CNC Turning Machine and CNC Turning Center: Best Bet For You

CNC Machining

Recent years have seen a fast rise in the use of CNC machining in the manufacturing sector because of its high precision and repeatability. Given the variety of CNC technologies accessible today, knowing the fundamentals of CNC machining will enable you to discern between them. CNC turning represents one of these cutting-edge technologies.

Using a non-spinning cutting tool from a turning center or lathe, materials are removed from a rotating stiff workpiece. Depending on the kind of turning operation, components made using the CNC turning process might have a variety of sizes and shapes.

Although this idea appears to be very simple, fine CNC turning can be intricate. Let’s say you’re curious in the steps involved in this manufacturing process and what it takes to achieve the best outcomes. If so, this essay will cover any query you have about CNC turning machine and turning center.

CNC Turning Machine and CNC Turning Center

What is CNC Turning?

CNC turning stands as a remarkably precise and efficient subtractive machining method rooted in the principles of the lathe machine. In this process, the cutting tool is positioned against a turning workpiece, facilitating the removal of materials to achieve the desired shape.

The turning center or lathe remains securely in place, while the raw material undergoes high-speed rotation. Guided by computer programs, the workpiece rotates along a dual CNC turning machine axis movement, allowing a single-point cutting tool to shape the material. This method ensures the production of meticulously precise components by controlling the turning center or lathe.

While often mistaken for CNC milling, CNC turning is distinct. Unlike CNC milling and various other subtractive CNC processes that secure the workpiece to a bed for cutting, CNC turning employs a reverse approach—rotating the workpiece while the cutting bit remains stationary.

Part Shapes & CNC Turning

CNC turning is ideally suited for crafting cylindrical or oblong-shaped components due to its operational characteristics. However, it is versatile enough to create various shapes with axial symmetries, such as cones, disks, or combinations of these shapes. Some turning centers are even equipped to execute polygonal turning operations with specialized rotating tools, enabling the production of hexagonal or square-shaped components.

CNC turned parts -- custom CNC turning services

Pros of CNC Turning

CNC turning offers numerous advantages, encompassing the following key points:


The CNC turning machine excels in achieving exact measurements and minimizing human errors through the utilization of CAD or CAM files. Experts can achieve remarkable precision using state-of-the-art machinery, whether for prototyping or completing the entire production cycle. The programmed nature of CNC turning machine ensures each cut is precise, resulting in identical pieces throughout the production run.


Turning centers are available in various sizes to cater to the flexibility required for different applications. Adjustments are easily made since the tasks of CNC turning machine are preprogrammed. Operators can finalize components by making necessary programming adjustments to the CAM program or even embark on the creation of entirely different items. Consequently, relying on the same precision CNC machining services company is feasible for the production of numerous unique parts.


Stringent safety regulations are adhered to by manufacturing firms to ensure complete safety. The automatic nature of the CNC turning machine reduces the need for extensive labor, with operators primarily monitoring the machine. Moreover, the lathe body incorporates fully enclosed or semi-enclosed protective devices to prevent flying particles from the processed item, minimizing potential harm to the crew.


Tasks specified by programming on CNC lathes or CNC turning centers significantly reduce the likelihood of errors. Consequently, the CNC turning machine can achieve faster production without compromising the quality of the final output. Ultimately, this translates to receiving the required components in a more expeditious manner compared to alternative options.

How CNC Turning Operates

CNC turning, though intricate, can be comprehended through a simplified, stepwise delineation of the process, spanning from design inception to actual manufacturing. The key stages of CNC turning are as follows:

Step1: Convert the CAD Design File to CNC Program

Initiate the process by preparing a CAD file for conversion into CNC turning machine language. This preliminary step does not entail sophisticated programming; it necessitates pre-existing 2D drawings of the design, which can be electronically captured using software like AutoCAD or SolidWorks.

Once the electronic design is in CAD file format, it is converted into a CAM program. The same software tools can be employed to export the drawing in CAM format. Subsequently, the manufacturing engineer utilizes the software to assess the component’s manufacturability.

Step2: Prepare the CNC Turning Machine

Following the design phase, the next step involves CNC turning machine setup. While the majority of processes are automated, operator involvement is still essential. To effectively set up the CNC turning lathe, adhere to these guidelines:

    • Power off: Ensure the CNC turning machine is powered off, considering the potential dangers associated with the CNC machining process.
    • Part securement: Properly secure the part onto the chuck, responsible for holding it in place during turning. Inadequate loading could result in components with incorrect dimensions.
    • Tool turret loading: Load the tool turret with the appropriate tools for the turning operation, allowing for a seamless operation by holding multiple tools simultaneously.
    • Calibration: Ensure proper calibration of the tool and workpiece to meet desired specifications.
    • CNC program upload: Prior to commencement, upload the CNC code into the CNC turning machine.

