Profile Machining

Advanced Lathes: CNC Turning Center

A conventional definition of lathe is a 2-axis machine, which is a simpler machine that performs turning only on the X axis and Z axis. When the lathe is working with CNC, which stands for computer numerical control, and has 3-axis, 4-axis or 5-axis to work on the machining on different sides of the workpiece, the advanced lathe is called a turning center. The X, Y, Z axis on the machining center represents the linear direction while the A, B, C axis are the rotational direction which spin 180 degrees around the X, Y, Z axis respectively. 3-axis turning centers have X, Y, Z axis working on the same planes, 4-axis and 5-axis have the rotational axes for more flexible and accurate machining.

In a CNC turning center, the headstock is the components that support the workpiece while the carriage holds the cutting tools, guiding it working onto the surface of the workpieces. With additional axes, CNC turning centers are capable of milling, drilling and adding other sub spindles to achieve the desired product profile. Although adopting more axis and software to control the operation, CNC turning center is likely to be easier to manipulate since it is controlled by PC completely and accurately moves all axes at one time without human supervision.

:: Read more : What Is CNC Turning?

Similarities Between CNC Turning and Milling

After we get a better understanding of CNC turning and CNC turning center, let’s focus on the similarities and differences between CNC turning and milling. They are both precision metalwork that perform cutting or other machining with rotation. 

When it comes to the similarities between turning and milling in a machining center, the most obvious one is both of them use CNC, the computer numerical controlled instructions to communicate with the machines, shaving materials and applying various machining onto the surfaces. The technology utilized CAD software, which refers to Computer Aided Design software, to convey a series of sequential commands. CNC eliminates the need of manpower, providing more reliable, precise, efficient production. Secondly, they both create chips of metal materials. Although they are both suitable for a variety of materials like aluminum, steel, copper and also thermoplastics, the features of the materials and the chips that form in the process should be aware of when selecting the machines.

Difference Between CNC Turning and Milling

CNC turning and milling seems to be similar in both the function and the structure. Now, the question here is: what is the difference between CNC turning and CNC milling? CNC turning typically rotates the work piece that is intended to be cut and the cutting tool maintains in the same place; however, CNC milling rotates the tools against the fixed work pieces. CNC turning mainly utilizes round bar stock while milling uses square or rectangular one for machining metal parts.

● CNC Turning:  

In CNC turning, the gripping element, a chuck or headstock, holds the work piece and a spindle rotates the chuck at desired speed. At the same time, the cutting tool, which is stationary, constantly applied force onto the rotating bar stock, removing away the materials. Many CNC turning centers have main and sub spindle, in this structure, the workpiece can be moved from main to sub spindles to add additional features. The technology is ideal for adding unique profiles like drilling holes, slots or slight milling. CNC turning is usually faster and more flexible in the shapes, materials type, and the size of the products.

● CNC Milling:

Different from the stationary cutting tool in turning centers, milling cutters shave the materials against the fixed work pieces. The cutter can have a considerable cutting surface up to 150, which are rotated by the spindles in a CNC milling machine at a high speed. CNC milling is widely used for handling with flat and sculptured surfaces.

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