Demystifying CNC Turning: Processes, Applications and Advantages

As computer numerical control (CNC) machines become more commonplace, there’s a tendency to lump them all together under the CNC banner. While it is true that CNC equipment as a group features extreme precision and adherence to tight tolerances, each type of machine has its own distinct features. Understanding what each CNC machine does is critical to remaining competitive in the manufacturing industry while meeting client demands for increasingly intricate parts. One machine innovation found across the spectrum of manufacturing is CNC turning.

What Is CNC Turning?

CNC turning is a subtractive manufacturing process that removes material to create the required part.  The cutting tool removes unneeded material by shaving the raw workpiece while rotating at high speed. 

While other types of CNC machines spin the cutting tools, in CNC turning, the starting piece rotates. The method is excellent for turning cylinder-shaped end products, but other shapes can be achieved with the same precision. Creating discs, hexagons, cones, spheres and pipes is all possible with CNC turning machines.

Is CNC Turning the Same as a Traditional Lathe?

CNC turning uses principles similar to those of a traditional lathe. However, the machine is a cutting-edge technology superior to the conventional lathe. The computer-controlled process ensures constant, real-time feedback and consistent, repeatable results. 

Overall, CNC turning machines are more versatile, handling simple or complex outputs faster than traditional lathes and with far fewer deviations from specifications.

Is CNC Turning the Same as CNC Milling?

It’s a common misconception that CNC turning and CNC milling are interchangeable terms. Milling and turning have different mechanisms of action. Depending on the final part shape and manufacturing volume, one machine may be more effective than the other.

Unlike CNC turning machines, which use a rotating chuck to secure and spin the workpiece while a stationary cutting tool shapes the final product, a CNC milling machine reverses the process. It secures the workpiece while the cutting tool rotates.

CNC turning is typically used for cylindrical and similar shapes, whereas CNC milling is used for more complex geometry.

What Are the Benefits of a CNC Turning Machine?

Equipping your manufacturing facility with a CNC turning machine offers plenty of advantages. 

1. Greater Accuracy 

The machine’s accuracy allows you to reap substantial cost savings, eliminating most human error and ensuring every finished piece is identical. It can also speed up your time from concept to production, as prototypes can be made faster and more accurately than traditional methods.

2. Flexibility 

CNC turning is highly flexible. Switching from one production run to another is much easier with pre-programmed tasks. In addition to the variety of shapes you can achieve with CNC turning, more advanced machines can also bore, thread, knurl, and ream with consistent, precise results. 

3. Can be Used in Various Industries 

CNC turning machines are used across a wide array of manufacturing industries, including automotive, medical, electronics and aerospace. The machines are also popular in general manufacturing, as they can rapidly produce a range of continuous-demand components like fasteners, valves, fittings, couplings, threaded pipes and valves. 

4. Can be Used with Various Materials

CNC turning machines work with various metals, including steel, copper, brass, aluminum, nickel, and titanium. They can also handle plastics like polypropylene, polyethylene, acrylic and nylon, as well as some composite materials like carbon fiber. 

As each machine will have different options, it’s essential to consult with CNC experts to ensure you get the proper CNC turning machine for your needs.

Where Do I Get a CNC Turning Machine in Wisconsin?

Investing in a CNC turning machine can improve your workflow, but knowing which machine suits your manufacturing needs can be challenging. Accurate Machine Tool Services can help determine which machine will provide the best efficiency, programming variables and product quality. 

As a trusted partner in CNC machining, Accurate MTS also offers a variety of maintenance packages to keep your machines running at peak performance. Contact Accurate Machine Tool today to discuss which CNC turning machine is right for you.