Photo of Exploring the Diverse World of CNC Machining Processes and Styles

CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machining has revolutionized the manufacturing industry, allowing for precise and efficient production of complex parts and components. The versatility of CNC machines is staggering, as they can be used for everything from creating prototypes to mass-producing intricate aerospace components. This article delves into the various CNC machining processes and styles that cater to a wide range of industries and applications.


Milling is one of the most common CNC machining processes, involving the removal of material from a workpiece using rotary cutters. There are several subcategories within milling:

a. 3-Axis Milling: The workpiece remains stationary while the cutting tool moves along three axes (X, Y, and Z). This is ideal for basic flat or prismatic parts.

b. 4-Axis Milling: In addition to the three primary axes, the workpiece can also rotate about one axis. This enables the machining of more complex geometries.

c. 5-Axis Milling: This is the most versatile option, allowing the cutting tool to move along all five axes. It’s used for intricate parts with complex shapes, such as aerospace components.


CNC turning, also known as lathing, is used for cylindrical parts. The workpiece rotates while the cutting tool traverses along its length. This process is excellent for creating components like shafts, bolts, and fittings.


Drilling, as the name suggests, involves creating holes in a workpiece using rotating drill bits. CNC drilling is crucial in various industries, from automotive to electronics, where precision holes are essential.

EDM (Electrical Discharge Machining)

EDM is a unique CNC machining process that uses electrical discharges to remove material. There are two primary types:

a. Wire EDM: A wire electrode is used to cut through the workpiece, typically a conductive material like metal. It’s known for its high precision and is often used for tool and die manufacturing.

b. Sinker EDM: In this method, an electrode creates a cavity by repeatedly sparking against the workpiece. It’s used for intricate and detailed shapes.

At NTMA, we teach EDM courses as apart of our Advanced CNC Machining Training, learn more here:

Waterjet Cutting

Waterjet cutting employs a high-pressure stream of water mixed with abrasive particles to cut through materials like metal, stone, glass, and composites. It’s suitable for materials that are sensitive to heat or where a high degree of precision is required.

Plasma Cutting

Plasma cutting uses a high-velocity stream of ionized gas to cut through conductive materials like steel, aluminum, and copper. It’s commonly used in industries like construction, automotive, and metal fabrication.

Laser Cutting

Laser cutting employs a focused laser beam to melt, burn, or vaporize material, creating precise cuts. It’s used in various applications, from signage to medical device manufacturing.


CNC routers are used for cutting and shaping materials like wood, plastic, and composites. They find applications in woodworking, cabinetry, and the production of decorative elements.

Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing)

While not traditional CNC machining, 3D printing is a growing field within manufacturing. It builds up objects layer by layer, making it ideal for creating prototypes and complex geometric shapes. With CNC Machining being a Subtractive Manufacturing technology, 3D Printing acts as the opposite, as it is an Additive Manufacturing technology. 

The world of CNC machining is incredibly diverse, offering a plethora of processes and styles to cater to the specific needs of various industries. Whether you’re manufacturing precision aerospace components, crafting artistic designs, or producing everyday consumer goods, CNC machining provides the tools and techniques to turn ideas into reality with unparalleled accuracy and efficiency. As technology continues to advance, CNC machining processes will only become more versatile and indispensable in the world of manufacturing.