CNC Turning Lathe

What is CNC Turning: Process, Types, Benefits

Table of Contents

CNC turning is a very important process in modern manufacturing. It allows us to make cylindrical and conical shapes with very high accuracy and precision. As the industry has shifted from manual lathes to CNC turning laths, manufacturers are able to make complex parts with great ease.

In this blog post, we will learn what is a CNC turning. We will also look at its process, types, and benefits. By the end, you will have a good understanding of what is turning in CNC and its uses in modern manufacturing.

What is a CNC Turning?

CNC Turning Lathe
Figure 1. CNC Turning Lathe

CNC turning is a process that uses computer controlled lathes. These lathes move to take material off the workpiece. In this process, a cutting tool is given to the workpiece which is held in a chuck and it produces the shape. This cutting tool moves linearly along the axis of the workpiece. And as it moves it removes the excess material while the workpiece is spinning at high speed. A computer program controls the cutting tool and material. We create this program using CAD software, which we later convert into a format the machine can understand. The machine moves the tool according to this format and removes the material.

If we look back in the history of CNC turning, it all started in 1940s, when the first numerical control machine was invented. This first machine used punched cards through which cutting tools could be controlled. In 1950s computers started controlling these machines. Today many industries use these CNC turning machines. These industries are aerospace, automotive and medical device manufacturing.

Read More: What is CNC Machining

Advantages of CNC Turning:

After knowing what is CNC turning, we’ll look at some of the many advantages it has over manual manufacturing methods. Some benefits of CNC Turning are:

  • High Accuracy – CNC turning machines are very precise. They produce parts to exact specifications. They hold tolerances as tight as ±0.01 mm. Critical for industries like aerospace and medicine where precision matters.
  • More Efficient – CNC turning machines are fast, with speed of 500 to 10,000 RPM for long periods. Boosts efficiency and cuts production times. Can make 500 parts per hour. They enable faster delivery of end products and components.
  • Lower Costs – CNC turning machines are automated. They need less manual labor and material waste. Cut expenses and improve efficiency. These can reduce labor costs by 70% and material waste by 50%.
  • Complex Shapes – Can make intricate shapes and designs precisely. These include helical forms and tapered profiles that will be hard to make otherwise.

Read More: Advantages of CNC Machining

What Shapes Can CNC Turning Make?

CNC Turning lathes can make a wide range of shapes, including:

  • Cylindrical shapes, such as shafts, pins, and bushings.
  • Conical shapes, such as cones and tapered parts
  • Complex shapes with axial symmetry
  • Tapered shapes like tapered shafts and cones
  • Some turning centers can even make polygonal shapes like hexagons and squares.

What Do You Need to Make A CNC Turned Part

  • A 3D CAD model and G-code and M-code programs.
  • Selecting cutting speed and feed rate based on workpiece material. For example, for mild steel, using 100-150 m/min and 0.1-0.3 mm/rev speed and feed rate respectively. For titanium, using 30-60 m/min cutting speed and 0.05-0.15 mm/rev feed rate.
  • Workpiece Material selection from aluminum alloys (e.g., 6061-T6), stainless steel, titanium alloys, brass, and plastics (e.g., PEEK, Delrin, Nylon).
  • Cutting tool selection according to workpiece material.

How does CNC Turning work?

CNC turning makes a physical part from a digital design. It involves these four steps:

Step 1: CAD Design and CAM Programming

First a 3D CAD model of the part is made. For this CAD software like SolidWorks or Fusion 360 are used. This model is the digital blueprint of the part.

Next the CAD model is imported into CAM software. Examples are Mastercam or BobCAD-CAM. The CAM software makes G-code and M-code programs. These control the CNC turning machine. They define toolpaths, cutting parameters and machining strategies.

Step 2: Machine Setup and Tool Selection

Next the CNC turning machine is set up. The workpiece is mounted in the chuck or collet. The cutting tools are loaded into the tool turret or magazine. Machine’s axes, speeds and feeds are set for the part and tools. Work and tool offsets are set for reference positions.

The right tools should be chosen. These may include turning inserts, face/turning tools, threading tools, boring bars, grooving tools and knurling tools. When choosing tool, consider the workpiece material, part shape and desired surface finish.

Step 3: Material Preparation and Mounting

Material is prepared. Cut to length and ends are deburred. Then clamped into the chuck or collet. Proper preparation and mounting is key to vibration reduction and accuracy.

Step 4: Turning and Finishing

Next is the CNC turning process. The machine runs the G-code and M-code programs. The cutting tool removes material from the spinning workpiece. This involves roughing and finishing passes. The goal is to achieve the desired part size, shape and surface finish.

