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Mastering the CNC Turning: Process, Operations, Tools, Advantages, and Applications

Author: Max
Published on: 2023-04-10

The CNC turning process shows the workpiece and cutting tool

CNC turning process

Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machining has revolutionized the manufacturing industry by allowing for the precise and efficient production of parts or products. Several CNC machining operations can create a physical shape from virtual design, CNC milling, CNC turning, CNC routing, and more.

The choice of any operation depends on the design specification and intended use. However, among the various CNC machining processes, CNC turning is one of the most commonly used methods. This article will discuss the CNC turning process in detail, including operations, cutting tools, advantages, applications, and more.


The CNC Turning Process

A CNC Turning machining creates grooves on steel workpiece

CNC Turning operation

The CNC Turning process involves using a CNC turning machine (or CNC lathe) to remove material from a rotating workpiece using cutting tools. The chuck holds the workpiece and rotates at a pre-determined speed, and the cutting tool removes material by feeding it into the workpiece.


What are the steps involved in the CNC turning process?

The CNC turning involves several steps, each essential to the overall process. Here is the step-by-step guide describing how to create the CNC-turned parts from the beginning.

  1. Choose the appropriate cutting tool based on the desired shape, material, and cutting conditions.
  2. Install the cutting tool into the holder and secure it firmly.
  3. Load the workpiece into the turning machine chuck (or other holding device), and ensure it is properly centered and aligned.
  4. Set up the CNC turning machine by inputting the necessary commands (CNC program, called G code) into the computer control system. This includes setting the spindle speed, feed rate, depth of cut, and other cutting parameters.
  5. Start the machine and begin the turning process. The cutting tool will move along the workpiece, removing material and creating the desired shape.
  6. Monitor the machining process to ensure that the cutting tool performs correctly and that the workpiece is machined to the desired specifications. You can adjust the cutting parameters as needed to optimize the process.
  7. After completing the process, remove the workpiece from the holding chuck and inspect it for the required quality and accuracy.


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What are the possible Shapes with CNC turning?

It can produce a variety of intricate shapes and sizes, including cylindrical, conical, and spherical, removing the material from the workpiece.

Shapes Examples
Cylinders Straight shapes with a constant diameter, shafts, pipes, tapered cylinders, and other parts.
Cones Tool spindles, conical tubes, assemblies components, conical springs, and more
Spheres Bulb bearings, valve seats, spherical joints, and many more.
Internal features Holes, threads, grooves, counterbores, countersinks, slots, keyways, fillets, radii, and more.


What are the standard cutting tools used in CNC turning?

Creating these diverse shapes with CNC turning is possible with different cutting tools. Therefore, the tools are essential to the process, as they determine the shape and quality of CNC turning parts. Different cutting tools can be used depending on the material type and desired shape.

The following table outlines some standard cutting tools used in CNC Turning, the materials they are suitable for, and when they are typically used.

Cutting Tool Material Compatibility Shape Created Accuracy When to Use?
Carbide Inserts Steel, cast iron, titanium, nickel alloys, and other hard materials Straight, curved, and tapered shapes High Used for roughing and finishing operations and interrupted cuts or heavy material removal.
Diamond-Tipped Tools Ceramics, glass, and other delicate materials Complex shapes, including sharp corners and fine details Very high Used for precise machining and finishing of complex shapes.
High-Speed Steel (HSS) Tools Aluminum, brass, and other soft materials Straight, curved, and tapered shapes Medium Used for high-speed machining
Cermet Inserts High-temperature alloys, stainless steel, and other hard materials Straight, curved, and sharp shapes High Used for high-speed machining.
Polycrystalline Diamond (PCD) Inserts Non-ferrous materials such as aluminum, copper, and plastics Straight, curved, and tapered shapes with sharp corners and fine details Very high Used for high-speed machining with smooth surface finishes.


The CNC Turning Operations

There are several CNC turning operations to convert the 3D model into a physical shape. Appropriate operations depend on the desired shape, design complexity, precision, and other factors. Let’s discuss some of the frequently used operations in brief.

  1. Facing

Facing is one of the most fundamental CNC turning operations. It involves removing a thin layer of material from the end face of a workpiece to create a flat and smooth surface perpendicular to the rotational axis. This operation is typically performed using a single-point cutting tool that moves in a straight line across the surface of the workpiece, removing material as it goes.

  1. Boring

Boring is another CNC turning operation used to enlarge an existing hole in a workpiece to a precise diameter, depth, and surface finish. The process is typically performed using a single-point cutting tool that removes material from the inner diameter of the workpiece to create the desired hole size and shape.

  1. Drilling

The drilling operation involves creating a cylindrical hole in a workpiece using a rotating cutting tool. A drill bit is the most common cutting tool for this operation, which is a multi-point cutting tool that removes material as it rotates and moves forward into the workpiece.

  1. Threading

Threading refers to creating grooves or threads into the surface of a workpiece to create a screw-like shape. A threading tool is used to perform this operation, and a cutting tool with a triangular cross-section is designed to cut the thread profile.

