CNC Turning: Everything You Need to Know

Get an in-depth look at this versatile and cost-effective manufacturing process.

Do you need symmetrical, round, or cylindrical parts? CNC turning might be the solution for you.

CNC turning guarantees consistent, superior-quality outcomes, from individual prototypes to high-volume production. This guide provides insights into how CNC turning operates, its applications, associated costs, and everything you need to know about this manufacturing process.

How Does CNC Turning Work?

CNC turning is a subtractive manufacturing process that begins with a bar of secured raw material. The cutting tool moves in a linear motion along the surface of the rotating workpiece, cutting away material around the circumference until achieving the desired diameter.

The CNC machine starts operating after receiving instructions from a computer-aided design (CAD) file. The rotating spindle, where the workpiece is held, and the cutting tool work in unison to produce a part matching the detailed specifications outlined in the CAD file.

Advantages and Disadvantages of CNC Turning

CNC turning offers several distinct advantages, including:

Precision: CNC turning is known for its ability to create parts with excellent dimensional accuracy and surface finishes. It can produce complex parts with tight tolerances, making it an excellent choice for intricate designs.

Versatility: CNC turning can handle various materials, making it suitable for many industries and applications.

Scalability: CNC turning is efficient for both small and large production runs. The process’s speed, repeatability, and precision make it ideal for high-volume production.

However, like all manufacturing processes, CNC turning also has some limitations:

Design Restrictions: CNC turning is ideal for creating rotational, symmetric parts. However, other methods, such as CNC milling, might be more appropriate for non-cylindrical parts.

Initial Setup Costs: The setup process for CNC turning, particularly for complex parts, can be time-consuming and expensive. However, these costs can be offset when producing more significant quantities. Working with experienced partners like MakerVerse can help speed up setup times and reduce costs.

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CNC Turning Applications

CNC turning’s ability to generate accurately machined, symmetrical parts has led to its wide adoption in several sectors.

Automotive: CNC turning produces everything from gears and shafts to automobile parts. The process guarantees exceptional precision and consistency, which are crucial for the smooth operation of automotive components.

Oil and Gas: CNC turning manufactures high-strength components that can withstand extreme pressure and harsh environmental conditions, such as drilling tools, connectors, and more.

Aerospace: Precision, durability, and performance are non-negotiable in the aerospace industry. Hence, CNC turning is indispensable. They create critical parts like turbine shafts and control systems.

Industrial Machinery: CNC turning plays a significant role in the manufacturing of industrial machinery components, from large, robust pieces to more minor, high-precision parts.

Agriculture: CNC turning is commonly used to make farm equipment and machinery components, such as shafts, bushings, spindles, and various fittings.

How Much Does CNC Turning Cost?

Purchasing a basic industrial-grade CNC turning machine can cost upwards of 10,000 euros. Advanced machines with multi-axis capabilities and larger capacities can run more than 100,000 euros.

Due to those costs and the expertise needed to manage such a machine, companies often choose CNC machining services, such as MakerVerse.

The cost of these services can vary based on several factors.

Part Complexity: More complex parts require more extensive machine setup, which includes programming the CNC machine and preparing the tools needed for the job. Parts with intricate designs or tight tolerances require slower machining speeds, which can increase production time and cost. For example, a relatively simple turned part may cost in the double digits, while more complex parts might cost in the hundreds.

Material Used: The cost and machinability of the material play a significant role in the overall cost of CNC turning. More complex materials require more time to machine and can cause more wear and tear on the machine and cutting tools, leading to higher costs. Material costs vary significantly, from relatively inexpensive aluminum or plastic to more costly materials such as stainless steel or titanium.

Production Volume: CNC turning is highly scalable, making it cost-effective for high-volume production runs. In high-volume production runs, the cost per part can be reduced significantly.

Finishing Requirements: If your part requires a specific type of surface finish, additional processes might be needed after the CNC turning operation, which could add to the overall cost.

Tooling: The types of tools required for a specific job can also affect the cost. Some jobs might require custom or specialized tools, increasing the cost.

Working with a trusted and experienced CNC machining service provider is crucial to understanding all costs. For more information, see this guide on reducing CNC machining costs.

Materials Used in CNC Turning

CNC turning is compatible with various materials, each offering unique properties ideal for different applications. Some of the most commonly used materials include:

Aluminum: Given its light weight, strength, and easy machinability, aluminum is often preferred for many applications.

Stainless Steel: Renowned for its strength and corrosion resistance, stainless steel is a popular choice for applications that require longevity and durability.

Brass: Because it balances strength, machinability, and corrosion resistance, brass is ideal for components such as gears and valves. Due to its decorative appearance, brass is also popular in artistic and jewelry applications.

ABS Plastic: ABS is a hardy, impact-resistant plastic that machines well, making it an excellent choice for durable parts and prototypes.

Nylon: Known for its high strength, wear resistance, and good machinability. It’s often used for wear-resistant parts like gears and bushings in industrial applications.

Design Considerations for CNC Turning

We put together a detailed guide to show you the best practices in designing for CNC turning. Some quick tips include:

1. Tool Accessibility: Ensure the tool can access all design features. Complex profiles might require specialized tools or multi-axis CNC turning machines. Here’s an example of how to design to provide space for thread-cutting tools.

2. Part Orientation: The part’s orientation during the machining process can influence the quality of the finished product, machining time, and surface finish.

3. Tolerances: The precision necessary for the final part can impact the machining process and its cost. Tighter tolerances often require more complex equipment and slower machining speeds, which can increase production costs.

4. Feature Size and Type: The size and type of features in your design can affect the final part’s machinability and strength. Small features may require specialized tools, and thin sections may be difficult to machine or could weaken the part.

5. Surface Finish: The desired surface finish can influence machining. Rough finishes are quicker and cheaper, while high-quality finishes might require additional steps and costs. You can learn more about some of the most popular surface finishing options.

Getting Started with CNC Turning

CNC turning is a precise and versatile manufacturing method that can turn your designs into reality. Are you ready to begin?

With MakerVerse, the process is simple. Could you upload your design for a quote? Our experts will guide you throughout the manufacturing process, guaranteeing the high-grade quality of your parts. Explore the possibilities of CNC turning with MakerVerse today.