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CNC Turning and Milling Differences and How to Choose

  • Parts In As Soon As 5-Days
  • 3 & 5-Axis Milling & Turning
    Plastics, Composites, Metals
  • Wide Variety of Materials,
    Finishing Options & Scalability
Engineer-Reviewed Quotes in As Soon As One Business Hour
CNC Machining Services
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Precision Cutting
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Fathom-Quality Parts
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Plastic & Metal
CNC Machining
CNC Turning and Milling

Fathom delivers high-quality metal and plastic machined parts by way of modern methods utilizing the latest in advanced milling and turning machinery. Companies trust Fathom with their CNC machining projects that are time-sensitive, short production run related, involve high-complexity and high-precision.

Why Would You Choose CNC Turning or CNC Milling? / /

When your unique project demands high quality, precision, scalability, and a quick turnaround, CNC machining may be the best solution. CNC machining is a manufacturing process guided by computer numerical control and highly skilled machinists. Several methods utilize the CNC machining process, including CNC milling and CNC turning. Choosing between CNC milling and turning largely depends on your project’s specifications, as each process has its advantages.

CNC Turning and Milling Services Offered by Fathom / /

Whether for prototyping or production, the Fathom Digital Manufacturing nationwide network offers both CNC turning and CNC milling to help you produce a precise metal or plastic part. Let our skilled team of experts take over the manufacturing, so you can shift your focus to delivering your product to customers. With years of experience and thousands of projects, we have satisfied customers from a variety of industries including aerospace and defense, medical and automotive across the United States.

In addition to CNC milling and CNC turning, Fathom offers over 25 manufacturing processes.

Additive Manufacturing

  • FDM
  • SLS
  • SLA
  • Polyjet
  • MJF
  • DMLS
  • DLS
  • STEP (Evolve)

CNC Machining

  • CNC (3 & 5 Axis)
  • CNC Lathe
  • Precision Grinding
  • Wire & Sinker EDM

Injection Molding

  • Injection Molding
  • Tooling
  • Compression Molding

Metal Cutting and Forming

  • Thermoforming
  • Sheet Metal Punching
  • Sheet Metal Cutting
  • Metal Forming
  • Laser Cutting
  • Water Jet Cutting
  • Chemical Etching
  • Welding
  • Micro Cutting


  • Die Casting
  • Urethane Casting
  • Composite Layups
  • Extrusion
  • Post Processing & Finishing
    1. Pad Printing
    2. Powder Coating
    3. Bead Blasting
    4. Surface Grinding
    5. Polishing
    6. Anodize
    7. Powder Coat Passivate
    8. Chemfilm
    9. Vacuum Metallization
    10. Silkscreen
    11. Plating
    12. Tumbled

Fathom CNC Turning and Milling Quote and Manufacturing Time / /

Fathom’s manufacturing experts can provide a CNC turning or CNC milling quote in as soon as one business hour. Trust Fathom with your CNC milling or CNC turning project and receive your high-quality parts in as little as 5 days. Upload your CAD file today and get started.

Differences Between CNC Turning and Milling / /

What is CNC Turning?

CNC turning is used to manufacture parts with a cylindrical shape. During CNC turning, the material is rotated at high speed while a single point cutting tool begins to subtract material from the workpiece. CNC turning is most commonly used on metal alloys. Benefits of CNC turning include high levels of accuracy, repeatability, speed, and cost.

What is CNC Milling?

CNC milling is used to produce pieces that do not have cylindrical features. The workpiece is held in place while a cutter rotates around the material to produce the desired shape.  CNC milling can be used to create a finished product from raw material or as a secondary process to add definition. CNC milling can be used with various materials, including metals, glass, plastics, ceramics, elastomers, and composites. The advantages of CNC milling include higher production rates, accuracy, and precision.

What is the Difference Between CNC Turning and Milling?

