CNC Vertical Machining Center

CNC Machining Processes Explained Drilling Vs Turning

Oct 23, 2023

The manufacturing processes have been evolving since primitive times, along with the advancements of products and services. The Industrial Revolution marked an era of machining for mankind, and humans started using machines to produce goods and products at a mass level. However, the invention of computers further improved the manufacturing processes, giving birth to Computer Numerical Control.

The introduction of CNC in machining processes evolved manufacturing, and the accuracy, consistency, and versatility offered by these processes have become an integral part of today’s manufacturing industry. The CNC is employed in almost all machining processes that were done manually or mechanically in the past.

In today’s article, we will delve into the major machining processes done with the application of CNC and which processes are the right ones for your needs. We will be focusing on turning, milling, and drilling tools and processes in CNC machining centers.

This article is for you, whether you’re an industrialist, an industry newcomer, or a student of technology curious about the use and applications of CNC machining processes like turning, milling, and drilling.

So let’s get into it.

What Is CNC Machining?

As already mentioned, CNC stands for Computer Numerical Control, and the technology is widely used in manufacturing processes in machining centers. CNC proved to be a major paradigm shift from mechanical manufacturing to computerized manufacturing of parts and products.

It was the era between the 1940s and 1950s when the idea of numerical control was introduced. It was further refined by integrating with digital electronic systems to develop computerized numerical controls.

We can define CNC machining in the manufacturing process as follows:

It represents the pre-programmed computer software that dictates the movement and functions of the factory tools and machinery. The precision and accuracy of the machining processes are achieved by utilizing the digital instructions from CAM(Computer-aided Manufacturing) and CAD(Computer-aided Design) files on different machines and tools like mills, routes, lathes, grinders, etc.

CNC machining processes are done on different types of machines and tools. However, our focus for today’s article will be drilling, milling, and turning.


We will begin with drilling operations on CNC machining centers. It is not a machining process that is specifically performed with CNC centers. Instead, drilling is a process that has been used since the era of manual and mechanical processes.

Drilling is the cutting process in which round holes are created or enlarged using a multi-point cutting tool known as a drill bit. In common drilling operations, the drill bit is pressed against the workpiece and rotated at speeds to remove chips from the workpiece and drill holes.

In CNC drilling, the basic principle of the drilling process remains the same. However, using pre-programmed computer-aided tools and machines helps achieve high precision and accuracy in the process.

From the discussion, it is understandable that the fundamentals of the drilling process in CNC machines revolve around two main concepts: drill bits and rotational speed. Drill bits determine the size of the holes, geometries, material to be worked on, etc., and the rotational speed of the bit during drilling operations is determined by the material being drilled and the type of drill bit being employed.

CNC Drilling Operations

When we’re specifically talking about CNC drilling, it is necessary to discuss the types of drilling operations that can be performed in CNC machining centers:

1. Spot Drilling

Spot drilling represents the preliminary operation on a drilling machine in which shallow holes are drawn to guide the subsequent deeper process of drilling.

2. Deep Hole Drilling

Deep hole drilling is the secondary process after spot drilling. Once the spot has been drilled, the deep hole drilling allows more detailed and in-depth holes which can reach 10 times the diameter of the drill.

3. Counterboring

Counterboring is a drilling operation in which enlarged and flat-bottomed holes are drilled. These holes are also drilled after spot drilling and are specifically useful for allowing screw heads to sit flush with or below the workpiece surface.

4. Countersinking

Countersinking is the drilling operation in which conial holes are created on pre-drilled holes. These types of drilled holes are useful for conical screw heads to flush with the workpiece.

5. Tapping

Last but not least, drilling machines also allow the process of tapping on different workpieces. Tapping refers to cutting threads inside the drilled holes to accommodate threaded fasteners.




Drilling can be done on various materials due to the versatility offered by the drill bits. The spectrum of materials to be worked on is very broad in drilling operations. A brief overview of the materials that can be drilled on CNC machines is as follows:


Ferrous metals like steel and cast iron can be easily drilled. Whereas non-ferrous metals like aluminum, copper, magnesium, titanium, and their alloys can also be drilled on CNC machines. Besides, zinc is also a non-ferrous metal suitable for drilling functions.


Plastics like acrylic, polyethene, polycarbonate, polystyrene, polypropylene, nylon, Teflon, and ABS are suitable for CNC drilling.


