Computer Numerical Control (CNC) technology has dominated the metal forming industry in recent years, as it offers advanced precision and repeatability that can be impossible to achieve with manual processes alone. With so many CNC technologies on the market, it can be difficult to distinguish between them and what they are used for. While there are many similarities between CNC milling and turning, there are also distinct, important differences.
Understanding the Differences Between CNC Milling and Turning
While CNC milling is nearly synonymous with CNC machining, CNC turning often produces parts faster and more affordably than milling. CNC milling is limited to the range of motion of the cutting tools. CNC turning is not as good at conserving material but allows for complex design options and faster operations.
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CNC milling is a machine process which produces custom-designed parts or components by progressively removing material from the workpiece using rotating multi-point cutting tools and computerized controls. These systems usually have three linear degrees of freedom. They can move freely around the X, Y, and Z axes while the workpiece remains stationary. This limited dimensional operation reduces the speed of operations, making milling more suitable for prototyping and smaller production runs.
CNC turning is a manufacturing process that involves holding bars of material in a chuck and rotating them while feeding a tool to the piece to remove material until the desired shape is achieved. As the desired shape is achieved through the removal of material, it is also known as subtraction machining.
All of the work can be completed from one side if the CNC turning center has only one turret, but some turning centers have a main spindle and sub-spindle for even faster operation. With this configuration, the main spindle partially machines the workpiece, which is then moved to the sub-spindle to complete the job on the other side of the part. The speed of CNC turning operations makes it an ideal process for large production runs with short lead times.
CNC Milling and Turning: Applications and Types of Materials
The production capabilities of CNC milling include a range of processes, such as:
CNC mills provide superior material conservation efficiency, which leads to a reduction in material costs over the machine’s lifespan. CNC mills fabricate products such as complex short-run production parts, precision components and parts, and prototype parts.
CNC turning lathes, on the other hand, are used to conduct operations such as:
CNC milling and turning are used in a number of industries, including:
Electrical discharge machining (EDM)
Metal removing (in automotive or manufacturing)
CNC Machining Services from Technox
Machining services such as CNC milling and CNC turning provide multiple options for the precise fabrication of components and parts. Each method has its pros and cons, making them ideal for different applications.
Technox operates one of the largest machine shops in the larger Chicago area. We possess capabilities to handle oversized parts and a range of value-added services that make us a single-source supplier for nearly any project. We can handle prototyping, large production runs, and everything in between.
For more information on the differences between CNC milling and turning or to inquire about our other services, please contact us or request a quote.
Milling is the process of machining irregular, curved, or flat surfaces by feeding the material through a rotating cutter with several cutting edges. CNC mills are ideal for cutting complex shapes, forming difficult-to-cut materials with high levels of precision, and come in many axis configurations and sizes. In addition, CNC milling machines can turn around parts in as little as a day, manage a wide range of production run sizes, and achieve precision tolerances.
Types of CNC Mills
CNC mills come in 3-axis, 4-axis, and 5-axis configurations:
Three-axis mills cannot manage the same level of efficiency or detail as 4-axis or 5-axis machines, but in many cases, they can produce the same products. While not as profitable or high-quality as 4-axis or 5-axis mills, these machines are suitable for:
Automatic or interactive operation
Cutting sharp edges
These mills can operate on materials ranging from aluminum alloys and composite board to foam, PCB, and wood. The 4-axis mill is a multi-functional CNC tool which features slightly improved functionality over 3-axis mills. It is often used in such applications as:
Hobby prototype building
Medical equipment creation
5-axis mills possesses the most advanced capabilities available for CNC mills. It operates far faster than 4-axis and 3-axis CNC machines and produces vertical milling at the highest quality and precision. These mills are ideal for producing:
Architectural door frames
Military grade products
Oil and gas machine parts
Titanium creations for both artistic and practical functions
Advantages of CNC Milling
CNC milling offers a range of benefits, including:
Every business looks for ways to cut costs without sacrificing quality. With CNC mills, businesses can improve the bottom line by providing significant cost savings. As CNC mills work faster and more accurately, they enable the efficient production of complex and specialized products.
Reduced labor hours also save money on expenses such as:
– Unemployment insurance
– Benefits such as health, dental, vision, and life insurance
Safety is greatly enhanced when using CNC machinery. With no bending or crouching required to operate the machines, ergonomic conditions are greatly improved for workers. This leads to fewer workplace accidents and less fatigue, largely mitigating the risk of human error in the milling process.
CNC milling machines perform non-stop with minimal necessary downtime. Facilities that run three shifts can continue production 24/7 without issue.
Versatility is one of the most significant benefits of CNC milling. CNC milling allows manufacturers to trim and shape a variety of materials without sacrificing quality or efficiency.
CNC mills are ideal for a wide variety of production run of all sizes for complex, high-quality products. CNC machines will also save a significant amount of time and money thanks to their operational efficiency and reduced labor costs.
Since 1976, Technox has offered the highest quality machining with exceptional customer service and fast turnaround times. For more information on our CNC milling services, please request a quote or contact us today.
The machining of large parts presents several challenges when compared to the fabrication of smaller, lighter components. Namely, oversized parts oftentimes must be moved quickly between tools or locations. Machining parts that are too heavy, large, or bulky to be easily moved by a single human being requires specialized equipment. Large parts may also be too large to readily fit into the work zones of most common CNC machine tools.
How Large Part Machining is Different
Large part machining may require extra steps or possess additional factors that need to be taken into account, magnified, or multiplied in order to get the job done effectively. Some of these include:
Factors that typically influence machining accuracy in a negative way are magnified when parts are larger. This means that careful consideration needs to be placed on monitoring and countering these factors. Temperature is one of the more notable and significant examples of this. The process for machining massive parts generates larger amounts of heat, so users must compensate for this heat to maintain integrity of the final part.
Material stress is yet another factor that’s frequently overlooked when smaller parts are being fabricated. Workpieces of a conventional size often leave some room for error here, but large parts do not. Stress-related distortions must be located and fixed promptly in order to keep them from negatively impacting finishing accuracy.
In the case of large five-axis machine spindles, the range of rotary-axis travel is essential. Machining large parts quickly means that the tooling range must account for the size of the design to ensure that time is not lost per part. Spindles that can reach all holes on a part at once make for faster work.
As these parts have a larger surface area, additional quality checks may be required to ensure that parts are being fabricated with reliable repeatability. Performing semi-finish passes and setting aside the time to measure between them before taking one or more finishing passes can be key to achieving strict tolerances.
Challenges Facing the Large Part Machining Industry
Large part machining offers a range of unique challenges. When implementing new processes, keep the following three obstacles in mind:
1. Implementing Large Manufacturing is a Tough Process
Implementing large part machining capabilities can be a stressful process. Investments in equipment capable of machining larger parts involves a certain amount of risk. Staff will require additional training on the new equipment to successfully fabricate oversized parts, which may cause some internal frustration or pushback from the workforce.
2. Buying in at the Shop-Floor Level
The individuals who will be doing the legwork behind large manufacturing need to be invested in the process. Any shop relies on the experience and abilities of its workforce to drive success. Without support at the ground level, new large part initiatives will suffer.
3. Don’t End Experiments Prematurely
It takes more time than many professionals may expect to fine-tune a large part manufacturing process and get it right. Stumbling along the way and needing to adjust your process is normal, but not everybody has an easy time coming to terms with this. It’s easy to think your process is broken or ineffective when it’s in its infancy, and this is how many larger projects fail.