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Machining involves the removal of excess material from parts with the assistance of some type of cutting tool. Today, metal parts manufacturers rely extensively upon three important processes to accomplish this objective: turning, milling, and drilling.


Turning Process

The turning process permits a machinist to generate cylindrical parts with desired internal and/or external features. It may involve cutting at single or even multiple points.

The term “single point cutting” describes a machining tool containing a single sharpened edge. It can shear away excess material from a metal workpiece turning on a “lathe”. Manufacturers use lathes as tools to hold and rotate work pieces.

Typically, as the part rotates, a keen blade removes metal during every point of contact. This process produces funnel or cylindrically shaped components with features such as tapers, grooves or slots.


Lathe Turning Operations

Turning may involve a number of very specific operations. Sometimes machinists divide these activities for classification purposes into two broad categories: internal (impacting the inner diameter of the part) and external (modifying the exterior diameter).

Certain operations sometimes occur interchangeably. For example, thread cutting may occur internally or externally, depending upon part specifications. Additionally, other machining processes, such as drilling and milling, may occur in conjunction with turning in automated manufacturing environments.


Common external machining operations include:

Facing: The cutting blade selectively shears material from an end or shoulder of a metal part.

Grooving: Cutting a channel or depression.

Cut-off: Cutting a groove with deep dimensions.

Thread Cutting: Creating winding grooves to permit the insertions of screws.


Some of the most frequently performed internal machining operations include:

Drilling: Removing material from the interior of a part.

Boring: Producing an interior cylindrical cavity within a metal part with a cutting tool, often a rotary cutting blade.

Reaming: A precise operation which removes excess material from a previously drilled hole in order to obtain specific hole dimensions.

Tapping: Using a tap tool in conjunction with a lathe to cut a thread in the interior of a hole.


Turning Equipment

For centuries, manufacturers utilized manually operated lathes to turn manufactured parts. This type of equipment required continuous supervision by the human operator. Even today, human machinists must pay close attention to the operation of manual lathes in order to operate cutting tools safely.

Recently, many manufacturing firms have introduced fully automated computer numerical control, or “CNC”, lathes. Automated machinery can turn parts with far greater precision than a human being. While human operators must still supervise the performance of this equipment, they do not need to exercise the constant intensely focused oversight required of manual lathe operators.

A fully automated lathe enables a CNC machinist to pre-program the movements of both the cutting tool and the workpiece. Usually, this sophisticated machinery will incorporate other machining operations, as well. High quality CNC equipment can produce parts within close tolerance ranges.


Applications for Turned Parts

Turned parts enjoy popularity in numerous industries. Turning enables a manufacturer to produce desired measured rotational surfaces, tapers, grooves, slots and other contours requiring the removal of excess material from a metal part.

The applications for these components vary widely, based upon the specific part. Industrial and machine designers, automakers, furniture makers, electronic parts manufacturers and many others frequently use turning as a machining operation.

Just consider some common applications for turned parts. For instance, by using turning during manufacturing, companies may speed up the production of a prototype. Machining may help create specific rotational features on cogs or wheels. It usually plays a role in the manufacture of rotational parts and custom designed shafts and fasteners, too.


Advantages of The Turning Process

Turning as a machining process potentially offers some distinct advantages in an industrial setting.

  • Manufacturers can produce high quality turned parts composed from a variety of widely used materials. Most metals and metal alloys tolerate turning during the machining stage of production, for instance. This common machining process will also work very effectively for most wooden and plastic components.
  • Companies which employ rigorous quality control measures achieve excellent tolerances utilizing this popular machining process. Mechanized equipment turns components reliably and precisely. Skilled human machinists usually develop the ability to produce parts within good tolerance levels, although automated machines perform more reliably.
  • Turning as an industrial machining process does not necessarily require long periods of time to accomplish. If manufacturers maintain machining equipment in good operating condition, and do not experience extensive “down time”, companies can supply turned metal components with comparatively short lead times. This machining process facilitates the production of certain prototypes, for instance.
  • Many metal turned parts display excellent surface qualities, depending upon the nature of the metal or metal alloy used by the manufacturer. Metal part makers may choose to perform finishing after machining using turning, or not.
  • Depending upon the size of the parts and the equipment involved, machining using turning may require less energy expenditure than some other types of machining processes. Numerous manufacturers have chosen to automate this process in the production of high quality metal parts. Human machinists also perform turning manually in some manufacturing environments.
  • High quality turning tools typically enjoy a relatively long tool life in modern industrial settings. This factor potentially contributes to the cost-effectiveness of turned parts.


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From a contract manufacturing firm, BuntyLLC evolved into a full service custom machined, forged and cast metal parts fabrication enterprise. We supply global solutions from our headquarters in Greenville, South Carolina.

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