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The 3 Most Common Machining Operations

finishing metal working on lathe grinder machine with flying sparks

CNC machining is an evolution of the milling process and a method of producing the same object repeatedly. Removing material, instead of adding, achieves the desired form. Several machining operations occur in a planned sequence to get the best results. Three of the most common include turning, drilling and milling.

Machining is a versatile and common manufacturing process. Therefore it is possible to machine different kinds of materials using the above three methods. Wood, composites, plastics and metals are all possible workpiece materials.



Turning rotates the workpiece while the cutting tool moves in a linear motion. The result is a cylindrical shape. A lathe is the choice for all turning operations.

Turning is either done automatically or manually. The disadvantage of manual turning is the need for continuous supervision. Automatic turning does not. With CNC or Computer Numerical Control, you program all the tooling changes, speeds and movements into a computer. These instructions then get received by the lathe for completion. CNC provides efficient and consistent high production runs.



Drilling produces a round hole in a workpiece. A tapping machine or drill press is designed for drilling, but a milling machine can also be used. When machining a workpiece, the chips are the bits of waste metal. The shape of the drill helps chips fall away from the workpiece, ensuring that it is free of debris.

To achieve a precise drilling operation, placing the drill bit perpendicular to the workpiece helps. It reduces leading-off or drifting. A center drill operation can be added before drilling for more precision.



Milling involves using multi-point rotary cutters to get rid of material from a workpiece. There are two types: face milling and peripheral milling. Face milling cuts flat-bottomed cavities and flat surfaces into the workpiece. The feed can either be vertical or horizontal. Peripheral milling cuts threads, deep slots and gear teeth.

Milling is usually applied as a secondary process to a workpiece already machined. It serves as the finishing coat and adds features like contours, pockets, slots and holes.

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