Two crucial variables at this stage are turning speed (the rotational speed of the workpiece) and feed rate (the cutting tool’s speed along the rotating workpiece). Accurate determination of these values by a professional machinist is imperative to avoid uneven finishes or irreparable damage to the workpiece, particularly with materials that may be sensitive to incorrect estimations.

Step3: Manufacture the CNC Turned Parts

The final phase involves the actual production of the desired part. Various turning operations are available, chosen based on desired outcomes. The part’s complexity dictates the number of cycles, with cycle time calculation being crucial for cost estimation.

Typically, turning cycle time comprises loading time (part of the setup), cutting time (the time it takes to cut the workpiece, influenced by feed rate and cutting depth), and idle time (any non-cutting operation, such as changing turning center settings or tool movement).

The outcome of the manufacturing process is contingent on the raw material used, with components obtained from plastic differing in functionality and surface roughness from those crafted from metal.

Types of CNC Turning Operations

CNC turning encompasses a variety of lathe tools, enabling the execution of diverse operations on a workpiece, classified as either external or internal. External operations focus on altering the outer diameter of the component, while internal operations target changes to the inner diameter.

The nature of each operation is determined by the cutting tool employed and the path it follows to remove materials. Let’s delve into these operations:

Turning Specific Operations (External)


During this process, a single-point turning tool traverses the side of the workpiece, removing materials to create various features such as tapers, chamfers, steps, and contours. Machining typically occurs at small radial depths of cut, necessitating multiple passes to achieve the desired end diameter.

Tapered Turning

Tapered turning involves shaping conical surfaces by gradually altering the diameter of a cylindrical workpiece.

Hard Turning

Reserved for materials with a Rockwell C hardness exceeding 45, hard turning requires essential heat treatment before execution. It aims to replace or limit traditional grinding operations, competing favorably in stock removal but may not be suitable for critical dimensional and form requirements.


In facing, a single-point turning tool moves radially along the material’s end, removing thin layers to create smooth, flat surfaces. Depths of a face are typically small, allowing machining in a single pass.


This operation involves a radial movement of a single-point turning tool into the workpiece’s side, cutting a groove equal to the tool’s width. Multiple cuts can be made to form larger grooves, and specialized tools may be used for varying geometries.


Similar to grooving, the cutting tool moves radially into the workpiece’s side, continuing until reaching the inner diameter or center, effectively parting or cutting off a section of the raw material.

Non-Specific Operations (Internal)


Boring tools enter the workpiece to cut along the internal surface, forming features like tapers, chamfers, steps, and contours. An adjustable boring head allows setting the boring tool to cut the desired diameter.


Drilling removes materials from the internal parts of a workpiece using stationary drill bits in the tool turret or tailstock of the turning center.


This operation utilizes a single-point threading tool with a 60-degree pointed nose, moving axially along the workpiece side to cut threads into the component’s outer surface. Threads can be cut to specified lengths, with some requiring multiple passes.


Knurling involves cutting serrated patterns onto the workpiece’s surface using a specialized knurling tool, serving as visual enhancement or a hand grip.


This sizing operation removes small amounts of metal from an already drilled hole, ensuring precise internal hole diameters.

For accurate and precise machined parts, our reliable CNC turning machine and services cover a comprehensive range of specific and non-specific turning operations. Our state-of-the-art technology and experienced technicians deliver cost-effective, high-quality products, helping you maintain competitiveness in your industry.

Types of CNC Turning Machine

For your project, you can choose from four main types of CNC turning machine, each catering to specific machining needs. These types include:

Horizontal Turning Centers

Horizontal turning center is an enclosed CNC turning machine that seamlessly integrates drilling and milling capabilities. Featuring a horizontally-oriented spindle, these turning centers have tools mounted above the rotating workpiece. The cutting tools traverse the material, employing gravity to facilitate chip removal, similar to milling. The chips descend into the bed for convenient disposal.

Vertical Turning Centers

Combining the attributes of a horizontal turning center with CNC milling, vertical turning centers are designed with a rotating chuck set flat on the ground. This configuration allows for machining large pieces at lower revolutions per minute (RPMs). In this setup, the tool turret approaches from the side. Inverted vertical turning centers are also available, with the spindle and chuck in reversed positions.

Horizontal Lathes

Horizontal lathes possess all the features of conventional lathes but are distinguished by the incorporation of computer programs for control. These lathes primarily focus on turning and boring operations, offering precision and efficiency.

Vertical Lathes

In contrast to horizontal lathes, vertical lathes secure the workpiece from the bottom before initiating the spinning process. This configuration is particularly advantageous for CNC turning machine shops with space constraints. Additionally, vertical lathes are an optimal choice when dealing with heavy workpieces, providing stability and facilitating efficient machining.

Selecting the most suitable CNC turning machine from these options depends on the specific requirements of your project, ensuring optimal performance and precision in your machining endeavors.

