What is CNC Turning? Advantages of CNC Turning

What is CNC Turning? Advantages of CNC Turning

CNC turning is a highly versatile machining process that plays a crucial role in modern manufacturing. By utilizing computer numerical control (CNC) technology, CNC turning machines can precisely shape cylindrical workpieces to meet exact specifications with unparalleled accuracy and efficiency. 

Whether it’s creating intricate designs or producing large quantities of standardized components, CNC turning offers a wide range of capabilities to meet diverse industry needs. Let’s delve deeper into what CNC turning entails and how it revolutionizes the manufacturing landscape.

What is CNC Turning?

CNC turning operates on the premise of the lathe machine, employing a highly precise and efficient subtractive machining technique. It entails positioning a cutting tool against a rotating workpiece to meticulously shape it by removing materials and achieving the desired form.

During the process, the turning center or lathe remains stationary while the raw material spins at a high velocity. The workpiece undergoes movement along dual CNC turning machine axes, guided by a single-point cutting tool to shape the material. Computer programs govern the operation of the turning center or lathe, ensuring the production of intricately precise components.

Despite common misconceptions, CNC turning and milling are distinct processes. While CNC milling and most other subtractive CNC methods typically involve securing the workpiece to a bed while a rotating tool cuts the material, CNC turning adopts a reverse approach. Here, the workpiece rotates while the cutting bit remains stationary.


How CNC Turning Works: A Simplified Guide

The CNC turning process may seem intricate, but here’s a simplified breakdown of its steps, from design to production.

Step 1: Converting CAD Designs to CNC Programs

Begin by preparing a CAD file of your design. This file will then be converted into a CNC program. Software like AutoCAD or SolidWorks can help in this conversion. The CAM program, generated from the CAD file, allows the manufacturing engineer to test the manufacturability of the component.

Step 2: Setting Up the CNC Turning Machine

Prepare the CNC turning lathe by following these steps:

  1. Ensure the machine is powered off for safety.
  2. Secure the part onto the chuck, which holds it in place during turning.
  3. Load the tool turret with the appropriate tools for the desired finish.
  4. Calibrate the tools and workpiece for accuracy.
  5. Upload the CNC program into the machine.

Adjust two key variables: turning speed (workpiece rotation speed) and feed rate (cutting tool speed along the rotating workpiece). These values, determined by a skilled machinist, greatly influence the final result. Incorrect estimations can lead to uneven finishes or damage to the workpiece.

For rough shaping, use low turning speed and high feed rate. For precise finishes and tight tolerances, opt for high turning speed and lower feed rate.

Step 3: Manufacturing CNC Turned Parts

Now, proceed to manufacture the desired part:

  • Select the turning operations based on desired results and part complexity.
  • Consider cycle time calculation to estimate the total time spent on the component, crucial for cost calculation.

The turning cycle time typically includes:

  1. Loading time (part of setup).
  2. Cutting time, influenced by feed rate and cutting depth.
  3. Idle time, encompassing non-cutting operations like tool movements or machine adjustments.

The final part’s characteristics depend on the raw material used; for instance, plastic and metal components differ in functionality and surface roughness.

Understanding these steps helps navigate the CNC turning process, ensuring efficient and precise production of desired components.


Types of CNC Turning Operations

CNC turning encompasses a variety of operations facilitated by different lathe tools. These operations are typically classified into external and internal categories based on whether they modify the outer or inner diameter of the workpiece.

External Operations

  • Turning:  This operation involves a single-point turning tool moving along the side of the workpiece to shape it, creating features such as tapers, chamfers, steps, and contours. Multiple passes are often necessary to achieve the desired diameter.
  • Hard Turning: This process is suitable for materials with high Rockwell C hardness, aiming to replace traditional grinding operations by removing stock efficiently.
  • Facing: The turning tool moves radially along the end of the material, removing thin layers to produce smooth flat surfaces.
  • Grooving: A single-point turning tool cuts a groove into the workpiece’s side, with the width matching that of the tool or multiple passes used to create larger grooves.
  • Parting: Similar to grooving, the tool moves radially into the workpiece until it reaches the center, cutting off a section of the material.

Internal Operations:

  • Boring: Boring tools cut along the internal surface of the workpiece to create features such as tapers, chamfers, steps, and contours.
  • Drilling: Standard drill bits remove material from the internal parts of the workpiece, typically stationary in the tool turret or tailstock.
  • Threading: A single-point threading tool cuts threads into the component’s outer surface, with machinists adjusting the tool to achieve the desired thread length.
  • Knurling: Special-purpose knurling tools cut serrated patterns onto the workpiece’s surface, providing visual enhancement or improved grip.
  • Reaming: This sizing operation removes small amounts of metal from pre-drilled holes, ensuring precise internal diameters.

For accurate and precise machined parts, MaTec Vietnam offers reliable CNC turning services covering all specific and non-specific turning operations. With state-of-the-art technology and experienced technicians, we deliver cost-effective, high-quality products quickly, helping you stay competitive in your industry.


Types of CNC Turning Machines

You have a selection of four primary types of CNC turning machines to consider for your project:

Horizontal Turning Centers

These machines are enclosed and offer both drilling and milling capabilities. Featuring a horizontally-oriented spindle, they utilize tools mounted above the rotating workpiece. The cutting tools traverse the material, aided by gravity to remove chips efficiently, akin to milling. Chips are directed downwards into the bed for convenient removal.

Vertical Turning Centers

Combining elements of horizontal turning centers with CNC mills, vertical turning centers position the rotating chuck flat on the ground. This setup facilitates machining of large pieces at lower revolutions per minute (RPMs). Tool turrets approach from the side in this design. Inverted vertical turning centers, with spindle and chuck positions reversed, are also available.

