CNC Turning: Its Definition, Machines, And Operations

cnc turning

You may have heard the term CNC turning before, but you’re not sure what it is.

CNC Turning is a subtractive manufacturing process that uses computer numerical control to remove material from a rotating workpiece. This process can create numerous shapes and sizes, making it an incredibly versatile manufacturing option.

In this article, let’s take a closer look at what makes CNC turning unique!

What Is CNC Turning?

CNC turning is a machining process that a cutting tool removes material from a workpiece to shape it into the desired form.

The cutting tool is mounted on a spindle rotated at high speed, and the material is fed into the rotating tool.

The turret will help hold as many tools as possible at once to give you a seamless operation.

This CNC turning process can create cylindrical or spherical shapes and complex geometric shapes.

Types Of CNC Turning Machines

CNC Turning Centers

Horizontal Turning Centers(HTCS)

A horizontal turning center is a type of machining center that performs lathe operations.

In a horizontal turning center, the cutting tool is mounted on a cross slide, which can move horizontally. This allows for more precise control of the cutting tool and greater access to the workpiece.

Horizontal turning centers are often suitable for complex applications such as machining turbine blades and gear blanks. However, they can also be suitables for more simple tasks, such as turning shafts and spindles.

When choosing a horizontal CNC turning center, it is essential to consider the type of work. Factors such as maximum cutting diameter, max spindle speed, and table load capacity are vital in determining which machine is best suitable for a particular application.

Vertical Turning Centers(VTCS)

Vertical turning centers, also known as VTCs or vertical lathes, are a type of CNC machine typically suitable for large-scale machining operations.

Unlike horizontal lathes, VTCs rotate the parts on a vertical axis. This allows for more precise and efficient machining and greater access to the workpiece for tooling and inspection.

VTCs are typically siutable for heavy-duty machining operations such as large castings and forgings but can also be suitable for smaller parts such as gears and shafts. While they generally have a larger footprint than other types of CNC machines, VTCs are essential to many manufacturing operations.

cnc lathes

CNC Lathes

CNC lathes are computer-numerically controlled lathes that provide high levels of precision and accuracy. These machines are suitable for a variety of industries for everything from small components to large castings.

Horizontal CNC Lathes

A horizontal CNC lathe is a type of CNC lathe machine that uses computer numeric control to automate the process of lathing or rotating a part on axes to remove material and create the desired shape.

Horizontal CNC lathes can create large, cylindrical shapes such as pipes and tubes. The term “horizontal” means the orientation of the spindle, which is mounted on a horizontal axis. This orientation allows longer workpieces to be supported and makes loading and unloading the workpiece easier.

Vertical CNC Lathes

Vertical CNC lathes are large, heavy machines that cut metal. They are powerful and precise and can create large or small pieces.

The main difference between a vertical CNC lathe and a horizontal one is the orientation of the spindle. In a vertical CNC lathe, the spindle is oriented vertically. This means that vertical CNC lathes can handle heavier loads and be more accurate than horizontal ones. But they are also more expensive and require more maintenance.

Types Of CNC Turning Operations

Specific Turning Operations

Tapered Turning

Tapered turning is a machining process used to create tapered surfaces on a component. The process is carried out using a CNC lathe, which allows for precise control over the shape and size of the taper.

Tapered turning can create a variety of shapes, including cones, cylinders, and other complex geometries.

Spherical Turning

Spherical turning is a type of CNC turning used to create various shapes on a workpiece. The most common shapes that are created using spherical turning are spheres, cones, and barrels.

To create these shapes, the tool must be able to move in three axes: the X-axis, the Y-axis, and the Z-axis.

Hard Turning

Hard turning is a type of CNC turning used to machine extremely hard materials. When hard turning, the cutting tool is typically made of carbide or another extremely hard material. The tool’s cutting edge is precision ground to create a very sharp edge that can withstand the high cutting forces required to machine hard materials.