Composites like Carbon fiber-reinforced plastics, resins, binders, and glass fiber-reinforced plastics are fit for drilling.


Wood and wooden products can also be processed on the drill machines. It includes hardwoods, softwoods, medium-density fiberboard, and plywood, etc.

Ceramics & Glass

Ceramics and glass are also among the materials that can be processed using CNC drilling machines.

Other Materials

Other materials that can be processed using CNC drilling machines are rubber, foam, stone, granite, laminates, etc.



The main advantages of using CNC drilling tools and machines for processing diverse workpieces are as follows:


The precision the CNC drilling machines offer is unparalleled compared to manual drilling. Therefore, CAD/CAM systems are used to drill holes in different materials for high precision and accuracy.

Scale Operations

The CNC machines are very efficient in their operations and can achieve a very high level of accuracy regardless of repeatability. Therefore, the manufacturing industry relies highly on CNC drilling to scale production.

Minimized Waste

Waste minimization is yet another advantage of CNC drilling. It implies that the wastage of workpieces due to inaccurate drilling is very low or minimal in CNC operations.

Digital Monitoring And Feedback

With digitally operated machines, the monitoring and real-time feedback on operation ensures the issues or anomalies of machines and tools are detected and rectified timely.

Which Drilling Tools or CNC Machines Can You Use? 

Suppose you’re wondering where to find the best CNC drilling machines and tools for performing drilling or boring operations. In that case, you can consider checking Yangens’ CNC drilling machine, which is purpose-built for performing drilling and tapping operations:

CNC Drilling and Tapping MACHINE YST-700



The second operation of CNC machines we are going to discuss in today’s article is turning operation. CNC turning operation is comparable to the drilling operation as both involve removing the extra material from the workpiece. One tool removes chips from the inner surface, while another machine removes the material from the outer surfaces.

The manual turning machines are as old as 1300 BC, originating in Egypt. The turning lathes or lathe machines were formally manufactured in 1718. With advancements in technology and the invention of computers, the CNC turning machines replaced manual lathes. Today’s CNC turning machines use pre-programmed software for their operations.

The turning operation is the process in which the workpiece is machined and cut to the required diameter. The excess material from the external diameter of the workpiece is removed using the turning machines or tools. CNC turning operations are generally relevant for the pieces in cylindrical shapes.

We can define a CNC turning machine as a manufacturing machine that allows computer-controlled and operated manufacturing. The turning machine can have three, four, or even five axes. The workpiece is affixed, and the cutting tool on the spindle performs operation through linear motion. The CNC turning machines are very capable and can perform several machining operations with accuracy and precision.


Turning Centers Types And Configurations

There are two types of turning machine centers: vertical turning centers and horizontal turning centers. Each type of turning center has its own benefits and downsides. Vertical machining centers have the spindle axis oriented vertically, and the cutters are held in the spindle to rotate on the axis. In contrast, horizontal centers are usually used for flat surfaces.

As mentioned earlier, the machining centers for turning operations can either be horizontal or vertical. However, what matters more is the configuration in which you’ve got a turning machine. There can be several configurations like multi-axes, standard, slant bed, flatbed, Swiss-type, etc. However, the turning operations are not limited to the CNC turning centers.

Instead, the lathes conventional turning machines can also use CNC protocols for turning operations. The main difference between a CNC lathe and a CNC turning center is the variability of operations and advancement. The CNC turning centers are more advanced as well as capable of performing more operations than just the turning one.


Operations That Can Be Performed With CNC Turning Centers

Since our topic for today’s article is more concentrated on turning operation and drilling operations on CNC machines, we will stay relevant to it. We have already discussed what turning operations are. Since we are talking about turning machine ones again. Let’s discuss different operations that can be performed on a turning machine center:


It is the fundamental operation of the CNC lathe or turning machine in which the workpiece is rotated, and the cutting tool moves in a linear path to remove material from the workpiece and give it a shape.


Facing operation produces flat surfaces as the cutting tool moves radially as the workpiece rotates on the turning center.


Boring operation enlarges the holes created during the drilling operations. The operation is used to achieve holes of accurate diameters for threading.  


Grooving involves cutting narrow grooves on the surface of the workpiece.


Knurling operation implies the process in which a pattern is rolled onto the surface of a workpiece for grip enhancement.

Taper Turning

Taper turning is the operation in which conical and tapered shapes are created by swiveling the workpiece at a required angle using a taper attachment.  

