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The Differences Between Conventional Machining And CNC Machining

Manufacturers have to make a decision when it comes to machining their products: conventional machining or CNC machining? Though the two processes are similar, there are distinct differences between them. In this blog post, we will cover CNC machining vs. conventional machining and how each process is different.

What is Conventional Machining?

In the conventional machining process, a human operator directs and controls machining and sharp cutting tools like lathes, and milling, boring, and drilling machines. The human operator is also responsible for driving the intensity and location of tool contact with the raw material to achieve the intended product geometry through the use of levers, wheels, or buttons.

What is CNC Machining?

While CNC machining still requires operator oversight to manage software, all functions are carried out by pre-programmed computer designations that guide the machining tools’ movements. The tools used in the CNC process do not need contact with raw materials.

Conventional Machining vs. CNC Machining

Although both CNC machining and conventional machining are manufacturing methods used to develop high-quality machined parts, the two are very different.


In conventional machining, the quality of the final product is largely dependent on the skills of the machine operator or technician. However, since the geometry is loaded into the software in CNC machining, human error can be eliminated.


Conventional machining is better for single pieces and small runs as it is difficult to guarantee a high level of part consistency because of human involvement. On the other hand, CNC machining is ideal for producing large quantities of highly consistent products as it runs on computer commands, making it much easier to develop identical components or parts.


For small jobs, conventional machining is often cheaper and more cost-effective than CNC. However, CNC machining is the more cost-effective and efficient option for larger projects – even if it’s a little pricier upfront!

Labor Requirements

The labor requirements for CNC machining are much lower than that of conventional machining, which translates into reduced labor costs.

A CNC process can be managed by a single operator, who can oversee multiple machines at once with high degrees of accuracy and precision. Meanwhile in conventional machining, a high level of technician involvement is required to oversee and direct the tools, which means that you require a dedicated operator for each machine. Also, since operators need to produce a variety of components and parts, they need to have extensive skills, knowledge, and experience.

Operator’s Experience and Skillset

For conventional machining, the operator’s experience can significantly influence the part quality and consistency. In comparison, in CNC machining, the operator’s experience is not relevant in producing highly consistent and quality parts, thanks to computer intervention.

CNC machining and conventional machining each have their advantages when it comes to manufacturing parts for your business. We’ve covered the key differences between these two methods in this blog post, so you can decide which is suitable for your needs. If you are based in Kansas City, KS, and require more information about either technique or would like a free custom quote for CNC machining, please contact CAV Tool today!