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Radmot Mar 22, 2023 2:14:50 PM

Metal turning – what does this machining allow for?

Metal turning is one type of metal machining that focuses on manufacturing parts and elements of cylindrical shape. It can be used to shape many types of materials (metal alloys, wood, plastics) and has different properties than milling. 

Metal turning is a form of removal treatment – the excess material is removed during the procedure by specialized turning tools (tool bits and different types of clade), and the final parts are lighter than the block of raw material, installed in the lathe spindle. 

One of the unique features of that form of manufacturing is the production of high-quality cylindrical elements. 

This is related to the way automatic lathes work (CNC turning process and traditional work on the lathe machine) – the outside or inside surface of a block is machined, and the block itself is turned on the lathe head.


What is turning metal?

Although most people connect a lathe as a tool to produce missing parts for bigger devices (usually: made individually due to lack of available parts), said devices are one of the most popular machining devices to produce rounded objects out of metal alloys, wood, or plastics. 

The process of turning metal allows the production of a vast variety of parts and elements:

  • from the whole bodies of bigger devices (by combining external and internal turning), 
  • to bearings and small round parts.

The CNC metal turning is focused on removing excess material in form of shavings (thus it is called "shaving machining”) from the rotating block of metal, attached to the lathe spindle (head), by using specialized turning tools (blades, drills, bits).

Such a device allows three key types of work: 

  • external turning – the external surface of the machined element is subjected to the process of removing material, 
  • internal turning – same as above, yet the machined surface is inside the block of material, 
  • frontal turning – the material is removed from the opposite to the lathe spindle side of turned material.

Currently, most of the devices used for turning are called "automated lathes” due to the characteristics of the work (to run the spindle they use some kind of engine – usually electrical). These devices smoothly adjust speed and power delivery for the attached block of material thanks to higher efficiency and precision of turning. 

With the development of modern computer numerical control (CNC) contemporary lathes can be controlled with higher precision and turn objects faster and with negligible tolerances. Thanks to said technology, current metal turning became faster and easier, especially from the perspective of mass production.

Turning metal in the lathe - what is that process and what types of parts can be produced?

In general – the metal turning process looks almost the same for automated or CNC-controlled lathes. We can point some differences (eg. utilization of feeders in CNC lathe), but the turning itself is based on the same principle. 

The process – step by step – looks usually like that (for classical, manually operated, and CNC-controlled turning):

  1. Turned element (machined; sometimes called "solid of revolution”) is mounted on the lathe spindle with the best balance in mind (or: in a way to produce as less rotary runout as possible).
  2. After a firm montage of the turned block and initial checkout, the spindle is set to turn at the desired speed for the initial turning to remove a bigger excess of the material. After that part of the process turned element has a close-to-desired shape. On each stage of turning operators use different types of tool bits, sometimes specialized drills (often used in CNC metal turning) and taps (used sometimes for threading of machined parts)
  3. The next step is precision turning, focused on giving an object its final shape and better the turned surface. If needed, it can be sanded and/or polished
  4. After finalization of the turning element, parts can be detached from the lathe spindle or cut out by other tools

The final effect of turning metal parts is an element with the desired dimensions, ready for further processing (eg. thermal processing). It is worth mentioning the differences between the milling and turning processes:

  • lathes allow to produce mainly (if not – exclusively) parts of tubal shape and the manufacturing process of the raw material is focused on a circle shape
  • mills can shape and machine many types of surfaces and shapes, also round, yet these devices are much more efficient in processing and production of more complex types of parts

Also because of that, many machine parks for the CNC plants offer these types of machining (and usually more). 

But the knowledge that allows you to answer questions like "what type of processing is better to produce a metal element” is not required if you are looking for professional turning services. If you need to produce round parts from alloys (eg. aluminum, brass, or stainless steel), contact RADMOT for a free quotation.

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Turning steel, aluminum, and other alloys - what are the differences?

The main differences in the process of turning parts of different types of alloys are focused more on the requirements for final parts and their documentation. To produce high-quality parts in process of turning it is crucial to:

  • select a good type of material (not only overall, like "aluminum” but also a particular type of alloy), with desired characteristics and properties, 
  • determination of the machinability of the desired material,
  • selection of the right type of tools (tool bits, drills blades, etc.) and adjusting work parameters for its production.

Among many reasons, turning metal is a vast subject and that article oversimplifies it to present a simple answer – to be the truth – thought question. 

We can highlight few "golden rules" for turning metal, eg. stainless steel machining is usually more challenging than most alloys of aluminum, mainly due to differences in the physical characteristics of these metals. 

On the other hand – turning very hard alloys, like titanium, can be even more challenging and requires specialized tools (eg. hardened blades and turning knives) and very efficient cooling due to poor heat dispersion.


Metal machining - we know how to do it professionaly, try us and trust us.

At RADMOT, we can offer CNC milling servicesCNC turning services as well as many additional services, including washing, aluminum anodizing, laser marking and assembly.

Contact us and tell us what you need. We have been providing CNC services for almost 40 years. Our quote is completely free. And if you are in doubt about which technology will work best for you, we are able to advise customers from many industries on machining and quickly determine the price of machining the parts you order - our expertise is at your disposal.

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