Components of CNC Turning Machine

Achieving optimal results in a turning procedure requires a comprehensive understanding of the CNC turning machine tool. Let’s explore the key components of a CNC turning center:


Positioned at the front of the turning center, the headstock is typically located on the left side of CNC turning machine. It houses the main spindle to which the chuck attaches for securing the workpiece. The headstock accommodates the driving motor and mechanisms for powering the spindle. The capacity of the spindle bar determines the maximum diameter of the workpiece that can be mounted through the headstock.


Situated at the opposite end of the turning center, the tailstock attaches to the lathe bed and provides support for longer raw materials. The quill of the tailstock supports the workpiece using hydraulic force, running along with the workpiece driven by the spindle. However, the tailstock is not used when face turning is a crucial operation to avoid interference.


Often referred to as the heart of the CNC turning machine tool, the spindle of the CNC turning lathe comprises a spindle drive system and a spindle assembly. These moving parts include motors, gears, and the chuck. Some CNC turning centers feature a sub-spindle or dual spindles, with the second spindle serving as an alternative to a tailstock. The sub-spindle moves longitudinally towards the primary spindle under computer control, enabling machining of the backside of workpieces without additional loading/unloading.

Chuck and Collet

The chuck holds the part using its jaws, directly attaching to the spindle. It is replaceable, allowing for the machining of parts of different sizes. Conversely, a collet, a smaller version of the chuck, is suitable for smaller parts, providing better grips for pieces around 60 mm.

Lathe Bed

Constructed from cast iron material, the bed serves as the base plate beneath the workspace, providing support for various fixed and operational components. Extending from the headstock to the tailstock, the bed facilitates the movement of the tool turret and other attachments along its length.


Supporting the tool turret, the carriage guides and feeds it against the workpiece. Comprising the turret, saddle, and cross-slide, the carriage is crucial for the operation of CNC turning centers, especially those with live tool turrets that incorporate powered rotary tools for milling operations. This feature enhances CNC turning machine functionality and reduces or eliminates the need for secondary operations.

Tool Turret

In more advanced machines, the tool turret replaces the carriage and can hold multiple tools simultaneously. This capability allows for swift changes between cutting tools required for specific operations, streamlining the transition from one task to another without unnecessary downtime.

Control Panel

The control panel serves as the hub for computer numerical control (CNC) operations. Acting as the brain behind CNC turning, it enables operators to adjust CNC turning machine programs before initiating the machining process.

Distinguishing Between CNC Lathes and CNC Turning Centers

CNC lathes and turning centers share a visual resemblance and fulfill similar functions, yet there are noteworthy distinctions. While lathes represent some of the earliest CNC machining tools, turning centers represent a progression, elevating capabilities by incorporating automated tool changes, efficient chip removal, live rotating tools, and streamlined production of diverse components.

A significant contrast lies in the housing of turning centers, often equipped with full machine enclosures. This design safeguards operators from chips and coolants generated during the cutting process. Unlike the “flatbed” configuration of lathes, turning centers adopt a “slant bed” design, enhancing control over chip flow to ensure direct deposition under the part.

Turning centers exhibit superior RPM capabilities, owing to their robust and innovative designs that facilitate the rapid removal of material. Additionally, turning centers can seamlessly integrate “Live tools,” enabling milling, tapping, and drilling operations within a turning profile.

The automated material feeding and tool changing within programmed cycles contribute to the enhanced efficiency of CNC turning centers in producing turned parts compared to CNC lathe turning centers. This increased efficiency and larger production capacity, however, come at a higher cost, making CNC turning centers a more expensive investment than lathes.

For those seeking a versatile machine capable of handling diverse tasks, the turning center proves to be the preferred choice. On the other hand, a CNC turning lathe is well-suited for short-run productions and the machining of simpler parts like bushings and pins.

Selecting the Right Material for CNC Turning

Various materials are suitable for CNC machining processes, and many of them are well-suited for CNC turning operations. These materials encompass:

  • Metals
  • Plastics
  • Wood
  • Glass
  • Wax

Each material demands specific lathes or turning centers, considering unique requirements such as turning speed and feed rate. Therefore, the choice of material is crucial in determining the appropriate CNC turning machine and equipment for optimal results.

CNC Turning Centre at Sungplastic

One of the most important aspects of the industrial sector is CNC turning, which produces accurate results for a variety of components. Large-scale production with consistent outcomes is ensured by its production capability and flexibility. These advantages are only available when you work with a trustworthy manufacturing partner to provide CNC turning services. In this situation, we’ll be your greatest bet for any CNC machining needs.

We provide cutting-edge CNC turning machine and cutting-edge technologies to assist you enhance your bespoke machining experience. In order to confirm that your component can be manufactured, we can provide a free DFM study. These are all reasonably priced. To provide you with high-quality parts that satisfy your needs, we also combine the knowledge and experience of our professionals with stringent quality control and quality assurance measures.

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