The term “facing” refers to the process of cutting the flat surface of a component. This can be done by either using a rotating tool or moving the workpiece itself. Facing is often suitable for creating a smooth, finished edge on a component and prepare a surface for further machining operations.


Parting is the process of removing a piece of material from the workpiece. It is typically suitable for creating a smooth, flat surface on the workpiece.

Usually using tools perpendicular to the surface of the part. The tool moves in a straight line along the surface of the workpiece, and the cutting depth is determined by the speed at which the tool moves.


In CNC turning, “grooving” refers to a machining operation in which a groove is cut into the surface of a workpiece.

The groove’s depth, width, and shape can be precisely controlled using computer numerical control (CNC) technology. Grooves generally create threads, recesses, or chamfers (beveled edges).

cnc turning operation

Non-Specific Operations


Boring is a CNC turning operation used to enlarge an existing hole in the workpiece. The boring tool is mounted on the lathe’s spindle and fed into the hole at a predetermined depth and speed. As the tool cuts along the axis of the hole, it enlarges the diameter of the hole until it reaches the desired size.


Drilling is making a hole in a component using a drill bit. A drill bit is a cutting tool that rotates high speed to remove material from the workpiece. The drill bit’s size determines the drilled hole’s size, and the drill bit’s length determines the hole’s depth.


Knurling is a CNC turning operation in which the part is rotated while a hardened cutting tool is pressed into the material’s surface. The result is a series of raised, linear patterns on the workpiece that can be siutable for grip or decoration.


Reaming is a finishing operation performed on a component after it has been drilled or machined to size. The primary purpose of reaming is to improve the dimensional accuracy and finish of the hole.

Reaming produces a smooth, polished surface inside the hole, which reduces friction and increases the part’s life. It also cuts away any burrs that the drilling operation may have left behind.


Threading is the process of creating a screw thread. More specifically, threading is the process of cutting a helical groove in a workpiece. This groove is usually cut with a tool that has multiple cutting edges, and each edge cuts a small chip as it moves through the workpiece.

There are many different types of threading, but the most common method is single-point threading.

Polygonal Turning

Polygonal turning is a CNC operation in which the workpiece is rotated about its axis. At the same time, the cutting tool moves in a series of linear steps to create a three-dimensional shape.

The advantage of polygonal turning over traditional turning methods is that it can create shapes that would be too complex to produce with traditional methods.

Common Materials For CNC Turning

metal materials

There are a variety of materials for CNC machining, including metals, plastics, and composites.

Some of the most common machining metal materials are carbon steel, aluminum, brass, and stainless steel.

Carbon steel is a strong and durable material that is often suitable for the construction of industrial machinery and equipment.

Aluminum is a lightweight metal that is commonly suitable for the aerospace industry.

Stainless steel is a corrosion-resistant metal that is often suitable for the food and beverage industry.

Benefits Of CNC Turning

CNC turning is a manufacturing process where computer numerical controlled lathes are used to create cylindrical parts.

This machining method offers several benefits over traditional methods, such as improved accuracy, consistency, and efficiency.

In addition, CNC turning can reduce waste and increase productivity.

What is a CNC Turning Center?

A CNC turning center is a type of computer-controlled machine tool that is used to perform various machining operations on metal workpieces.

The operations that can be performed on a CNC turning center include turning, drilling, and tapping.

What’s the Difference Between CNC Turning And Milling?

In machining, turning refers to the process of removing material from a workpiece to create cylindrical shapes. This is done by holding the part in a lathe and rotating it while a cutting tool is applied to the material.

CNC milling, on the other hand, is a process that involves using cutting tools to remove material from a workpiece to create flat surfaces or various shapes. Both processes are important in the manufacturing industry and each has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Need CNC Turning Services?

We are a perfect choice if you are now looking for a company that can provide you with high-quality CNC-turned products. With our rigorous quality control measures, we can ensure that your product is of the highest quality.

There are numerous CNC turning machines, and each has its capabilities, so knowing which type will be best for your project is essential.

If you need CNC machining services, please update your cad file and conact us. You can find detailed information on all our products and services.

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