Horizontal Lathes

Horizontal lathes encompass all the functionalities of conventional lathes, with the added control of computer programs. Their primary operations involve turning and boring.

Vertical Lathes

In contrast to horizontal lathes, vertical lathes secure the workpiece from the bottom before rotation. This configuration is advantageous for machine shops with space limitations and proves ideal for handling heavy workpieces.

Components of CNC Turning Machines

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


Positioned at the front of the turning center, the headstock houses the main spindle where the chuck attaches to grip the workpiece. It accommodates the driving motor and mechanisms for spindle power. The spindle bar’s capacity determines the maximum workpiece diameter mountable through the headstock.


Located at the opposite end of the turning center, the tailstock affixes to the lathe bed to support longer raw materials. Hydraulic force from the quill provides this support, with the tailstock moving along with the workpiece. However, it should be avoided during face turning operations as it obstructs the process.


Often regarded as the heart of the machine tool, the spindle comprises a spindle drive system and assembly. It encompasses moving parts such as motors, gears, and chucks. Some CNC turning centers feature a sub-spindle or dual spindles for enhanced functionality, enabling machining of workpiece backsides without additional loading/unloading.

Chuck and Collet

The chuck grips the part via its jaws, directly attaching to the spindle and allowing machining of variously-sized parts. Conversely, collets, smaller versions of chucks, facilitate machining of smaller parts, offering superior grips for pieces approximately 60 mm in size.

Lathe Bed

Constructed typically from cast iron, the bed serves as the base plate resting on the table beneath the workspace. It provides support for multiple fixed and operational components, connecting from the headstock through to the tailstock.


Supporting the tool turret, the carriage feeds and guides it against the workpiece. It comprises the turret, saddle, and cross-slide. CNC turning centers equipped with live tool turrets feature powered rotary tools for milling operations, enhancing functionality and reducing secondary operations.

Tool Turret

Evolving from the carriage, modern machines incorporate the tool turret, capable of holding multiple tools simultaneously. This facilitates quick changes between cutting tools required for specific operations, minimizing downtime.

Control Panel

Serving as the hub for computer numerical control, the control panel enables operators to adjust programs before commencing turning operations.


Material Selection for CNC Turning Operations

When it comes to CNC machining processes, the choice of material plays a pivotal role in determining the outcome of the operation. CNC turning, a fundamental aspect of machining, offers versatility in material selection, accommodating various substrates to meet diverse project needs. Here’s an exploration of the materials commonly employed in CNC turning:

>>>Read more: What Types of Materials Can Precision CNC Machining Work With?


Metals stand as the backbone of CNC turning operations, offering a wide array of options to cater to different requirements. Common metal materials include steel, aluminum, brass, copper, titanium, and various alloys. Each metal brings its unique characteristics to the table, from durability and strength to corrosion resistance and machinability. CNC turning centers must be equipped to handle the specific properties of each metal, adjusting turning speed and feed rate accordingly for optimal results.


Plastics have gained prominence in CNC turning applications due to their versatility, lightweight nature, and ease of machining. Materials such as acrylic, nylon, polycarbonate, and polypropylene find extensive use in industries ranging from automotive and aerospace to consumer goods and electronics. 

CNC turning processes for plastics necessitate careful consideration of factors like heat generation, tool pressure, and surface finish to prevent deformation or melting during machining.


Wood, a traditional material in craftsmanship, has found its place in modern CNC turning operations. Species like oak, maple, cherry, and walnut offer distinct aesthetics and properties, making them sought-after choices for furniture, decorative items, and architectural components. CNC turning of wood demands attention to grain orientation, moisture content, and tool selection to achieve desired shapes, textures, and finishes while minimizing tear-out and splintering.


Although challenging to machine, glass presents unique opportunities for CNC turning in specialized applications. Tempered glass, borosilicate glass, and quartz glass are among the varieties utilized in sectors such as optics, electronics, and precision engineering. CNC turning of glass requires precision tooling, coolant control, and meticulous handling to prevent chipping, cracking, or surface defects.


Wax serves as an intermediary material in CNC turning, often employed for prototyping, investment casting, and mold making. Materials like machinable wax and modeling wax offer excellent machinability, allowing for intricate designs and smooth finishes. CNC turning of wax involves considerations such as tool geometry, cutting speed, and chip evacuation to maintain dimensional accuracy and surface integrity.

Each of these materials presents unique challenges and considerations in CNC turning operations. Machinists must possess the expertise to select appropriate tools, adjust machine parameters, and implement effective machining strategies to achieve desired outcomes while ensuring efficiency, accuracy, and safety.


MaTec Vietnam – Your Trusted Partner in CNC Turning Industry

Seeking Top-notch CNC Turning Services? Look no further than MaTec Vietnam CNC turning services. Now that you understand the intricacies and advantages of CNC turning, it’s crucial to partner with a dependable manufacturing service provider to reap its benefits fully. MaTec Vietnam emerges as the premier choice for all your CNC machining needs.

Equipped with cutting-edge technologies and state-of-the-art turning machines, MaTec Vietnam elevates your custom machining journey. Our team combines extensive knowledge and expertise with rigorous quality control measures, ensuring the delivery of high-quality parts that precisely meet your specifications.

Take the first step towards realizing your project goals – contact us right now and let’s embark on this journey together!


CNC turning stands as a cornerstone of modern manufacturing, revolutionizing the production of intricate components across various industries. Its precision, efficiency, and versatility have propelled advancements in engineering, enabling the creation of complex geometries with unparalleled accuracy. 

As technology continues to evolve, CNC turning remains at the forefront, driving innovation, enhancing productivity, and shaping the future of manufacturing. With its myriad benefits and widespread applications, CNC turning continues to play a pivotal role in shaping the world we live in, promising endless possibilities for innovation and progress.

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