CNC Turning

Our CNC turning process produces custom prototypes and end-use production parts in as fast as 1 day. We use a CNC lathe with live tooling so features like axial and radial holes, flats, grooves and slots can be machined.

CNC Turning design guidelines will help you understand capabilities and limitations.

Now, we offer economy lead time options for CNC machining projects that are less time-sensitive and more cost-competitive. Try it today,by uploading a CAD model.

What is CNC Turning?

CNC turning is a subtractive manufacturing process, programmed and managed by computer numerical control (CNC). The machine works by rotating the material, whilst it is fed through the tool, removing what is not needed to create the final part.

Turning has been around for thousands of years, you may have heard of 3D printing machines building machines. But, the first automated lathes relied on machine screws, accurately produced on lathes! Modern turning centres use even more accurate ball screws, these are actuated by motors controlled by a computer (PC or PLC - stands for Programmable Logic Controller, CNC stands for Computerised Numerical Control). This means we can take your CAD file and accurately produce it, and automate the cutting cycle.

What is a turning centre?

A turning centre gets even more versatile – part lathe, part mill. It has bar-stock in a spindle, so can produce a screw and thread, but also milling tools which can then make the hex-head, cut slots or drill holes.

Which is best milling or turning?

With a turning centre you get the best of both worlds, but a dedicated milling machine will still be most suitable for larger parts. The more cylindrical the part the better suited to a lathe, and you get access to outside diameter threading. Still not sure? If you upload your 3D design, we will quote for the most suitable or both lathe and mill and explain any trade-offs an threading options in 3D.

How Does CNC Turning Work?

During the CNC turning process, a metal rod is rotated while a cutting tool is held against the stock to remove material and create final parts. The lathe rapidly machines your parts in a subtractive turning process with additional live tooling. Outside diameter (OD) and inside diameter (ID) threading is also available.

Turned parts can then be left as-machined, with visible tool marks, or bead blasted. When the run is complete, parts are inspected, boxed and shipped shortly thereafter.

Why Use CNC Turning For Your Project?

Protolabs’ CNC machining service can deliver machined parts, in both plastic and metal, in less time than it takes to get a quote from other, more traditional machine shops. Upload a CAD file, choose the material and part quantity, and tell us when you need the parts. We also offer a number of CNC specific secondary services to support your project.

CNC material data sheets can be found in our Material Comparison Guide


CNC icon Logo
  • 1 to 200+ parts
  • Shipped in 1 to 3 working days
Common Applications
  • functional prototypes and end-use parts
  • parts with cylindrical features
  • parts with axial and radial holes, flats, grooves, and slots



Watch: CNC Machining process and capability

Proto Labs is the world's fastest source for custom prototypes and low-volume production parts. Our high-speed CNC machining service uses advanced CNC technologies to create parts ranging from highly complex prototypes to functional, end-use parts. A range a plastic and metal materials are available through two CNC processes: milling and turning. Get 1 to 200+ parts in as fast as one day with CNC machining at Proto Labs.



Watch: ProtoQuote with Design Analysis (UK)

Product designers and engineers can upload a 3D CAD model online at any time to receive an interactive ProtoQuote® with free design for manufacturability (DFM) analysis and real-time pricing information within hours. The DFM analysis helps eliminate potential problems like sink, challenging undercuts or walls that are too thin or thick. Once a part design is ready and a quote approved, production begins almost immediately. Upload a part today for a ProtoQuote with design analysis.

Design Guidelines: CNC Turning 

How much does it cost to manufacture CNC machined parts?

There are 4 key factors that contribute to your parts, raw material, machine time, labour and speed.

It will be no surprise that some materials are more expensive than others, for metals, steel and aluminium are abundant and have the lowest raw material cost per kg whilst for plastics Acetal, Nylon, Acrylic and ABS tend to work out cheaper.
In the middle of the spectrum for metals you have more specialist aluminiums and stainless steels (containing expensive alloying elements) and for plastic glass-filled grades.

Things such as part complexity and material machinability play a factor here and of course the quicker you want something the more you are likely to pay, remember to compare costs like for like, considering both price and delivery.

applications engineer examines a part

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