Difference between Milling and Turning

Difference between Milling and Turning

Difference between Milling and Turning

Milling and turning are two common machining processes used in the manufacturing industry. While both involve the removal of material to shape a workpiece, they differ in their approach and the types of machines used. Here are the key differences between milling and turning:


Milling: In milling, a rotating cutting tool, typically with multiple cutting edges, is used to remove material from a workpiece. The cutting tool moves along multiple axes (usually X, Y, and Z) to create various shapes and features on the workpiece.

Turning: In turning, a single-point cutting tool is used to remove material from a rotating workpiece. The cutting tool remains stationary while the workpiece rotates, allowing the tool to cut the desired shape or diameter.

Machine Type:

Milling: Milling machines, also known as mills, are used for milling operations. They can be vertical or horizontal and are equipped with various tools such as end mills, face mills, and drills. CNC milling machines are widely used, offering precise control and automation.

Turning: Turning machines, often referred to as lathes, are specifically designed for turning operations. They come in different forms, such as engine lathes, turret lathes, and CNC lathes. CNC lathes are common and offer automation and high precision.

Workpiece Orientation:

Milling: In milling, the workpiece remains stationary while the cutting tool moves along multiple axes. The workpiece may be fixed on a table or held in a vice or fixture, allowing for complex and versatile machining operations.

In turning, the workpiece rotates on its axis while the cutting tool removes material. The workpiece is typically held by a chuck or collet, and the rotation facilitates the creation of cylindrical shapes like shafts, threads, and tapered surfaces.


Milling: Milling is ideal for creating complex shapes, contours, and features such as slots, pockets, and gears. It is commonly used in industries such as aerospace, automotive, and die/mold making.

Turning: Turning is primarily used for cylindrical components like shafts, pins, and bushings. It is also employed to create tapered surfaces, threads, and precision cylindrical features. Industries such as automotive, oil and gas, and general manufacturing heavily utilize turning operations.

Cutting Tools:

Milling: Milling employs various cutting tools, such as end mills, which have multiple cutting edges, allowing for efficient material removal. Other tools include face mills, ball mills, and drills, each designed for specific tasks.

Turning: Turning utilizes single-point cutting tools, such as inserts or lathe tools. These tools have a single cutting edge and are selected based on the material being machined and the desired shape or feature.

Surface Finish:

Milling: Due to the multiple cutting edges and the ability to perform various cutting motions, milling can achieve a wide range of surface finishes. The surface finish can be influenced by factors such as the cutting tool’s geometry, feed rate, and spindle speed.

Turning: Turning tends to produce smoother and more uniform surface finishes compared to milling. The continuous rotation of the workpiece allows for a consistent cutting action, resulting in a predictable surface finish.


Milling: Milling machines offer greater flexibility and versatility, allowing for the creation of highly complex parts with intricate shapes, contours, and features. Multiple axes of motion enable the milling process to produce 3D shapes and perform operations like pocketing, profiling, and threading.

Turning: Turning is generally more suitable for creating simpler geometries, primarily revolving around cylindrical shapes and features. While it can still produce certain complex shapes, it may require additional operations or setups to achieve intricate details.

Material Removal Rate:

Milling: Milling machines can often achieve higher material removal rates compared to turning due to the multiple cutting edges and the ability to perform aggressive cutting actions. This makes milling suitable for removing large amounts of material quickly.

Turning: Turning typically involves a slower material removal rate compared to milling. However, it excels in producing precise dimensions and achieving tight tolerances, making it suitable for high-precision applications.

Setups and Fixturing:

Milling: Milling operations often require more intricate setups and fixturing arrangements to securely hold the workpiece in place. The workpiece may need to be clamped or fixtured on a milling machine’s table or within a vice or fixture to ensure stability during the machining process.

Turning: Turning operations generally involve simpler setups and fixturing requirements. The workpiece is typically secured using a chuck or collet, and the rotation provides the necessary stability for the cutting action.

It’s important to note that there are also machining processes that combine milling and turning, such as multitasking machines or mill-turn centers. These machines integrate both milling and turning capabilities, allowing for increased efficiency and the ability to perform complex operations in a single setup.

Overall, while milling and turning share some similarities in terms of material removal, they differ in their approaches, machine types, applications, and outcomes. Manufacturers choose between milling and turning based on factors such as the desired part geometry, complexity, surface finish requirements, material type, and production efficiency.

In summary, milling and turning differ in their operation, machine types, workpiece orientation, applications, and cutting tools. Milling involves using a rotating multi-edge tool to remove material while moving along multiple axes, whereas turning uses a single-point tool to cut a rotating workpiece. Both processes are essential in modern manufacturing, and their selection depends on the specific requirements of the project.

Leave a Comment