What is CNC Turning? – The Definitive Guide

CNC Turning

The size of the CNC market is snowballing over time. According to a stat, the global CNC market is expected to grow to about 23 billion US dollars in 2026. Several companies are providing CNC turning services that enable the manufacturers to custom parts or tools made of plastic, metal, and wood more efficiently than ever.

Typically, CNC turning machines refers to the subtractive machining process programmed by Computer Numerical Control. The objective of CNC turning is to provide you with a specific geometry of the workpiece as it uses different cutting tools for removing the material from the piece.

Further, this post will clarify and broaden your concepts about CNC turning. It describes the working principle, components, and applications of CNC turning in detail.


CNC Turning Definition

CNC turning is a process in which the workpiece resting in the chuck spins continuously while the static cutting tool removes the material from the surface. The process continues until you get the desired shape of the product. You may use different turning tools for getting a wide range of geometries.

Generally, CNC turning deals with cylindrical-shaped workpieces. However, you may also go for square or hexagonal-shaped raw metals.


How does CNC Turning Work?

The CNC turning process involves a series of steps for manufacturing a particular product. Thus, an operator needs to follow each step carefully to achieve the best goals.

Step 1: Coding

The foremost step is creating the files using a CAD program to send them into production. Afterward, this CAD file is used to generate the machining code. Yet, you may also use CAD-CAM software as an alternative. The software benefits you to design the models, convert them to code, and allows you to make changes now and then. On top of that, it identifies the issues so that you can quickly fix them to get accurate results.

Step 2: Machine Setup

CNC lathe works automatically. Still, an operator plays a crucial role in setting up the machine. Before setting up the machine, ensure the power is off; otherwise, it might be dangerous. Then carefully fix the workpiece into the chuck as it is crucial for having the correct dimensions of a part.

After adjustment of the part, you need load the turret. It helps hold the tools you will use for cutting specific materials. Lastly, it’s time to upload the already created code to the CNC lathe.

Step 3: Material Production

Finally, you’re ready to work on the production of your workpiece. Once the power is on, digital instructions are sent to the collet and spindle. As a result, the fixed material starts rotating at high speed. Then, the cutting tool comes in contact with the part and removes the material from it. More than one cutting tool simultaneously works on the same workpiece to create unique shapes.

Moreover, the speed of the spindle is represented by rotations per minute, which is adjusted according to cutting speed. Hence, the spindle speed must keep on varying in case the workpiece diameter changes to ensure the constant cutting speed.


What are CNC turning centers and their types?

The CNC turning center is an upgraded version of the CNC lathe. This is because the CNC lathe uses two axes for the operation, whereas a CNC turning center comprises more than two axes, i.e., 3, 4, or 5 axes. Yet, some machines in the market utilize six axes;

  • Vertical (X-axis)
  • Horizontal (Y axis)
  • Depth (Z axis)
  • Rotation around the X axis
  • Rotation around the Y axis
  • Rotation around the Z axis

In addition to turning capability, the CNC turning center also offers milling, tapping, and drilling facilities. Moreover, they stand out for their dual spindles and y-axis. Here are two significant types of CNC turning centers;

1.Horizontal CNC Turning Center

The spindle is designed horizontally in the horizontal turning center, and gravity pulls the chips away from the workpiece during cutting. Most commonly, they are preferred due to their smooth and accurate working.

2.Vertical CNC Turning Center

A vertical turning center is ideal for dealing with short, heavy, and large workpieces. It is overturned and lets the headstock rest on the floor, whereas the faceplate act as the horizontal rotating table. However, gravity seat the workpiece into workholding.


What are CNC Turning Components?

Here are the major components present in the CNC lathe, along with their functions;

  • Control panel
    CNC control panel consists of various keys and buttons. An operator gives commands to the machine through it. Additionally, it functions in moving the axis, starting and stopping the process. In other words, it is the brain of the CNC lathe.
  • Headstock
    The front section of the CNC turning machine is the headstock, and it is associated with a spindle where the chuck is attached to hold the workpiece during operation.
  • Tailstock
    The tailstock is situated opposite the headstock. A tailstock functions by attaching to the bed of the lathe to provide support to longer workpieces. Moreover, the tailstock consists of a quill that offers hydraulic force for support.
  • Chuck and Tollet
    The chuck acts as a holder to give a firm grip on the parts with the help of its jaws. It is fixed with the spindle of the lathe, yet, you may replace it according to the size of the elements.

On the other hand, tollet also serves the same function but is smaller in size. Therefore, it can hold smaller parts up to almost 60 mm.

  • Lathe Bed
    Typically, the lathe bed is made of cast iron and acts as a base plate of the machine. Usually, it extends from the headstock to the tailstock and supports various parts of the machine as they are attached to it.
  • Tool turret
    The tool turret holds the tools so the cutting process can take place securely and precisely. The tool turret is decided according to the shape and size of the tool you are going to use during the CNC turning process.
  • Cutting tools
    There is a variety of cutting tools that helps in removing the material by following different patterns. The workpiece is molded into a variety of unique shapes by using different sized and shaped cutting tools.


What are the Advantages of CNC turning?

The following are some major advantages of CNC turning;

1. Accuracy

CNC lathes offer high accuracy whether you are producing prototypes or want to complete the entire product manufacturing. Its CAD and CAM files make perfect measurements that avoid every type of error that a human may experience while doing the same process manually.

2. Increase Productivity

Manufacturing the parts using CNC turning machines lowers the probability of errors. Thus, you can produce more products in a given period at a faster speed.

3. Flexibility

A single CNC turning machine has the ability to manufacture a large variety of components. They feature multiple functions to provide flexibility. All you need is to change the commands of the machine by using its keyboard. Consequently, you’ll come across an entirely different component from the one you created before.

4. Budget-friendly

Generally, if you hire a person to manually machine products at a large scale, it costs a lot. Also, the productivity rate will decrease due to the lack of speed, because humans need to take breaks for rest or lunch. On the contrary, CNC turning runs 24/7 without any pause with excellent efficiency. Therefore, we consider it cost-effective.

5. Safety

The CNC turning machine possesses an enclosed protective case that prevents flying debris from the piece during manufacturing. As a result, the probability of injury to the operators decreases. However, the operators must get proper training before using the CNC machines. Plus, they should strictly follow the precautions to ensure 100% personal safety.


CNC Turning Applications

Finding the applications of CNC turning is not an arduous task, as they surround us. From tiny toys to large, heavy automotive parts, all use CNC turning for manufacturing. Primarily, CNC turning machines serve in the medical, automotive, aerospace, gas, and oil industries. A glimpse of its applications is given below, so let’s see what a CNC lathe can produce.

  • Prototypes for products.
  • Aviation parts.
  • Auto parts for every vehicle.
  • Plastic outer shells of batteries.
  • Plastic parts of most of your kitchen appliances.
  • Steel aerospace parts.
  • Furniture.
  • Insulation parts.

Furthermore, CNC turning allows you to create high-precision holes in addition to providing perfect round shapes. Normally, CNC turning perfectly deals with round metal parts, gears, tubes, and bars.


Final Thoughts

Hopefully, this detailed guide has inspired you by conveying the incredible facts and features of CNC turning. You must consider it in your future manufacturing project, and it will surely benefit you in increasing the efficiency and productivity of your business.

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