After turning, finishing processes like deburring or polishing are also required.

The machine’s computer controls the cutting parameters, tool movement and other variables to ensure precision, consistency and efficiency. And a high quality part are made by an automated process.

CNC Turning vs CNC Milling

Before understanding the differences between CNC milling and CNC turning, we should know whatis CNC milling and turning. CNC turning and milling are both methods controlled by computer for producing precise parts. But they work differently and are used for shaping different things. Here’s a look at what is CNC turning and milling and their comparison:

Aspect CNC Turning CNC Milling
Part Spinning and Shape – The part spins, tool stays still
– Good for round or symmetrical pieces
– The tool spins, part stays fixed
– Handles complex shapes
Surface, Tooling and Setup Time – Smoother surface from constant cutting
– Quicker setup, especially for big parts (up to 30% faster)
– Uses cheap single-point cutters
– Rougher finish from starting and stopping
– More setup time needed, especially for complex parts (can take 3x longer)
– Needs expensive multi-point cutters
Material Removal Speed and Efficiency – Cuts material faster, especially with big parts (up to 100 cc/min)
– Excellent for producing lots of round pieces
– Slower material removal, especially on complex shapes
– More versatile for different shape geometries
Typical Applications and Industries – Heavily used where high volume round parts are needed
– Automotive, aerospace, oil/gas industries use them
– Used where complex shapes are needed
– Industries like aerospace, medical, and mold shops need them

Types of CNC Turning Operations:

Types of CNC Turning Operations
Figure 2. CNC Turning Operations

CNC turning can perform numerous versatile machining operations to make different part features:

· Straight Turning

This involves removing material from outer diameter of workpiece to create a cylindrical shape. Cutting tool moves linearly along the axis of rotating workpiece, cutting away material. Used for making shafts, axles and other round parts.

· Taper Turning

This gradually reduces or enlarges diameter to create a tapered, conical surface. Cutting tool moves at an angle along workpiece axis. Used for machine spindles, tool holders and components needing tapered holes.

· Hard Turning

It involves machining materials with a Rockwell C hardness greater than 45. Uses special cutters and techniques to cut tough, hardened stuff efficiently. Makes precision gears, pumps and hydraulic parts from hardened metals.

· Threading

Cuts helical threads on outer workpiece surface with specified pitch and length. Tool moves along workpiece side, carving spiral groove. Used for bolts, screws and fasteners.

· Knurling

Creates serrated pattern on surface by rolling special toothed tool against workpiece. Increases friction and aesthetics of parts.

· Drilling

Drill holes in the workpiece using a rotating drill bit moving along axis which remove material to create hole. Used for screw holes and other fastener holes.

· Facing

Facing cuts along end face of workpiece to flatten or cut to length. Cutting tool moves along radius, removing material for flat-ended parts like shafts.

· Boring

Boring enlarges existing holes or makes internal cylindrical features. Tool moves along axis, removing material to enlarge holes. Used for engine blocks, cylinders, etc.

· Reaming

Reaming sizes holes to improve accuracy and surface finish. Tool removes a bit of material along axis to refine the hole. Used for precise holes in engines, instruments, etc.

· Grooving

Grooving cuts narrow grooves on surface by moving tool along axis to remove material. Used for grooved parts like gears and pulleys.

· Parting

Parting cuts off a turned piece by moving tool along axis at cut-off point. Used for making shafts, axles, and other specific lengths.

Learn More:

Types of CNC Milling Operations

What Materials are Suitable for CNC Turning?

CNC Turning Materials
Figure 3. Materials for CNC Turning

Many types of materials work with CNC turning. Each material has different properties. Below is a brief summary of some frequently used ones:


  • Aluminum– Lightweight yet strong. Grades 6061 and 7075 machine nicely.
  • Steel – Tough and durable. Carbon steel and stainless steel see frequent use. Stainless steel resists corrosion.
  • Brass– Machines well, resists rust, conducts electricity. Used for electrical and heat transfer parts.
  • Copper– Excellent heat and electrical conductivity makes it perfect for electronics and heat sinks.
  • Titanium– Very strong but light. Resists corrosion. Used in aerospace and medical implants.


  • Acetal– Stiff and shape retaining. Resists wear.
  • Nylon– Tough, light, self-lubricating. Used for gears and bearings.
  • PTFE– Extremely low friction, ideal for bearings and seals.


