What Is CNC Turning?

Posted on Jul 20, 2020

CNC turning is a multi-task procedure and instrumentation in CNC machining (this should not be confused with CNC milling with a family of CNC technology), which uses a fast cutting tool in the machining process to move along the spiral path of the tool almost linearly fashion. This happens when the workpiece rotates around the turning center of the lathe, creating a relative movement that intersects the outer surfaces of the workpiece (i.e., outside the cylinder), thereby producing tubular elements with different geometries on CNC machines. Turning centers can have a manual or automatic CNC lathe. The previous tooling procedure in CNC machining requires supervision over the machining of the workpiece on CNC machines. The latter speeds up production time, because there are almost no mechanics in the workshop.

During CNC turning, when the workpiece rotates at high speed, the cutting tool moves and rotates around the x axis, y axis and z axis in 5-axis machining. This tooling procedure slowly removes the raw material, creating a finished product with high-quality surface finishes that can only be achieved on CNC lathes. Different types of CNC turning in CNC machining produce different high-quality geometries using different machine tools, for example straight turning, straight line shapes or tapered turning and cylindrical shapes. Other important functions of CNC machines in the workshop are bar feeder, tailstock, double spindle and auxiliary spindles

CNC turning is a complicated and detailed method of creating custom parts and components with a lathe. CNC turning (Computer Numerical Control) is a highly qualified precision engineering process. Based on one of the oldest machine tools in the world - a lathe - in a traditional form can be traced back to ancient Egypt.

Thanks to modern computer technology and qualified operators, you can now create components in the smallest details and for the most rigid projects using a lathe, with exact tolerances and a wide range of shapes. The lathe secures and rotates the raw material or raw material, machined along a double axis of motion at high speeds, while the cutting or boring tool shapes the material at one point, creating the desired element. The lathe is controlled by computer programs, ensuring that meticulously accurate components are produced and can also be reproduced.

:: See products : Turn Mill Machine

Difference Between CNC Milling and CNC Turning

CNC milling and CNC turning allow users to create patterns and add details to metals that cannot be made manually. CNC milling uses commands, codes programmed in the computer and set to run. Then the mill drills and rotates along the axis to cut materials to the dimensions entered into the computer. Computer programming allows machines to make precise cuts, users can manually replace CNC machines to slow down or speed up the process.

In turn, CNC Turning uses computer-controlled machines to create another end product. The process uses a single-point cutting tool that is inserted parallel to the material being cut. The material is rotated at varying speeds, and the tool cuts crossbeams to create cylindrical cuts with accurate measurements. Used to create round or tubular plowshares from larger pieces of material. This is an automated process and the speeds can be adjusted for greater accuracy instead of turning the lathe manually.


What Parts Need CNC Turning?

There is no doubt that CNC milling and CNC turning are very different processes that in most cases end up with completely different results. CNC centers are ideal for short series, especially prototypes and parts below 2.5 ", while the turning center can work on parts with an outer diameter above 2.5", they should be checked individually and depending on the volume of produced parts, this may affect the price of production. Also, if the part has an outside diameter of less than 1.25 ”, turning may not be an option to make the part. However, it should be noted that the biggest factor that determines whether a given item can be produced by CNC turning is volume. The larger the volume, the less suitable the part to be produced by turning.

If you are unsure whether your part should be best produced by CNC turning or CNC milling, it is important to consult a second opinion.It is also essential to understand that different CNC Centres have different tooling and spindle options and this could affect the likelihood of the part being produced in such a center. Other factors that might determine the fate of the part are the diameter limitations, power and even speed capabilities will also affect the economic aspect and the type of part that can be produced.

CNC turning centers and lathes may seem identical, but they generally refer to slightly different machines. Lathes generally only turn while turning centers can be more advanced. These machines can be capable of facing, threading, knurling, drilling, boring, reaming, and taper turning. Horizontal CNC turning machines are more common, but vertical machines utilize gravity. CNC turning centers can benefit from predictive maintenance!

The lathe is one of the oldest manufacturing technologies on Earth. The earliest versions date all the way back to the ancient Egyptians, who invented a two-person, bow-driven lathe around 1300 BCE. Yet despite this venerable history, turning technology has been far from static, as evidenced by the sophisticated CNC turning centers of today.

Whether you’re working on a lathe or a turning center, the basic parts are the same.


The headstock houses the main spindle as well as the speed- and gear-changing mechanisms. The main spindle end often includes a Morse taper. In the early days of industrial lathes, the spindle was driven directly via a flat belt pulley. These days, it’s driven by an electric motor.


The lathe bed is a base connected to the headstock such that the carriage and tailstock move in parallel with the spindle access. This movement is facilitated by bedways, which restrain the carriage and tailstock in a set track.

Feedscrews and Leadscrews

The propeller is a long propeller shaft that connects to a series of gears in the apron to drive the carriage along the Z axis. The lead screw has the same function but works perpendicular to the lead screw by moving the carriage along the X axis.

Feeder screws and lead screws are manufactured to imperial or metric standards, which can cause compatibility problems between workpieces made on different lathes.


The carriage holds the cutting tool and moves it longitudinally to the workpiece to perform a turning operation or perpendicular to the diversion operation. The trolley consists of two castings: upper or saddle and side or apron.


The tailstock refers to the middle attachment which is placed opposite the headstock. Unlike a headstock, the tailstock spindle - which may contain a cone to hold drills, centers or other tools - does not rotate. Instead, it moves longitudinally under the action of the lead screw.

:: Read more : CNC turning of precision parts explained

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