Differences Between Turning vs Grinding vs Milling Machine


Turning, milling, and grinding, all three are metal removal operations. However, there are differences among them. Each process has their unique characteristics, and applications.

In this article, you’re going to learn those differences plus, this guide will enable you to decide which process to use in a certain situation.


The process of turning, also known as lathe operation, is a subtractive manufacturing method in which material is removed from a rotating workpiece to produce cylindrical or conical forms. It is specifically applicable to the production of precision-engineered components with high surface finishes such as spindles, shafts and other rotational parts.

During the turning process, the cutting tool moves parallel to the axis of rotation of the workpiece. It can be adjusted to attain different geometries such as tapers, grooves and threads. Pipe threading taps could be an example of this kind of turning.

Turning excels at producing components with narrow tolerances, smooth surfaces and high details. But generally speaking, it is limited to cylindrical shapes and more complex geometries may require further processing.


Grinding is a process of removing material using an abrasive wheel to refine or condition surfaces. It’s often the last operation to achieve super-smooth and precise surfaces, eliminate small defects, or make certain forms.

Grinding differs from turning as it does not use a cutting tool; instead, it relies on the act of abrasion by the grinding wheel. The workpiece is pressed against a rotating grinding wheel that slowly removes material, creating a highly accurate and polished surface finish.

Automotive, aerospace, and tooling are among the many industries where grinding is widely used due to its importance in achieving tight tolerances as well as remarkable surface quality. It could be employed on both cylindrical and flat surfaces which makes it suitable for different applications.


Manufacturing process that involves the use of rotational cutting tools to remove material from a stationary work piece is referred to as milling. Milling, unlike turning which is limited to cylindrical shapes, can be used to generate complex geometries including flat surfaces, grooves, slots and even three-dimensional contours.

With the cutting tool spinning at high speeds and the workpiece being moved in several axes with high precision during the milling process, ideal shapes, patterns, and features are made with unmatched accuracy and consistency.

Milling machines come in different forms such as verticals, horizontals or universal types each suited for specific sizes and shapes of workpieces. They are used widely in industries where products with complex geometries such as engine blocks, tool holders or mold cavities are produced.

Which one to choose and when

Now that we know the differences between turning, grinding, and milling, let’s understand which process to use and when.

In order to decide which manufacturing process we should use, you will need to consider several factors, such as desired geometry, material properties, production volume, and precision requirements.

Part geometry

Turning is used for cylindrical and conical shape workpieces, while milling can be used for creating complex shapes with flat surfaces, pockets, or tiny details.

Material properties

Material property is one of the factors you need to consider when choosing the process. For example, hard and abrasive materials may require grinding for better surface finish.

Production volume

Grinding operations are efficient for both small and large volumes while turning and milling are typically more suitable for smaller production runs.

Cost and lead time

Each process has different tooling, setup and cycle time requirements. Which also impacts the overall production cost and lead time.

Many times, to achieve the desired results, you need to employ the combination of these processes. Like, a part will first undergo turning or milling to establish the basic shape and then go for grinding to achieve the required surface quality.


Turning, grinding, and milling – all three processes are equally important in the manufacturing industry. Each of these processes serve a specific purpose and offer unique advantages. While turning excels at producing cylindrical components with high precision, grinding ensures exceptional surface finishes, and milling enables the creation of complex geometries.

Understanding the differences and capabilities of these processes enables manufacturers to make better decisions, optimize their operations, and deliver high-quality products that meet the market demand for various industries.