  • Alumina– Very hard, perfect for cutting tools and wear resistance.
  • Silicon carbide– Extreme hardness makes it great for grinding and high heat uses.
  • Zirconia– Strong, tough and heat tolerant. Used in medical devices and dental work.

The best material for CNC turning depends on the part’s needs. Things like strength, rust resistance, heat properties, and cost matter. Knowing about these materials helps manufacturers pick the right material for the job.

Types of CNC Turning Machines

CNC turning machines have different types that are built to do specific jobs. Most popular type is horizontal CNC lathes.

I. Horizontal CNC Lathes

They have a horizontal spindle and tailstock. A carriage moves along the bed. They turn big, heavy parts like shafts and gears. Automotive, aerospace and heavy industries use them often.

II. Vertical CNC Lathes

Vertical CNC lathes have a vertical spindle and tailstock. The carriage moves along the bed. They’re best for turning small, heavy and large-diameter parts precisely. Examples are marine equipment, wind turbine parts and heavy flywheels.

III. Vertical Turning Centers

Vertical turning centers are advanced CNC lathes. They can do multiple tasks in one setup. They have a vertical spindle, tailstock and moving carriage. They work like a vertical lathe and machining center combined. They’re very accurate and precise. They have live tooling and Y-axis movement. They turn intricate parts needing drilling, milling and tapping.

IV. Horizontal Turning Centers

Horizontal turning centers have a horizontal spindle and tailstock. The carriage moves along the bed. They also have a turret and magazine for many cutting tools. They work like a horizontal lathe and machining center combined. They’re very efficient and flexible. They have sub-spindles and live tooling. They turn complex parts needing drilling, milling and tapping.

Components of CNC Turning Machines

Components of CNC Turning Machine
Figure 4. Components of CNC Turning Machine

CNC lathes have several key components working together for accurate, efficient turning:

· Headstock

The headstock houses the spindle and holds the workpiece. It rotates the part during turning.

· Tailstock

The tailstock is on the opposite bed end from the headstock. It supports the workpiece to prevent vibration for stability.

· Spindle

The spindle holds and rotates the cutting tool at high speeds to turn the part. It’s driven by a motor.

· Chuck and Collet

The chuck or collet holds the workpiece securely during turning. The chuck has 3 to 4 jaws that grip workpiece. The collet is a sleeve that tightens to hold workpiece.

· Lathe Bed

The lathe bed base provides support for the headstock, tailstock and carriage. Made typically of cast iron or steel.

· Carriage

The moving carriage supports the cutter. It is guided along the lathe bed by a motor controlled by CNC System.

· Tool Storage

The turret and magazine store and swap tools. The turret holds multiple tools. On the other hand, magazine stores additional tools.

· Control Panel and CNC System

The panel and CNC system move the parts using G-code and M-code. They interpret instructions to execute the turns.

These parts work together and enable complex, high-precision CNC turning.

Yijin Hardware: Best CNC Turning Services Provider in China

Yijin Hardware provides the best CNC turning services in whole China. We make accurate and high-quality parts for many industries. Over 20 years of CNC machining experience make us the best choice for custom projects of CNC turning.

CNC Machining Services at Yijin Hardware

Yijin offers many CNC machining services. Some of these services are described below.

  • CNC Turning Services: For high-precision parts with complex shapes and tight tolerances.
  • CNC Milling Services: For parts with intricate designs and features.
  • Casting Services: Used for parts needing specific materials and finishes.
  • Sheet Metal Fabrication Services: Used for parts requiring bending, cutting and forming.

Why Choose Yijin Hardware for CNC Turning

Choosing Yijin has many benefits. Some benefits are:

  • Large, efficient production capacity means fast delivery
  • Competitive pricing on services.
  • Our advanced CNC machines ensure high accuracy.
  • Our Experienced engineering team ensures parts meet required specifications.

Choosing us for your CNC turning needs will make sure you get quality CNC turned parts. And these parts will meet your exact specifications and deadlines.


In conclusion, CNC turning matters a lot in modern manufacturing. It delivers high precision, flexibility and efficiency. Manufacturers can optimize production by grasping CNC turning process, materials and machine components. For getting precise CNC turned parts on time, choosing a dependable CNC turning service provider such as Yijin Hardware is crucial.

At Yijin Hardware, we manufacture and supply high-quality CNC turned parts timely. Reach out today to learn more about our services.

Hi there, I'm Gavin Yi

From Yijin Hardware, I’m a product manager and founder with over 10 years of experience in precision manufacturing. We specialize in providing on-demand machining solutions and customized parts. Ask for a quote for your current or future projects now!

Best Regards, Gavin, Founder & Product Manager


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