CNC Turning vs CNC Milling: What Are the Differences?

CNC machining has revolutionized modern manufacturing by enabling the efficient production of high-precision parts. Within CNC machining, there are two main processes: CNC turning and CNC milling. While both processes use computer-controlled machines to remove material from a workpiece, there are significant differences between the two. In this post, we will discuss more details about the differences between them.

Basics and Benefits of CNC Turning and Milling:

The process of CNC turning involves rotating a workpiece while a cutting tool removes material from it, which is commonly used for parts with cylindrical or symmetrical shapes like shafts, pins, and bushings. On the other hand, CNC milling involves removing material from a workpiece by moving a cutting tool in multiple directions along different axes, which is usually used for parts with non-symmetrical or flat shapes like gears, brackets, and enclosures.

4 Benefits of CNC Milling:

  • High Precision: CNC milling offers high precision and accuracy, making it an excellent choice for producing intricate parts with tight tolerances.
  • Versatility: With the ability to use a wide variety of cutting tools, CNC milling can produce parts made from various materials like metals, plastics, and composites.
  • Complex Shapes: CNC milling can produce parts with complex shapes, including curved and tapered shapes, which are difficult to produce using other methods.
  • Automated Production: CNC milling can be automated, resulting in consistent quality and high production rates, reducing the risk of human error.
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4 Benefits of CNC Turning:
  • Quick Production: CNC turning offers high-speed production of precision parts, making it an ideal choice for high-volume production.
  • Material Versatility: CNC turning can handle a wide range of materials, including metals, plastics, and wood.
  • Low Maintenance: CNC turning machines are relatively low maintenance and require less operator intervention, leading to increased productivity and reduced downtime.
  • Reduced Scrap: CNC turning produces less waste, reducing the cost of raw materials and the environmental impact of the manufacturing process.
CNC Turning
Differences between CNC Turning and CNC Milling:

Part Geometry: As mentioned earlier, CNC turning is best suited for parts with a cylindrical or symmetrical shape, while CNC milling is better for flat or non-symmetrical parts. This is because CNC turning is limited to producing parts that are rotationally symmetric around a central axis, while CNC milling can produce parts with a wide variety of shapes and features.

Tool Movement: Another key difference between CNC turning and milling is the movement of the cutting tool. In CNC turning, the cutting tool moves in a circular motion, following the contour of the part being produced. In CNC milling, the cutting tool moves in a linear motion, following a path determined by the part program.

Speed and Feed Rates: CNC turning is generally faster than CNC milling, due to the circular movement of the cutting tool and the ability to remove material in a continuous, uninterrupted motion. However, CNC milling can be more precise and accurate, especially when producing complex shapes or parts with tight tolerances.

Tooling: The type of cutting tool used in CNC turning is typically a single-point cutting tool, which is held in a tool post and moves across the surface of the rotating workpiece. In CNC milling, a wide variety of cutting tools can be used, including end mills, ball mills, and drills, which are held in a spindle and move along multiple axes.

Material Removal: In CNC turning, material is removed from the workpiece by the cutting tool in a continuous, uninterrupted motion, producing long, curly chips that can be difficult to dispose of. In CNC milling, material is removed in a series of small, discrete cuts, producing smaller, more manageable chips.

Programming Complexity: CNC turning is generally simpler to program than CNC milling, since the tool moves along a single axis and the part geometry is relatively simple. CNC milling requires more complex programming, since the tool moves along multiple axes and the part geometry can be more complex.

Common Applications of CNC Turning and Milling:

The choice between CNC turning and milling depends on the type of part being produced and its specific requirements. CNC turning is typically used for simple cylindrical parts, while CNC milling is ideal for more complex parts that require high precision. Both processes are widely used in a variety of industries, including aerospace, automotive, and medical manufacturing.


Choosing the Right Process:

To choose the optimal process for a given project, we need to consider factors such as the part size and shape, material properties, production volume and timeline, and precision and surface finish requirements. By weighing these factors, we can select the process that will achieve the best balance of efficiency, precision, and cost-effectiveness for your project.

Beska’s CNC Machining Capability

We offer CNC turning and milling to support your custom machining projects. If you need any help, the Beska team is always willing to help you.

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