CNC Turning

We're experts in CNC Turning, from our experienced, qualified operators to our state of the art equipment, everything is geared toward giving you the best possible service.
cnc turning

CNC Turning

CNC Turning may not be a term that many people are familiar with. However, it is likely that they have used or are familiar with something manufactured using the turning process.

So today we are going to take a look at what it is what is made using the CNC turning process.

Long before the use of precision engineering materials such as metal were manufactured into parts using manual methods and with the constant supervision of an experienced operator. As we all know; to err is human, and errors were common and showed up in the form of inaccurate measurements and inferior quality.

We live in a world of manufacturing where advancements in computer technology, together with experienced operators allow for parts to be manufactured to the highest specifications. CNC Turning is one of the most important machining processes and has helped to create the modern world.

History of CNC Turning

The CNC Turning process is based on one of the oldest machining tools, the Lathe. It should come as no surprise that the lathe made its first appearance in Ancient Egypt, in fact right back to 1300BC.

There were incremental improvements over the millennia until we reach the late 1940s. John T Parsons was working with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was tasked by the US Air Force with finding a more cost-effective way to manufacture complex parts for aircraft. And being as the world was in the midst of WW2 it was imperative that the work was done fast.

Parsons created the process of Numerical Control (NC). Using punch cards to control tools to achieve something at speed, which would take even experienced machinists days to produce. The war effort required a process that could be used by new operators. Soon NC became the norm in the manufacturing industry.

In 1967 an improvement to the process came into being. Computer-controlled machining. By 1976 the first computer-aided 3D machining was introduced and within 13 years Computer Numerical Control (CNC) had become the industry standard.

What is the CNC Turning Process?

The process of CNC turning involves securing the raw material within the jaws of a lathe, the material is turned within the lathe and a single-point cutting tool is moved parallel to the axis of rotation. This is the basic process of shaping the material. The measurements of the finished part are fed into the machine via CAD software.

Once the instructions have been read the computer controls the lathe to ensure that the parts are produced to the exact specifications. In conventional machining, the work is stationary while it is the tool that moves. Obviously, due to the nature of the process, the final part to be produced is cylindrical or oblong in shape.

Another benefit of the process is that unlike CNC Milling, which is another important process, which you can read about here, it offers us the ability to produce multiples of the same component, quickly and from a single piece of material.

Types of CNC Turning Lathes

The turning process uses many different types of lathes. Each type is suited to different processes.

Even though there are many, many types of lathes, the precision metal machining industry uses 4 common types.

Vertical CNC Lathe

Vertical lathes orient the spindle in a fixed position in the vertical plane. The workpiece moves up or down to place it in line with the appropriate tool necessary for the desired operation.

Vertical lathes are less complex than horizontal machines. They provide the best option for projects that focus on a single side, like large metal plates and sinking dies. They hold an advantage over horizontal lathes in circumstances where workpiece sagging might be a factor.

vertical cnc turning lathe
Vertical CNC Turning Lathe

Horizontal CNC Lathes

Unlike vertical lathes, horizontal lathes do not have a fixed spindle, instead, they use a variety of heads mounted to a horizontal arbor. These machines accommodate a wider variety of shapes and sizes and gravity works to keep the workpiece clean during machining. Most horizontal lathes have the capacity to incorporate automatic bar-stock feeders.

horizontal turning lathe
Horizontal CNC Turning Lathe

Horizontal Turning Centres

Horizontal Turning Centers are the most widely recognized CNC machines here in North America used by Parts Manufacturers for the Oil and Gas sector. With a horizontal turning center, the spindle is horizontally oriented, and tools are mounted out of the side of the tool holder and cut across the workpiece.

Horizontal Turning Centres

A vertical turning center is a cross hybrid between the turning center and the vertical lathe. Shorter components not requiring a sub-spindle, tailstock, or bottom turret can benefit from a vertical construction lathe rather than a horizontal one to keep the machine footprint small.

Advantages of CNC Turning

When compared with manual turning, there are multiple reasons why manufacturers prefer to use computer-aided technology. Not only is it more cost-effective, but it also allows for increased production speed and efficiency – meaning you can produce a lot more components in a shorter space of time.

Because of the increased level of precision that CNC Turning provides, manufacturers also see a reduction in waste as they can make more out of their raw materials. As well as these advantages, the following universal advantages also apply:


A CNC lathe can manufacture components at a very high rate, this is especially true for sliding stock lathes which can engage the stock with multiple tools at once. Some lathes even have multiple primary spindles that can engage up to six stock pieces with multiple tools. Not even the most advanced CNC mills can match the speed with which a sliding stock lathe can churn out parts.


CNC lathes can come in multiple different configurations that can match any requirement from pure OD and ID turning to combinations of turning, off-axis drilling, and even milling all in one machine. This results in the capability to run ‘done-in-one’ operations with ease.


A CNC lathe can operate nonstop due to automatic material loading bar feeders. This means that the operator only needs to make sure the machine is continuously fed with the material, and it will continue to machine parts.

Which Industries can make use of CNC Turning?

CNC Turning is an extremely versatile manufacturing process. While it is mostly associated with the automotive, aerospace, and engineering industries, it can also be used to create objects like pieces of art and ornaments.

  • Aerospace
  • Agricultural
  • Appliance
  • Architectural
  • Auto/Truck/Transportation
  • Automotive
  • Chemical
  • Construction
  • Dental
  • Electronic
  • Farm Duty
  • Food
  • Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning
  • Heavy Equipment
  • HVAC
  • Industrial
  • Machine Tool
  • Marine
  • Medical
  • Military
  • Military/Mil-Spec
  • Mining
  • Motorcycle
  • Oil Field
  • Optical
  • Packaging/Converting
  • Pharmaceutical
  • Recreation

CNC Turning Applications

  • Pins
  • Bushings
  • Construction Equipment
  • Engine components
  • Fasteners
  • Fittings
  • Forgings
  • Hydraulic components
  • Jewelry
  • Machine components
  • Shafts
  • Sockets
  • Spacers
  • Spindles
  • Standoffs
  • Thread rod
  • Turbine components
  • Turbomachinery components
  • Valves

Partner with us

If you require CNC turning parts or components, Wisconsin Metal Tech is here to help. We are dedicated to providing the highest quality precision machined products for a wide range of industries.

We are adept at building close working relationships with our clients, which is why they return to us time and again. We are here to assist you every step of the way, from providing you with a quote in just 24 hours right the way through to delivering your items. Parts and materials won’t leave our building unless we are fully satisfied that they meet your specifications and standards of quality.

Simply provide us with your measurements and we can use our expertise to create your parts to match your exact specifications. You can provide us with full drawings in industry-standard file types for your quote.

Get in touch today!

Complete the form, upload any files you need a quote on and click Send. All fields marked * are required. We’ll get back to you as soon as possible. Thank you.

Related Posts

the future of cnc machining

The Future of CNC Machining

CNC machining has had a significant impact on the development of many products we use in our daily lives and is constantly evolving through new trends and developments. This article will discuss these advances and how they are shaping the future of CNC machining.

Read More »
machine shop chicago

Machine Shop Chicago

Our machine shop offers Chicago companies a wide range of CNC machining and metal processing services. We are an ISO 9001 Certified company.

Read More »