Turning and milling are different metal manufacturing processes. In order to understand the difference, it’s important to know what each is designed to accomplish first.
In milling, a machine tool called a mill operates by rotating a cutting bit on three axes of motion (X-Y-Z) that allow it to remove material from a workpiece in order to make a desired shape. These three axes of motion are generally known as the Z axis, which is vertical in most of all cases, and the X and Y axes, parallel to the front edge and side of the machine tool’s table respectively.
In turning, a cutting bit also operates on three axes of motion (X-Y-Z), but the difference is that all three are generally identical to each other. That means there is no need for the third Z axis because the X and Y axes are both oriented vertically, so there’s no added complexity or extra movement required for this additional axis.
So why would anyone choose turning over milling? Because it’s faster, easier, and cheaper in some cases. For example, when cutting threads (which is technically known as threading) on a round bar or cylinder of metal (known as the workpiece), turning will always be faster than milling. That’s because turning makes use of the entire circumference of the bar to remove material, while milling speeds are limited by the length of cutter that can be attached to the machine spindle.
Turning is also easier than milling in some instances, especially when it comes to odd-shaped pieces that require something other than straight horizontal cuts or vertical Z axis movements. That’s because turning uses fewer tools and less complex program setups compared to milling, which of course means lower costs.
It’s important to note that there are different types of turning, including off-center and sliding headstock, which offer more flexibility for certain jobs that require additional movements in order to get the job done. For this reason, many machine shops prefer turning over milling because it offers more versatility when cutting almost any shape, but it all depends on the project at hand and your overall end expectations.
Before deciding on turning or milling to complete a certain job, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of both metal manufacturing processes in order to make an informed decision. It may seem counter-intuitive, but sometimes the cheapest option is actually the most expensive one after all costs are taken into consideration, which can be very true when it comes to professional machine shop work. Consider your budget, goals, and turnaround time when choosing a machine shop for your projects. If you have any questions, they should be able to help you answer them and suggest the best process for you and your needs.
For more information about machining services including turning, milling and drilling, contact a local company like Amtec Solutions Group located in Huntsville, Alabama and serving surrounding areas such as Madison, Athens and Decatur. Do your own research before choosing any machine shop for your projects.