What’s CNC Turning? Its Process, Operations, Advantages

CNC turning is a process in which the workpiece rotates as a stationary tool cuts away unwanted pieces. Lathes are the most common machines in CNC turning. However, they exist in different types, each with a specific application. CNC turning machines have four types: vertical and horizontal lathe machines and vertical and horizontal turning centers. Some CNC turning machines can produce more complex components by combining CNC turning and milling processes.
What's CNC Turning-Its Process, Operations, Advantages

What is CNC Turning?

It is a CNC machining process that uses a turret to remove material from a workpiece to create your desired shape. The workpiece is spun quickly as the tool cuts away the material. The operators feed the CNC turning machine with a CAD design. 

Various codes within the CNC Turning machine interpret the CAD design, directing the cutting tools. However, unlike other manufacturing processes, such as CNC drilling, where the cutting tool rotates, the workpiece material rotates in CNC turning. 
CNC turning is ideal for cylindrical-shaped, hexagonal, or square products. Unlike traditional lathe machines, modern CNC turning machines use a computer program to achieve precise results.

What Steps are Involved in the Process of CNC Turning?

The cutting tool in CNC turning is usually a rotating lathe or turning center. You can produce different shapes and sizes depending on your CNC turning operations. While the workpiece mainly turns, some CNC turning cutting tools can move from one to five axes.  

After designing your component in CAD, feed it into the CNC turning machine. To avoid accidents, ensure the power is off before operating the machine. 

  1. Choose the type of material (wood, plastic, or metal) you want to work with. The material’s weight, size, and shape will determine the kind of CNC turning tooling you use. Secure the workpiece onto the chunk that holds it during the turning process. 
  2. After picking the right tool, you can load the tool turret depending on the type of finish you want. 
  3. Ensure you have correctly set up the workpiece and tools and that the proper CNC codes are in the system. 
  4. The operator should feed the correct turning speed and the feed rate depending on the kind of product you want to manufacture. The operator should input a higher feed rate and lower turning speeds to rough out the workpiece. The operator should input a lower feed rate with a higher turning speed for a smoother finish. 
  5. You can now work on the raw material to produce the desired component. 

What is CNC Turning

Advantages of CNC Turning

Depending on the components you’re producing, you can use a vertical or horizontal C.N.C. turning machine. However, the most common setup is the horizontal turning machine. CNC turning has several advantages.

  • Depending on your application, you can choose a specific turning center in different sizes. Adjusting between the various centers is relatively easy, making it possible for your CNC turning machine to produce multiple components. 
  • Because the CNC turning machine can be pre-programmed by an operator, it can produce parts with exact measurements and minimal human errors. 
  • When you use CNC turning machines, you can produce high-quality products on a large scale. 
  • Most CNC turning machines have a covering, and the operator has no contact with the rotating machine, ensuring security.

Types of Specific Internal Operations of CNC Turning

When using the CNC turning manufacturing process, expect to perform internal and external operations on a singular part. Internal operations will change the inner diameter of the piece you’re working on. The type of toll you choose will determine the kind of operation you will undertake. 


It uses a cutting tool to shape a rotating workpiece into the desired form. The turning process produces cylindrical parts and is critical in making components such as pins, shafts, and rods. 

Turning is ideal when you achieve high-quality finishes and dimensional accuracy. 

Hard Turning

The hard-turning process is ideal for materials that are hard to shape. Any material that has a high hardness rating is best for hard turning. Most manufacturers will use this process instead of grinding. 

It might also be necessary to carry out heat treatment before carrying out the hard turning process. Hard turning allows for the work on components that require high wear resistance and tough materials that need fine finishing. 

However, it’s not the ideal process where form and dimensions are essential. 


When you want to make a groove into the workpiece, CNC turning using grooving tooling provides precision in the grooves. It is the ideal manufacturing process when the product requires oil grooves, O-ring grooves, or a specific recess. 

Often, the cutting tool’s width determines the groove’s width. You can also make multiple cuts to form larger grooves where the cutting tool’s width is insufficient. 


Also known as cutoff, it is the process of separating a workpiece into two parts through the diameter. The parting process is ideal for producing different components from one long piece. 


It’s the best process for producing a flat surface on a workpiece. Facing is usually the first step in most turning operations as you prepare a workpiece for further machining. Operators use this method when they want to achieve face flatness that is perpendicular to the workpiece axis. 

Types of Non-Specific External Operations of CNC Turning

The external operations of a CNC turning machine help to change the diameters of the component you’re working on. 


When a workpiece already has holes, you can use a boring method to improve its accuracy or enlarge it. The process works well with parts or components whose hole dimensions are critical to their functionality. 


It involves creating patterns on a part’s surface to improve its grip. The patterns can either be serrations, crossed lines, or angles. CNC turning ensures complete control over the knurl pattern. Hence, the surface part acquires the correct grip, and the quality is consistent. 

The knurling process is standard on fasteners, knobs, and tool handles. There are specific knurling tools for the CNC turning machine. 


The reaming process is essential when finishing pre-drilled holes or refining the size. High-precision industries use reaming when they require holes with exact diameters or a quality surface finish. 


Drilling is the method of choice when using the CNC turning process to create cylindrical holes in a workpiece. The turning process ensures that the holes’ depth and diameter are accurate. 

Industries use the drilling method for parts that require assembly, such as pins and bolts.  

CNC Equipment

Applications of CNC Turning

Most industries use CNC turning to create large volumes of cylindrical or symmetrical repeated parts. The CNC-turning manufacturing process allows for the production of high-quality parts with extremely smooth finishes. 

The table below highlights some industries that rely on the CNC turning to manufacture parts or components. 

AerospaceLanding gear parts, engine mounts, turbine blades, eccentric hollow shafts, joint connectors, and fasteners.
MedicalImplants, surgical tools, diagnostic devices, prosthetics, dental crowns. 
Electrical/electronicsCircuit components, housings, pivot pintle, connectors, contact pins, and probes.
AutomotiveSuspension systems, engine components, gearboxes, cylinder heads, bushings, crankshafts, and cylinder heads.
EnergyComponents for energy systems such as wind turbines and solar panels.
Tool and Die-makingTooling, molds, and dies for die casting, molding, and stamping.
DefenseRotables, engine components, spacers, screws, and expandables.


CNC turning is an essential manufacturing process in various industries. To better understand CNC turning machining services, contact Sanon China. Experts will guide you on the ideal internal and non-specific external operations for the parts/components you want to manufacture. Sanon works with all industries.

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Eric Zhou

Focus on providing squeeze casting, aluminum die casting(hpdc+lpdc), mold making, CNC machining, and sheet metal fabrication solutions. If you need help, please feel free to contact us!

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