While CNC turning and CNC milling are both CNC manufacturing processes, there are distinct differences. CNC milling uses a moving tool along a stationary workpiece to subtract raw material. CNC turning uses a rotating workpiece while a cutting tool moves along the material to create a shape. CNC turning is a good match for projects that require a cylindrical part. CNC milling is best for parts that do not require a cylindrical shape and may be used for secondary finishing to add definition. Complex products that require both cylindrical and prismatic features may use a combination of milling and turning.

CNC Turning Machines Used by Fathom / /

Fathom’s manufacturing power is supported by over 530 machines, including mills, lathes, presses, press brakes, turret punches, and additive systems. Fathom’s services extend beyond CNC turning and milling and include hybridized services that leverage CNC. Need CNC turning or milling as part of an unusually complex project? Fathom is ready to help. Explore the case study below to see how Fathom delivered 20,000 parts in just 27 days while using 55+ tools, including CNC machining:

Case Study //

Real Customers. Real Results.

A customer came to Fathom with a complex project that spanned the technologies and processes of rapid production—and needed it done fast. Fathom delivered.

20,000 Parts // Within 27 Days
55+ Tools to Injection Mold 15,000 Parts First Article in 2 Weeks

55+ Tools to Injection
Mold 15,000 Parts

First Article in 2 Weeks

3,000+ 3D Printed Parts

3,000+ 3D
Printed Parts

2,000+ Metal Fabricated Parts

2,000+ Metal
Fabricated Parts

Hybridized Services Used //

3D Printing / Additive Manufacturing—PolyJet, SLS, MJF.

DFM Analysis + CAD Mods.

CNC Machining. Laser Cutting.

Stamping. Die Cutting. Post-Opp Drilling.

24-hour Turnaround Urethane Casting.

Injection + Compression Molding.

Model Finishing. Insert Assembly.

Advanced Project Management.

Fathom has over 163 CNC machines, including:
  • 85 CNC vertical mills ranging from 3-axis vertical mills, 4-axis vertical mills and 5-axis vertical mills. These capabilities include 8+ high-precision 5-axis CNC vertical mills.
  • 8 CNC horizontal mills ranging from 3-axis horizontal mills to 4-axis horizontal mills.
  • 7 CNC multi-axis mills ranging from 4-axis multi-axis mills and 5-axis multi-axis mills. These capabilities include 5+ high-precision 5-axis CNC multi-axis mills.
  • 40 CNC lathes both 2-axis and 3-axis for CNC turned parts.
  • 23 Swiss screw machines for high-precision CNC turning for CNC screws, including medical-grade screws.

CNC Turning and CNC Milling Locations Nationwide

Fathom’s manufacturing network has nine locations across the United States with CNC capabilities. Our CNC locations are:


1050 Walnut Ridge Drive
Hartland, WI 53029
ISO 9001:2015


444 W. 21st St. Ste. 101
Tempe, AZ 85282
ISO 9001:2015
NIST 800-171 Compliant


14000 N.W. 58th Court
Miami Lakes, FL 33014
ISO 9001:2015 Design Certified
ISO 13485:2016


620 3rd Street
Oakland, CA 94607
ISO 9001:2015 Design Certified
NIST 800-171 Compliant


1207 Adams Drive
McHenry, IL 60051

1401 Brummel Ave
Elk Grove, IL 60007
ISO 9001:2015 Design Certified


13758 Johnson Street NE
Ham Lake, MN 55304


1801 Rowe Lane
Pflugerville, TX 78660
ISO 9001:2015

1513 Sam Bass Rd
Round Rock, TX 78681
ISO 9001:2015
ISO 13485:2016

CNC Turning and Milling Specifications and Tolerances / /

Below are the specs and tolerances specific to CNC turning and milling:

  • Metal materials +/- 0.005
  • Plastic materials +/- 0.008
  • Pre-merger CNC machinery chart:

HaasTL 2 Lathe216 x 48HaasSuper Mini Mill116 x 12 x 10

CNC Machinery
Brand Model QTY Build Volume (in)
PAR System 5-Axis 1 284 x 112 x 53
Haas UMC750 SS 5-Axis 2 19.7 x 15.7 x 7.9
Haas VF-9/40 1 84 x 40 x 30
Haas VF-2 CNC Mill 1 30 x 16 x 20
Mighty Viper Pro 3150-AG 1 120 x 61.4 x 32
Mighty Viper B100 1 50 x 100 x 24
Mighty Viper Pro 1000-AG 1 43 x 24 x 25
Mighty Viper LG 1000 1 40 x 20 x 25
Mazak VC Universal 500A 5-axis 2 20 x 20 x 20
Mazak VTC-30C 2 65 x 30 x 26
Mazak VTC-20B 3 44 x 20 x 20
Mazak Quick Turn Universal Smart 350 1 Lathe 4″ bar diameter, 10″ x 25.5″
KUKA KRC22 6-Axis Robotic Cell 1 w/ Turntable
Sodick VL600QH 1 Wire EDM
Mori-Seiki NLX 2500SY 2015 & 2017 2 CNC Lathe
Makino 2019 D 200Z 1 Carbon Mill
Makino 2018 D200Z 1 Hard Milling

While designing for a CNC turning or CNC milling job, there are several important factors to consider. The desired part’s geometry will affect how it will be positioned in the CNC machine and the amount of time required for set up. If a part is manually repositioned, the accuracy and cost of the project will be affected. The tool used to cut the part may vibrate during operation, resulting in loose tolerances. The workpiece may vibrate during machining due to temperatures and cutting forces, resulting in deformities. The geometry of the tools used during the manufacturing process will also affect how a part is shaped. Additionally, if the cutting tool cannot reach a surface, it cannot be machined, limiting the ability to create hidden internal geometries. For parts with highly complex shapes and internal chambers, the experts at Fathom recommend Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS).

CNC Turning and Milling Materials List / /

Fathom offers CNC machining for both metal and plastic parts.
Stainless Steel 1-1000 +/- 0.005″
  • High Strength
  • High Corrosion Resistance
  • High Weldability
  • Standard Machined Finish
  • Tumbled
  • Bead Blasted (Sand or Glass)
  • Polished
Low Carbon Steel 1-1000 +/- 0.005″
  • Common Steel
  • High Machinability & Weldability
  • Can Be Hardened
  • Not Corrosion Resistant
Aluminum 1-1000 +/- 0.005″
  • High Strength, Low Weight
  • High Machinability
  • Low Cost
Brass 1-1000 +/- 0.005″
  • Corrosion & Chemical Resistant
  • High Density & Strength
  • Non-Conductive
HDPE 1-100 +/- 0.008″
  • Medium Impact Strength
  • Flexible (Shore D70)
  • FDA Compliant
  • No Water Absorption
  • Standard Machined Finish
  • Tumbled
  • Flame or Vapor Polished (Acrylic Only)
PC 1-100 +/- 0.008″
  • Medium Tensile & High Impact Strength
  • Maintains Properties Over Range of Temperatures
  • High Optical Clarity (Clear)
ABS 1-100 +/- 0.008″
  • Medium Tensile & High Impact Strength
  • Electrical Insulator
  • High Machinability
  • Low Cost
Acrylic 1-100 +/- 0.008″
  • High Tensile Strength
  • Can Be Polished for High Optical Clarity
Nylon 6/6 1-100 +/- 0.008″
  • High Tensile & Medium Impact Strength
  • Maintains Properties Over Range of Temperatures
Acetal (Delrin®) 1-100 +/- 0.008″
  • Medium Tensile & Medium Impact Strength
  • Holds Machining Tolerances Well
  • Good Wear & Fatigue Resistance
ULTEM® 1-100 +/- 0.008″
  • High Tensile Strength
  • High Working Temperature Range (335°F)
  • Electrical Insulator
  • High Optical Clarity (Clear)

Advantages of CNC Turning / /

The CNC turning process offers many advantages. Compared to manufacturing processes operated by hand, CNC turning offers increased production speed, safer operations, higher efficiency, higher quality results, accuracy, and increased cost-effectiveness. For projects that require a quick turnaround, increased quality, and a cylindrical shape, CNC turning is a good match.

