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A Guide to CNC Turning

A Guide to CNC Turning

11 Dec 20

CNC, standing for Computer Numerical Control, is the automated functioning of machining tools and 3D printers by computer command. CNC machines can process material to exact specifications by following coded instructions, and without the need for a manual operator. CNC turning is an invaluable tool for bulk manufacturers, allowing for efficient and perfectly uniform production with a variety of materials. 

CNC processes are available in milling machines, horizontal turning centers, lathes, laser cutters and plasma cutters. CNC milling machines, lathes and cutters are incredibly accurate and often a worthwhile long-term investment for businesses. To decide whether purchasing a CNC machine would be a sensible move for your company, here is our guide to CNC turning.


The Advantages of CNC Turning

The reality is that skilled manual labourers can undertake work on basic lathes and milling machines, so sometimes a CNC turning center can seem unreasonably expensive. A CNC machine, however, can provide continuous use (unlike manual labour) since the processes are automatic and don’t require a break. 

This means that productivity is higher with a CNC machine, and you can put workers to other uses. Health and safety risks are reduced significantly, and workplace accidents are minimised.

CNC turning processes are also much more consistent than human execution, so batches of any parts that you make with a CNC machine will be uniform and exact. Human error in production can be costly, so you’re also avoiding wasted material and time with a reliable CNC machine. Even further than consistency, a CNC machine allows a new level of intricacy for your parts. CNC processes can perform milling and cuts that are much more intricate than a human could ever manage.


The Disadvantages of CNC Turning

The cost of a CNC turning machine is the most common deterrent. They’re an expensive investment initially, and could seem a little out of reach for smaller businesses. Traditional milling processes, like with Knuth manual machines, are much more reasonable for companies that are just starting and satisfying small demand for products! If precision isn’t a key concern for your manufacturing process, then a CNC machine might not suit you best, either.

Automation of the manufacturing process with CNC machines also means less employment for skilled manual labourers. This could be beneficial for your bottom line as a business, but your team will be smaller. CNC machines still require operators and supervisors for safety, but a tiny group of personnel can operate and maintain a large number of CNC machines. 

Your CNC machines are also more expensive in terms of repair, but as your workforce may not be large, those servicing prices might not feel extortionate. 


Choosing the Right CNC Machine

Horizontal CNC milling machines are best suited for large metal workpieces, as the positioning of material being milled allows gravity to clear away chips and debris. Vertical machining centers are well suited for general drilling applications like cutting keyways and gears, and they boast a great deal of versatility. CNC turning machines operate with a process called ‘subtraction machining’, as the material is removed during its work. CNC turning suits rings and complex curved components, while milling would usually work better for flat surfaces.

If any parts during your production process are cylindrical or round, CNC turning will suit your needs best. CNC turning machines will use two-axis control to drive a turret or more complex tool over your turning workpiece to machine it. Your parts will be shaped with tremendous precision, and the material will rarely be wasted. 


For further advice on CNC machines that will best suit your business needs, please feel free to contact us at DTS UK. We’d be more than happy to help.

Article written by: Mike

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