  1. Knurling

The knurling operation creates a pattern of small, raised diamond-shaped or straight ridges on the surface of a workpiece. It involves using a specialized cutting tool called a knurling tool. The tool contains a patterned surface designed to create the knurled pattern on the workpiece.

  1. Grooving

The Grooving operation involves cutting a narrow channel or groove into the surface of a workpiece using a grooving tool, a thin blade designed to create the groove. It is essential to create complex shapes and contours on the surface of the workpiece.

Adjusting the position and depth of the groove allows the creation of many shapes and contours that would be difficult or impossible to achieve using other CNC turning operations.

  1. Taper Turning

The Taper Turning operation creates a part with a gradual change in the diameter along its length, resulting in a tapered shape. It can be achieved by adjusting the position of the cutting tool relative to the workpiece axis.

  1. Parting

Parting is a CNC turning operation that involves cutting off a section of the workpiece to create a separate part. This process is typically performed using a parting tool to make a clean, precise cut in the workpiece. This turning operation allows for creating multiple parts from a single workpiece.


Aluminum CNC Turning Parts

Precise aluminum parts created with CNC Turning operations

Aluminum CNC turning parts.

Aluminum is the most common material used in CNC Turning projects. It is popular due to its high strength-to-weight ratio, excellent corrosion resistance, thermal & electrical conductivity, and many more valuable properties.

This manufacturing approach Allows creating the high-quality aluminum CNC turning parts that meet specific design requirements. Aluminum CNC turning parts have significant applications in different industries, from small prototypes to large-scale production runs. Other commonly used materials in CNC turning include steel, copper, brass, titanium, and ceramics.


What Are the Advantages of CNC Turning?

Each CNC Turning operation has its own advantages and disadvantages, and the benefits of one operation over another will depend on the specific requirements of the part. However, in general, CNC turning operations offer several advantages compared to other CNC processes:

  • Quick production: CNC turning operations are often faster than other CNC processes as the workpiece rotates and the cutting tool moves in a single plane. It allows for a high material removal rate and efficient production of complex parts.
  • Precision and consistency: CNC turning operations offer precise and consistent results, essential for creating parts with tight tolerances or accurate shapes. By using a suitable cutting tool, manufacturers can achieve precise results that are difficult to replicate using manual methods.
  • Versatility: CNC turning operations can create a diverse range of shapes, including cylindrical and conical shapes, threads, grooves, and tapers. This versatility makes it an ideal manufacturing approach for various industries, from aerospace to automotive to medical devices.
  • Cost-effectiveness: CNC turning is a cost-effective manufacturing method than manual methods or other CNC processes. It requires less labor and reduces waste. Furthermore, CNC turning machines can be programmed to produce CNC turning parts quickly and efficiently, reducing the overall cost of production.
  • Safety: CNC turning process is generally safer than manual methods, as it does not require operators to be near the cutting tool. As a result, it reduces the risk of accidents and injuries in the workplace.


Get your CNC-turned Parts at Prolean

Prolean is a professional on-demand manufacturing company based in China that offers precise CNC turning services for various applications. We have experience working with different industries in various CNC machining projects. Our experienced engineers and cutting-edge CNC turning machines can create quality CNC turning parts for your projects, regardless of complexity.

At Prolean, a dedicated team of experts helps you to finalize your design and choose the sequence of necessary turning operations to obtain the desired shape. Therefore, please send us your design to start the project right now.


What Are the Applications of CNC Turning Operations?

Brass parts with complex shapes after CNC turning

CNC turned parts

As previously mentioned, CNC turning has a significant role in various industries. The following tables outline the applications in different sectors with examples.

Industry Application Examples
Aerospace Turbine blades, landing gear components, engine parts
Automotive Transmission components, suspension parts, engine blocks
Electronics Computer components, smartphone parts, medical devices
Industrial Pumps, valves, gears, shafts
Medical Surgical instruments, implants, prosthetics
Military/Defense Weapon components, communication devices, vehicles
Oil and Gas Valves, fittings, drilling components
Robotics Motor housings, gears, joints
Sports and Recreation Bicycle components, golf club heads, firearm accessories



In conclusion, CNC turning can create intricate shapes with tight tolerances, including cylindrical, conical, and spherical shapes and different internal features on the workpiece.

It can be a complex process since it requires considering several machining parameters, selecting the proper cutting tools, and careful operation. This article has covered almost every aspect of the CNC turning process. Although, If you still have any confusion, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.


What is CNC turning?

CNC turning is a widely used CNC machining operation that involves using a CNC turning machine (or CNC lathe) to remove material from a rotating workpiece using cutting tools.

What is a CNC turning machine?

A CNC turning machine is a computer-controlled machine tool that shapes the workpiece into the intended shape from a 3D model. It can process the materials with various turning operations, such as facing, knurling, drilling, boring, etc.

What are the shapes that can be produced through CNC turning?

CNC turning can produce a variety of shapes, including cylindrical, conical, spherical, and internal features such as holes, threads, and grooves.

What are the advantages of CNC turning?

The advantages of CNC Turning include precise and efficient production, reduced labor costs, reduced material waste, and increased manufacturing flexibility.

1 Comment

  1. Vietran Online

    Greetings! Very useful advices on CNC turning.
    Many thanks for sharing!


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