Advantages of CNC Milling / /

CNC milling is a versatile manufacturing method with multiple benefits. Compared to manual manufacturing processes, CNC milling offers an increase in precision, lower labor costs, and higher replicability. CNC milling can be used with various materials, including metal and plastic, and may be used as a secondary finishing process.

CNC Finishing Processes / /

Finishing the surface of a part is the last step required during CNC machining. Finishing is used to erase flaws, create added resistance and strength, improve the look of a part, and more. Here are some common finishes for CNC machined parts.

  • Bead Blasting: The bead blasting process adds a satin or matte finish to a CNC part. The matte finish is accomplished by using a pressurized air gun to shoot glass beads at a part.
  • Powder Coating: After a part has been powder coated, it has a thin protective layer that adds strength and wear-resistance. During the powder coating process, the part is first primed using a chromating or phosphating coat. Next, the part receives a dry powder coating from an electrostatic spray gun. Lastly, the part is cured in an oven.
  • Anodizing: After a CNC part has been anodized, it has an oxide layer that increases its density, thickness, and durability. Anodization also makes a part electrically non-conductive. During the anodizing process, the part is placed into an acid electrolyte bath which serves as an anode. A cathode is added to the part, and an electrical current is passed through the acid. Oxygen ions from the electrolyte and atoms from the alloy are combined along the surface of the part.
  • Surface Grinding: The surface grinding process is used when a specific size or precision finish is required. Surface grinding removes material by using a high-speed abrasive wheel as a cutting tool.
  • Polishing: The polishing technique can improve the dimensions and accuracy of a part while producing a mirror gloss finish. Polishing tools and abrasive materials are used to achieve a smooth surface.
  • Passivate: After a CNC machined part has completed the passivation process, its corrosion resistance is improved. Passivation may include spray application, circulation in a chemical solution, gel application, or tank immersion.
  • Chemfilm: Chemfilm finishing is a chemical conversion coat that adds corrosion resistance to aluminum substrates, acting as a base for organic coatings. The part is dipped, brushed, or sprayed with the chemfilm layer.
  • Vacuum Metallization: The vacuum metallization process results in a mirror-like or decorative uniform finish while also improving thermal, air, light, or water barrier properties. In the vacuum metallization process, the part is placed inside a closed chamber where a metal vapor adheres and coats the part.
  • Silkscreen: Screen printing is used to transfer a design or logo to a part. When a part is silk-screened, a mesh is used to apply ink onto the surface, but only to permeable areas that are not covered by a blocking stencil.
  • Plating: Plating adds corrosion and abrasion resistance, conductivity, and reflectivity to parts. In the course of electroplating, the part is submerged into an electrolyte bath with the material that will be used for the metal coating. An electrical charge causes the material to transfer to the part, resulting in a uniform metal coating.
  • Tumbled: Tumbling or ultrasonic polishing removes any sharp points or edges from a machined part. During the tumbling process, the part is placed inside a barrel along with media, water, and detergent. The barrel tumbles at different speeds depending on the desired finish.
  • Painting: Painting may be used to add color, varnish, or ink to a part. Painting methods may include spray painting which uses a device to coat the part.
  • As-Milled: As-milled or as-machined products do not require a secondary process. They will still have visible blemishes and may have a rough surface.

Examples of CNC Turned Parts / /

A variety of parts can be used using the CNC turning manufacturing methods, including:

  • Valve stems
  • Valve bodies
  • Spacers
  • Shafts
  • Shanks
  • Pivot rods
  • Nozzles
  • Pins
  • Housings
  • Handles
  • Driveshafts
  • Bolts
  • Dowels
  • Fasteners

Examples of CNC Milled Parts / /

Many parts can be made using the CNC milling method, including:

  • Mold cavities
  • Mold bases
  • Valves
  • Engine houses
  • Bone fracture plates
  • Shafts
  • Reflectors
  • Adapters
  • Furniture
  • Medical parts

FAQ / /

Q: Does Fathom offer CNC milling and turning?

