Published on July 8th, 2021 | by Sunit Nandi


What is the main difference between CNC milling and CNC turning?

Did you know that sheet metal services consist of many different processes? For this manufacturing technique you might use a forming process, but a cutting or joining method could be utilized too. This is actually the same for a CNC machining service. CNC machining is in fact an umbrella term for a few different processes. This includes CNC milling and CNC turning. Both techniques are done with the help of 3-axis CNC systems and are seen as basic machines. Both allow the movement of the cutting tool in three linear axes relative to the workpiece. This essentially means back and forth, left and right, and up and down. However, there is also a big difference between CNC milling and CNC turning as you can read below.

What is CNC milling?

CNC milling is a 3-axis machine, as explained below. This sets a few limits to the geometry of the pieces, but it is still enough to complete most jobs that need milling. This can be done with the help of many different milling tools, while there are also different methods that can be employed. However, you could also use multi-axis milling. This allows 4 or more axes. It includes the rotation of the tool and the work table, which results in an extra dimension of flexibility. Usually 5-axis milling machines for this application. Essentially everything can be milled and manufactured with these machines.

Milling Definition

What is milling? It is a type of operation that uses cutters to shape a workpiece, often on a movable table top, although some milling machines also have moveable cutters. Milling started out as a manual task performed by humans, but most milling today is done by a CNC mill, which uses a computer to oversee the milling process. CNC milling offers higher precision, accuracy and production speeds, but there are still some situations where manual milling is useful. Manual milling, which requires a lot of technical skill and experience, ensures shorter lead times. It also has the added advantage that manual milling machines are cheaper and the user does not have to worry about programming the machine.

What is CNC turning?

CNC turning, or CNC lathes, is done by holding the workpiece on the spindle while it rotates at high speed. A cutting tool will trace the inner or outer perimeter of the piece, so it forms the geometry. The tool does not rotate, instead it moves along polar directions. This is done radially and lengthwise. CNC lathes are used a lot since they can produce parts at a very high rate, while the cost per unit remains quite low. For larger volumes this is perfect, of course. 5-axis mill-turning CNC machines can be used for this application as well.

What is the difference?

What the difference between CNC prototyping (milling) and CNC turning is, can actually be explained rather easily. There is a very short answer for this question: CNC milling deploys a rotating tool, while CNC turning uses a rotating part for cutting. Both processes thus use different techniques in order to create a part.

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