Contour Turning

In contour training, the advanced CNC turning machines perform programmed contours to create complex shapes and profiles on the workpiece.

Eccentric Turning

Eccentric turning is the program in which off-center turning produces eccentric profiles.

Other operations

Other operations that can be performed on the turning machine center include thread cutting, drilling, parting, chamfering, bar feeding, broaching, etc., and machines like CNC Lathe YSLC-500 can be the right fit for this purpose. 

If you want to explore one of the best CNC turning centers, visit the link below to learn about and buy the best turning center:

Yangsen Vertical Machining Centers


If you wonder about what materials the machine can work on, here is a list of the materials that can go well with the CNC turning centers:


Ferrous metals, like different steel varieties, can be worked on turning centers. Whereas non-ferrous metals like aluminum, copper, magnesium, titanium, and their alloys can also be used to work on CNC machines. Besides, zinc and precious metals like gold, silver, and platinum are also a non-ferrous metal suitable for specialized turning functions.


Plastics like acrylic, polyethylene, polycarbonate, PVC, polystyrene, polypropylene, nylon, Teflon, ABS, PEEK, and Delrin are suitable for CNC turning operations.


Composites like Carbon fiber-reinforced plastics, resins, binders, and glass fiber-reinforced plastics are fit for turning.


Wood and wooden products can also be processed on the turning centers but are usually limited to hardwoods like oak, maple, mahogany, and softwoods like pine and cedar.


Advanced ceramics are also among the materials that can be processed using CNC turning machines.

Other Materials

Other materials that can be processed using CNC turning machines are rubber, foam, graphite, and super alloys like Monel and Inconel.



The main benefits of using the CNC turning centers in different operations are as follows:

Precision and Consistent Results

Precision is one of the most significant reasons why CNC turning centers have replaced manual lathes or turning machines. These machines give high precision without sacrificing the consistency of the results. Therefore, each and every part produced by turning centers matches the required specifications.

Rapid Prototyping

CNC turning centers can easily switch between different operations and materials. By changing the program or adjusting a few settings, manufacturers can produce different parts without the need for extensive machine retooling. This adaptability is particularly valuable for rapid prototyping, allowing for quick iterations and adjustments based on the design’s evolution.

Reduced Labor

Although you require a specialized CNC turning center controller for your employees, it will reduce the overall labor cost. The CNC turning center is not a labor-intensive machine and doesn’t require manual oversight or intervention. The automated operations reduce labor, improve the process, and place safety for the employees.

Efficiency and Cost Savings

The manufacturing process becomes fast and accurate with the operations performed on CNC turning centers. It implies that the machines can run for extended periods without any anomalies or issues. Therefore, the efficiency leads to shorter production time and higher output. In the long-run perspective, the turning centers will lead to cost savings for the manufacturers relying on these machines.


Drilling Vs. Turning: Differences

After overviewing everything you need to know about drilling and turning operations as well as the best machines to rely on, here is a brief comparison of both functions and how they relate or differentiate:




Primary Objective

Producing holes in workpieces

Shape workpieces to achieve the cylindrical profile

Tool Movement

The drill bit rotates and has linear movement into the workpiece.

The workpiece rotates, and the cutting tool moves linearly.

Tools And Machines

A drill press is the primary machine, but lathes and milling machines can also be used for drilling.

Lathes or CNC turning centers.

Tool Shape

The shape of drill bits is helical and has pointed ends. The channels in the drill bits aid in removing chips from inner surfaces.

Turning tools are usually linear or slightly curved with various profiles to perform various operations.

Depth of Cut

The cut depth is determined by the depth of the hole, and it can vary depending on the requirements.

The cut depth is usually shallow in turning operations and is determined by calculating the difference between initial and final diameters.

Surface Finish And Tolerances

Rougher surfaces inside holes with deep hole drilling; not much tight tolerances.

Smoother surface finishes and tighter tolerances can be achieved with turning centers.

Coolant Use

Coolant is significant for deeper holes to prevent heat buildup and remove chips.

Coolant can enhance tool life and product finishing in turning operations.



Both drilling and turning are foundational machining processes and give unique results. Different tools and techniques are used for both operations, and it is necessary to understand the differences to determine which machining process is right for a certain manufacturing requirement. We have guided you with the necessary information and hope it will help in deciding which operation and tool to go for. 

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