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CNC Milling vs. CNC Turning

CNC Milling

CNC stands for Computer Numerical Control and a CNC Mill Machine is a piece of machine technology utilizing computers and 3D Drawings or Prints to guide the machine in the geometry of the part being made. The machine uses a subtractive  process where by various cutting tools such as endmills, boring bars, and drills as a few examples come into physical contact with a solid block of material to remove material like a sculptor would, creating the 3D design detailed on the print.  


A wide range of materials can be CNC machined including, metals like aluminum, steel and titanium, plastics like Delrin, polymers and acetate, as well as wood, glass, foam and composites.


The process can be broken down into three primary steps: Design, Set-up/Programming, and Running the Program on the machine. S&W does not do design work, but we are expert at Set-up, Programming and Running Machines smoothly and efficiently. As the program runs, the tools in the machine removes material from the workpiece to form the custom-designed part detailed in the programming code. The programming code and set up is a vital step to ensure your parts are made to the exact specifications on the print, together with a nice finish and full functionality. 


CNC Turning

A CNC Turning Machine is a piece of technology that also uses computers and 3D Drawings or Prints to guide the geometry of the part being made using a different kind of subtractive machining process. The case of turning, the workpiece is held in a chuck and rotated, while the tool is fed into the workpiece to remove material. The tool is programmed to trace the outer and inner shapes of the part to create the desired geometry. 

The material itself is secured to, and rotated by, the main spindle, while the cutting tool can be moved along multiple axis. The types of parts created by a CNC lathe are often cylindrical, or symmetrical around an axis.

CNC Turning can produce parts faster resulting in lower manufacturing costs. The increased machining speed also makes larger volume production feasible. However, the main limitation of CNC turning is that it is only suitable for geometries with rotational symmetry. To overcome this design constraint CNC milling is often used as a secondary machining step to create additional features. These two processes can be streamlined into one by using a 5-axis machine.


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