What is CNC Turning?

What is CNC Turning?

CNC turning is a process of manufacturing in which a chuck holds material bars and rotates them while a tool is used to remove unwanted materials until the desired shape is created. A CNC turning machine uses a central turret with an attached tool. This turret is programmed to move around the bar of raw material and remove the unwanted material until the program is complete and the desired result has been achieved.

This process is also known as “subtraction machining” as it is a process that removes material. Some machines are capable of both turning and milling. When this is the case, it is possible to stop the rotation of the material so that other shapes can be milled out.

In CNC turning, the starting material can be almost any shape. Traditionally, it will be round but it is possible for the machines to work on cuboids or hexagonal shapes too. The length of the bar of material can also vary but it is limited by the capabilities of the bar feeder. This determines how much handling is required for large-volume jobs.CNC turning centres or lathes have tools that are mounted on a computer-controlled turret.

Different types of turrets are capable of holding different numbers of tools. The more tools that a turret can hold, the more options there are for creating shapes especially when it comes to creating ones of greater complexity.

Some CNC turning centres have “live” tooling options. This means they can stop rotating the bar of material to spend time making other changes like drilling holes, slots or creating other milled services.

Some CNC machine setups only have one spindle. This means that all of the work can be done from one side. Other CNC turning machines have two spindles, one main spindle and one sub-spindle. The two-spindle setup allows for a part to be partially machined by the main spindle before moving to the sub-spindle for additional work to be completed on the other side of the configuration.

There is a wide variety of different CNC turning centres that are available. Each of these has different options for tooling and spindles as well as different other diameter limitations, power capabilities, speed capabilities both of which determine which types of parts can be economically made by the machine.

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Should I use CNC Turning to Create my Part?

here are many different factors that determine whether or not it is economical to create a part on a CNC turning centre. In particular, it is worth looking at the following:

Number of parts required: CNC turning centres are best used for prototype parts or those with a short-run volume. Larger quantities are best created through other methods.

Size of the OD: CNC machines come with limits on the OD size for collected parts. It is possible to achieve a larger OD by chucking the parts individually but this drives up production costs and takes longer.

Availability of other machines: When other machines can do the job more efficiently than a CNC turning centre it is best to consider all of the available options. Questions such as “which machine has the better volume or lead time?” should be asked and the requirements of the project will then determine which to use.

What is the Difference between CNC Turning and Milling?

Both CNC turning and CNC milling are generically referred to as “CNC machining” but they are not the same process. To put it simply there is one key difference between the two operations. Whether it is the part that moves or the machine that moves.

In CNC turning, a metal bar is fed into a lathe. The bar is rotated at speed and a single-point cutting tool removes material from the bar until the desired shape is created. With CNC milling, the metal is held in place while multi-point cutting tools are rotated around it. These tools remove material from the metal until the desired shape is achieved.

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What are the Advantages of CNC Turning?

Precision: Thanks to the programming entered into the machine there is next to no human error and all parts are created to within 1/1000th of an inch of the specifications.

Endurance: A CNC turning machine is capable of working continuously for long stretches of time and requires only brief shutdown periods for general maintenance or repair.

Complexity: A CNC turning machine is capable of producing parts in tandem with design software that are far more complex than anything a human could replicate with manual tools.
Labour light: Very few people are required to program and operate multiple CNC machines. Where manual machines require at least one operator per machine, several CNC turning machines can be run by only a few people.

Uniformity: All components produced with such accuracy that there will be next to no variation between the results.

Safety: Fewer operators and greater levels of automation mean that CNC turning machines are incredibly safe as all personnel are able to complete all the necessary work from a safe distance.

Low maintenance: CNC turning machines require little maintenance other than to sharpen the tools and other light cleaning tasks that are performed at regular intervals.

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