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CNC Turning

cnc turning

CNC Turning?

CNC turning is a machining process that involves rotating a workpiece while a cutting tool removes material from it. The cutting tool is controlled by a computer program, which makes it possible to produce highly precise parts with tight tolerances. Computer numerical control, or CNC, is short for the process of using a computer to control the movement of a cutting tool.

CNC turning is commonly used in the manufacturing industry to produce a wide range of parts, from simple shafts to complex components used in aerospace and medical devices. Metals, polymers, and composites may all be employed with this method since it is so adaptable.

A Brief History of CNC Turning

CNC turning is a machining process that has revolutionized the manufacturing industry. It has made it possible to produce parts with a high degree of precision and accuracy, while also improving efficiency and reducing costs. But where did CNC turning originate? Let’s take a brief look at the history of this important technology.

Early Development of CNC Technology

The first CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machines were developed in the late 1940s and early 1950s. These machines were used for a variety of purposes, including drilling, milling, and turning. They were primarily used in the aerospace and automotive industries, where high precision was essential.

The earliest CNC machines were controlled using punch cards or paper tape, which contained the instructions for the machine. These machines were limited in their capabilities and were often difficult to program and operate.

The emergence of Modern CNC Turning

The minicomputer’s invention in the 1960s cleared the path for more advanced CNC technology. These computers allowed CNC machines to be programmed using computer software, improving the efficiency and accuracy of the programming process.

One of the earliest examples of modern CNC turning was the Numeric Control System (NCS) developed by MIT in the 1950s. This system used a digital computer to control the movements of the cutting tool in real time, allowing for greater precision and accuracy.

In the 1970s and 1980s, CNC-turning technology continued to evolve. The introduction of CAD/CAM software made it easier to design parts and create programs for CNC machines. The development of multi-axis machines allowed for more complex parts to be machined, and improvements in cutting tool technology made the process more efficient and accurate.

Advances in CNC Turning Today

Today’s CNC-turning technology is continually developing and getting better. The procedure has become even more accurate and efficient while requiring less manual intervention thanks to the use of sophisticated sensors and automation technologies. Programming has become easier because of developments in software and computer technologies.

The Process

This is a complex process that involves several stages. Here is a breakdown of the steps involved:

Step 1: Workpiece Preparation

The first step is to prepare the workpiece. This involves mounting the workpiece onto the lathe and securing it in place. The workpiece is typically clamped onto the lathe using a chuck or collet, which holds it securely in place during the turning process. The workpiece must be mounted in the correct position to ensure that the cutting tool can access all areas that need to be machined.

Step 2: Tool Setup

The next step is to set up the cutting tool. This involves selecting the appropriate tool for the job and mounting it onto the tool turret or tool post. The cutting tool must be positioned correctly in relation to the workpiece. to ensure that it can machine the part correctly. The tool must also be properly aligned and adjusted to ensure that it is cutting at the correct angle and depth.

Step 3: Programming

Programming the CNC machine comes next after the setup of the workpiece and cutting tool. In order to do this, computer software must be developed that instructs the machine how to move the cutting tool while fabricating the component. Together with cutting parameters like cutting speed, feed rate, and depth of cut, the software contains details on the part’s shape, size, and measurements.

Step 4: Turning

With the workpiece, cutting tool, and program all setup, the turning process can begin. The cutting tool moves along the length of the workpiece, removing material in a series of passes. The machine controller controls the movement of the cutting tool, ensuring that it moves in the correct direction and at the correct speed.

As the cutting tool removes material from the workpiece, it creates chips or swarf. These chips must be removed from the work area to prevent damage to the cutting tool or the workpiece. This is typically done using a chip conveyor or other type of chip removal system.

Step 5: Finishing

The component may need extra finishing procedures once the turning process is finished in order to get the appropriate surface finish or other qualities. Operations like polishing, deburring, or coating may fall under this category. These finishing procedures can be carried out manually or through different kinds of automation.

Step 6: Inspection

The final part is next examined to make sure it complies with the necessary requirements. This might entail utilizing specialized measuring tools to take the part’s measurements as well as visual inspections to look for flaws or other problems.

Manufacturing high-quality components is a complicated operation that needs careful planning and execution. Preparing the workpiece, setting up the tools, programming, turning, finishing, and inspecting it are all steps in the process. Manufacturers may make items with high quality, accuracy, and efficiency by following these procedures and utilizing the most recent tools and technologies.

Types of  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 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.

Vertical 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.

Swiss-type Lathes

Not a specific sort of lathe, but Swiss-type Small, precise components are frequently produced using CNC lathes, a particular form of turning lathe. The workpiece is supported in these machines by a guiding bushing that keeps it close to the cutting tool. The cutting tool may enter the workpiece from various angles since it is positioned on a carriage that travels along the X and Z axes.

Screws, bolts, and pins may all be produced with great precision and accuracy using Swiss-style CNC turning lathes.

Multi-Spindle Lathes

Multi-spindle is a particular kind of CNC lathe that can work on several pieces at once. These machines contain several spindles, each with a separate chuck that can hold and rotate a number of workpieces simultaneously. The cutting tools may make many cuts into the workpieces because they are placed on carriages that move along the X and Z axes.

For the high-volume manufacture of tiny parts like bolts, nuts, and screws, multi-spindle CNC turning lathes are perfect.

horizontal turning lathe
Horizontal CNC Turning Lathe


In comparison to traditional manual turning, CNC turning has a number of benefits. The ability to make extremely accurate parts with strict tolerances is one of the main benefits. The cutting tool can perform incredibly tiny and accurate motions that would be challenging or impossible to do with a manual machine since it is controlled by a computer program.

Moreover, it is quicker and more effective than hand turning. The turning procedure may be carried out automatically without requiring user assistance after the software has been written and put into the machine. This makes it possible to build components more rapidly and with lower mistake rates.

Another advantage is versatility. It can make pieces in a variety of forms and sizes and work with a wide range of materials. This makes it a procedure that may be used for several purposes.

Which Industries can make use of CNC Turning?

This is a versatile manufacturing process that can be used in a wide range of industries. Some of the industries that commonly make use of it include:

Aerospace Industry

The aerospace industry requires highly precise and complex components for its products. CNC turning is an ideal solution for producing these parts, as it allows for high accuracy and repeatability. CNC turning is used in the production of parts such as turbine blades, landing gear components, and engine components.

Automotive Industry

The automotive industry also requires high precision and complex parts. CNC turning is used in the production of engine components, transmission components, and suspension components. CNC turning allows for the production of parts with high accuracy and repeatability, which is important for ensuring the safety and reliability of automotive components.

Medical Industry

The medical industry requires precision parts for a wide range of applications, including surgical instruments, implants, and prosthetics. This form of machining is used in the production of medical devices such as diagnostic equipment and monitoring equipment.

Electronics Industry

The electronics industry requires precision parts for a wide range of products, including computers, mobile devices, and telecommunications equipment. CNC turning is used to produce these parts with high accuracy and repeatability. CNC turning is also used in the production of circuit boards and other electronic components.

Industrial Machinery Industry

The industrial machinery industry requires precision parts for a wide range of equipment, including pumps, valves, and hydraulic systems. CNC turning is used to produce these parts with high accuracy and repeatability. CNC turning is also used in the production of industrial machines such as lathes, mills, and presses.

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


CNC turning is a versatile and efficient machining process that is widely used in the manufacturing industry. It offers several advantages over traditional manual turning, including higher precision, faster production times, and greater versatility. If you need parts produced using CNC turning, be sure to choose a reputable and experienced service provider to ensure high quality and precision.

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.

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