What The Differences Between CNC Milling And Turning?

CNC milling and turning processes are two precision machining techniques. CNC Milling excels at complex surfaces and intricate designs, while CNC turning is ideal for cylindrical and smooth surfaces. CNC milling and turning are two precision methods of machining different materials, both of which are the methods of the subtractive manufacturing process.


CNC milling: The CNC milling machine consists of a vertical spindle and a rotating head that holds a rotating tool. During the CNC milling operation, the workpiece is held in place on the machine bed. Then the rotating cutting tool is fed into the workpiece surface, gradually removing excess material under control by the computer until the desired shape is achieved.

CNC turning: CNC turning also is a common CNC machining process. CNC turning fixes the materials such as metal or plastic on a rotating chuck. Then the cutting tool removes the material of the rotating workpiece until the desired shape is formed. Generally speaking, CNC lathes are suitable for turning, grooving, drilling, knurling, and other operations.

CNC milling and turning 1

What is the difference between CNC milling and turning in machining?

The biggest difference between CNC milling and turning is the movement of the cutting tool and the workpiece. During the CNC turning operations, the workpiece rotates at a set speed while the cutting tool remains relatively stationary. Conversely, CNC milling holds the workpiece in one position while the cutting tool rotates around the workpiece to remove excess material.

  1. The features of the tools: CNC turning uses single-point cutting tools but CNC milling uses multi-point cutting tools.
  2. Different processes: CNC milling includes processes such as forming milling, angle milling, and face milling, and CNC turning includes operations such as grooving, drilling, straight turning, and knurling.
  3. Shape of processed parts: CNC turning is suitable for producing parts with axially symmetrical shapes, including cylinders, cones, polygons, etc. CNC milling can produce parts with special and asymmetrical shapes.

The applications of CNC Milling and turning for custom parts: CNC milling and turning are used in machining processes in many industries, including electronics, automotive, medical, and aerospace.

  1. CNC milling parts:  the parts in the engine, gears, medical device components, holders, shells, etc.
  2. CNC turning parts:  circular shafts, nozzle, turbine, beams, and pipe flanges, etc.

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When to choose CNC milling or turning?

Although CNC machining has many advantages, manufacturers must examine the design requirements before determining the machining operations for each manufacturing project. Manufacturers often choose CNC milling for manufacturing projects that do not require machining into cylindrical components. CNC milling can also be used to machine flat or irregular surfaces, or used for secondary finishing. Manufacturers choose CNC turning for manufacturing projects that require cylindrical or circular profiles. Additionally, the high rotation speeds of CNC turning operations are well-suited for machining large tubular parts.


CNC milling and turning are still the most widely used CNC machining methods. Although these two processes have similarities, their operation processes and machining parts are quite different. Therefore, choosing the right machining process is the key to a successful project. If you are unsure which machining process should be chosen, DMTC’s machining experts can help you select the right CNC machining service. Get a quote now and discuss the details with our engineers!

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