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CNC machining is one of the widely used manufacturing techniques. It is the general term for a wide range of machining applications involving machines with programmable features that allows them to perform the necessary actions.

The technique encompasses many subtractive manufacturing processes where materials are removed from the workpiece to create the final part. In this article, we will discuss five of the most common types of CNC machining processes across all industries.

These CNC machining techniques are used by different industries including aerospace, medical, industrial, hydraulics, firearms, oil and gas, and many others. It uses a variety of materials too, like metal, plastic, glass, wood, and composites.

CNC milling

CNC milling

Here are five of the most common CNC machining techniques.

CNC Turning and Lathes

The first type of CNC machining that most industries frequently turn to is CNC lathes and turning machines. These machines are characterized by the rotation of the materials while the process is going on.

Here the cutting tools are in linear motion and are removing the material around the circumference until the desired feature is achieved. Some of the internal and external features it can create include bores, drilled holes, broaches, tapers, tapping, and threads. If you see screws, shafts, bolts, poppets, and the likes, they are surely made from CNC machining.

CNC Milling

This CNC machining process is exactly the opposite of CNC turning. In CNC milling, it is the material or workpiece that is stationary while the cutting tools are the ones rotating in a circumference. It produces different shapes like cavities on a workspace, flat surfaces, slots, and threads. The final products are usually square or rectangular.

CNC Laser

The CNC laser machines feature a pointed router that has a highly precise laser beam at its tip. This cuts, slices or engraves the material based on design. The laser cuts across the material by moving back and forth with heat causing it to melt or vaporize. The material is usually in sheet form to make it easier for the laser to move.

The advantage of a CNC laser is it can accommodate a wider range of designs compared to conventional cutting machines like CNC lathe, turning, or milling. It also cuts the parts cleanly and does not require additional finishing services.

CNC Electrical Discharge Machines (EDM)

Another more technologically advanced type of CNC machining process is EDM. In this manufacturing process, the machine uses highly-controlled electrical sparks to create the desired shape. The material is placed under an electrode wire while the machine emits electrical discharge from the wire to produce intense heat. This heat causes the material to melt and remove the excess in liquid form until the desired shape is achieved.

EDM is used most in creating micro holes, slots, or tapered and angled features. It is also applicable to designs with more complicated features.

CNC Plasma Cutting

CNC plasma cutting machines use high-powered plasma torches with an electronically-ionized gas, controlled by a computer to cut through the material. This material needs to be electrically conductive like steel, aluminum, brass, copper, and stainless steel.


Precision CNC machining has a wide range of capabilities applicable across many industries. It can serve any design requirement as long as it fits the product’s usage, volume, lead time, features, and budget.