Machining is a general term used to describe a process where a machine is used to cut or remove material from a workpiece to form a shape. In other words, the final desired shape is made by eliminating or removing material, not adding it on or forming the material through pressure as found with bending, folding, or stamping.
Two of the most common options for CNC milling and turning operations. Both are CNC processes, which means that the computer numerical control system is used to precisely move the workpiece or the cutting tools to create the desired shape. As this is done through computer technology, each movement is identical from the first part made to the hundred millionth part, which leads to lower waste, increased speed of production, and precision control that is simply not possible with manual machining equipment.
To understand the differences, and whether CNC milling and turning are the right choices, learning the basic differences between the two operations is helpful.
What is CNC Turning?
CNC turning is equivalent to the process most people know as lathing. The workpiece is held in position at both ends, and it spins at a specific speed. The cutting tool or tools are stationary and move back and forth across the spinning workpiece surface.
The process of CNC turning requires a symmetrical workpiece, and it can be used to create simple to complex shapes on the exterior surfaces of the metal.
What is CNC Milling?
The process of CNC milling is the reverse, where the workpiece is held in place, and the cutting tools spin and move up and down or across the surface of the metal. Due to this mobility of the cutting tool, different shapes can be used rather than the single point types of cutting tools used with CNC turning, which can create different shapes more efficiently and effectively.
When choosing between CNC milling and turning operations, the complexity of the part is always a consideration. In some cases, milling and turning can be completed on the same equipment, which is why multi-axis types of machining centres are increasingly used in the production of complex parts.