CNC Turning: Its Definition, Machines, And Operations

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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. This process can be used to create cylindrical or spherical shapes and complex geometric shapes.

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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 used for complex applications such as machining turbine blades and gear blanks. However, they can also be used for more simple tasks, such as turning shafts and spindles.

When choosing a horizontal turning center, it is essential to consider the type of work that will be performed on it. Factors such as maximum cutting diameter, max spindle speed, and table load capacity are vital in determining which machine is best suited 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 used for large-scale machining operations.

Unlike horizontal lathes, which require the workpiece to be rotated on a horizontal axis, VTCs rotate the workpiece 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 used for heavy-duty machining operations such as large castings and forgings but can also be used for smaller parts such as gears and shafts. While they generally have a larger footprint than other CNC machines, VTCs are essential to many manufacturing operations.

CNC Lathes

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

CNC lathes or turning centers are equipped with a turret operated through computer programming. The larger the turret’s capacity, the more intricate parts can be created.

Horizontal CNC Lathes

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

Horizontal CNC lathes are typically used to 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 that creates tapered surfaces on a workpiece. 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 be used to 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 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 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 workpiece. This can be done by either using a rotating tool or moving the workpiece. Facing is often used to create a smooth, finished edge on a workpiece and can prepare a surface for further machining operations.


Parting is the process of removing a piece of material from the workpiece. It is typically used to create a smooth, flat surface on the workpiece.

Parting is usually performed using a tool with a cutting edge perpendicular to the workpiece’s surface. The tool is moved along the surface of the workpiece in a linear motion, and the depth of the cut is determined by the speed at which the tool is moved.


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 are typically used to create threads, recesses, or chamfers (beveled edges).

Non-Specific Operations


This 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 workpiece using a drill bit. A drill bit is a cutting tool that rotates at 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 workpiece 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 used for grip or decoration.


Reaming is a finishing operation performed on a workpiece 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 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.

Related Articles:

CNC Milling: Its Definition, machines, and operations

CNC machining: a guide for beginners

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.

Machining Capability

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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 want to learn more about CNC turning and the various machines available, please visit our homepage, where you can find detailed information on all our products and services. We would love to hear from you – leave us a comment below and let us know how we can help you to succeed in your next project.


CNC turning process?

CNC turning is a machining process used to create cylindrical parts from round stock. A CNC lathe is programmed with instructions that guide the cutting tool along the outside or inside of the workpiece to remove material and shape it into the desired form. The CNC lathe can be programmed to cut single or multiple pieces in various shapes, sizes, and lengths. The primary benefit of CNC turning is its ability to produce highly accurate parts with tight tolerances. It also provides an efficient means for producing complex designs with complex geometries that require multiple setups or operations on traditional machines. Additionally, CNC turning has a low cost per part due to high production rates and minimal setup times. This makes it a great choice for producing large quantities of identical parts quickly and affordably.

What is CNC milling?

CNC Milling is a computer-controlled process used to shape metal and other materials. The machine uses rotary cutters to remove material from a workpiece in various directions and depths. This allows for the production of complex shapes that would be impossible by hand. CNC Milling involves using a software program that gives instructions to the machine on how to move and where to cut. A CNC milling machine can produce highly precise parts with tight tolerances, even with complex geometries. It also offers repeatability and consistency since each part is precisely machined according to the same program every time. CNC Milling is widely used in industrial and hobbyist applications, as it can produce high-quality parts quickly and accurately.

Are there any differences between CNC lathes and turning centers?

CNC lathes and turning centers are very similar machines, with some slight differences. CNC lathes can produce identical parts from a cylindrical blank by rotating them against cutting tools. At the same time, a turning center is typically used to produce more complex shapes, such as non-circular or contoured shapes. Because of the complexity of producing these shapes, turning centers often require more sophisticated programming than CNC lathes. In addition, turning centers typically have more axes of motion than CNC lathes, allowing for increased flexibility in their workpieces. While CNC lathes and turning centers can produce precision parts, the type of part produced should be considered when determining which machine is best suited for a particular job.