A: Yes, Fathom offers both CNC milling and CNC turning at nine of our 12 nationwide manufacturing locations.

Q: What is a CNC milling machine?

A:  CNC milling machines are computer-driven and hold the workpiece stationary while cutting tools rotate around the part. Different CNC milling machines include vertical mills, horizontal mills, turret mills, and CNC bed mills.

Q: What is a CNC turning machine?

A: A CNC turning machine is sometimes called a lathe. The lathe can be computer or hand operated. The raw material is held on a rotating spindle while non-rotating cutting tools and drills trace the perimeter of the part, subtracting material to create the desired shape.

Q: What are Fathom’s industry certifications?

A: Fathom’s extensive certifications include ISO 9001:2015, ISO 9001:2015 Design, ISO 13485:2016, AS9100:2016, NIST 800-171 and ITAR.

Q: How much does a CNC machine cost?

A: Depending on the type of CNC machine, it may cost between $1,000 to $300,000+.

Q: What is the most expensive CNC machine?

A: The most expensive CNC machines are 5 axis CNC machines.

Q: Is CNC easy to learn?

A: CNC programming can be learned easily; however, years of training are required to become a CNC machinist.

Q: What is the biggest CNC machine?

A: The largest CNC machines are 5 axis CNC machines.

Q: What is the best CNC brand?

A: While there is no one top CNC machine brand, some of the best brands include Haas, Makino, Mazak, Doosan, and DMG Mori.

Q: Is CNC milling expensive?

A: CNC milling can be an economical solution depending on the needs of your project, materials used, and any other order specifics.

Q: What are the different types of G codes?

A: There are hundreds of G codes used to direct a machine’s movements. Examples include: G00: tells a machine to operate at a fast speed, G01: directs the machine to move in a straight line, and G02: asks the machine to move in a clockwise circular motion.

Q: Is Fathom ISO certified?

A: Fathom’s certifications include ISO 9001:2015, ISO 9001:2015 Design, and ISO 13485:2016. For site-specific certifications, please visit https://fathommfg.com/fathom-manufacturing-certifications.

Q: Is Fathom ITAR certified?

A: Yes, Fathom is ITAR certified. For site-specific certifications, please visit https://fathommfg.com/fathom-manufacturing-certifications.

Q: Is Fathom AS9100:2016 certified?

A: Yes, Fathom is AS9100:2016. For site-specific certifications, please visit https://fathommfg.com/fathom-manufacturing-certifications.

Q: Is Fathom NIST 800-171 certified?

A: Yes, Fathom’s certifications include NIST 800-171. For site-specific certifications, please visit https://fathommfg.com/fathom-manufacturing-certifications.

Related Topics / /

Turning & Medical Devices
CNC Machining Services
High-Speed Precision Machining
Accelerated CNC Machining
Machine Shop Services

CNC Turning and Milling Quotes / /

Ready to calculate your CNC turning or milling costs? Would you like to receive a quote for CNC turning or milling? Get a rapid quote.

Across National
Time Zones

Precision manufacturing
from coast to coast.

1050 Walnut Ridge Drive
Hartland, WI 53029

444 W. 21st St. Ste. 101
Tempe, AZ 85282

46758 Lakeview Blvd
Fremont, CA 94538

7770 Washington St.
Denver, CO 80229

14000 N.W. 58th Court
Miami Lakes, FL 33014

1207 Adams Drive
McHenry, IL 60051

1401 Brummel Ave
Elk Grove, IL 60007

13758 Johnson Street NE
Ham Lake, MN 55304

1920 Slaterville Rd.
Ithaca, NY 14850

401 W. Shore Blvd.
Newark, NY 14513

1513 Sam Bass Rd.
Round Rock, TX 78660

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