CNC Machine Guide: Ultimate Guide to CNC Machines

Are you new to the used CNC machine world? Read our ultimate used CNC machine guide to learn everything you need to know to get started with Premier Equipment.


Computer numerical control (CNC) machines are designed to remove materials from stock media in order to create precision components. CNC machining processes can be used to create parts from a broad array of materials, such as glass, foam, composites, wood, plastics, and metal. 

There is a wide variety of different CNC equipment available, each of which is designed to perform specific types of machining, but with that in mind, you may have found yourself asking just what a CNC machine is in the first place.

To help you navigate such a huge equipment market, Premier Equipment has created the following comprehensive CNC machine guide. Join us as we explore how CNC machines work, discuss different types of equipment, and showcase top brands. By the end of our CNC machining guide, you will be better equipped to make equipment-purchasing decisions that support the needs of your business.

How Does a CNC Machine Work?

A CNC machine uses G-code to create precision parts and components. Machinists write the code in computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software, which generates a 3D model out of G-code and then supplies its information to the CNC machine.

After the machine receives the G-code, it will begin removing layers of material from the “blank,” the subject media used to create the components. The G-code also includes instructions for the equipment, such as telling the machine when to activate/deactivate auxiliary components or when to activate its coolant system. 

What Are the Different Types of CNC Machines?

As a leading provider of used CNC equipment, Premier Equipment has created a comprehensive CNC machine buying guide that includes a broad selection of machinery. Some of the items you will find in our CNC machine guide include the following:

CNC Lathes

A lathe is a CNC machine that rotates a blank on a spindle. As it spins, the machine will apply pressure with cutting tools or drill bits in order to transform the raw material into the designated shape. Lathes are commonly used to produce symmetrical, round objects, and they can be operated by a single machinist.

Thanks to CAD technology, CNC lathes are also relatively simple to operate. Machinists do not need an extensive understanding of the machine: As long as they can create designs in G-code and interact with the equipment’s user-friendly interface, they can create quality components.

Swiss-Style CNC Lathes

Swiss-style CNC lathes require a bit more finesse than standard CNC lathes, but they are capable of producing parts with exceptional accuracy. Swiss-style CNC lathes can be operated at a fast cycle rate to optimize the production efficiency, which makes them ideal for making small-diameter parts or slender components. Several leading manufacturers produce Swiss-style CNC lathes, including Nomura, Tsugami, and Citizen.

CNC Horizontal Machining Centers

Machining centers clamp down a blank and keep it in place while simultaneously moving a drill bit around the material to shape it. Horizontal CNC machining centers have horizontal spindles, which allow debris to fall away from the workspace and thus minimize the need for manual clearing. In other words, it allows machinists to complete a piece with little to no disruption.

CNC Vertical Machining Centers

CNC vertical machining centers can cut the tops of materials due to their vertically-oriented spindle. These machines can use bits or rotary cutters to shape blanks. When vertical machining centers remove the material with a rotary cutter, the process is known as “milling.”

A CNC vertical machining center can be equipped with a rotary table as well. Upgrading a machining center allows machinists to perform work across four different axes. 

5-Axis CNC Machining Centers

A 5-axis CNC machining center can work on a blank from five different directions. The tools can rotate along the A or B axes or move along X, Y, and Z linear axes, meaning they can contact the subject material from any direction and create virtually a part of any shape or size. These sophisticated devices are widely used in the military, medical device, and aerospace industries. 

CNC Horizontal Boring Mills

CNC horizontal boring mills bore holes into the blank. Table-style boring mills are the most versatile though you can also purchase floor or planer-type boring mills. In any case, horizontal boring mills can be used to produce high-precision or heavy-duty parts. Brands like Kuraki, Awea, Bullard, Doosan, and Viper manufacture CNC horizontal boring mills. 

CNC Vertical Boring Mills

CNC vertical boring mills are also known as vertical turning lathes. These devices bore holes vertically, and most feature horizontal, rotary worktables and a cross rail that is mounted above the table. They are versatile enough to handle awkwardly-shaped pieces, and they can also be used to bore heavy workpieces. 

CNC Electric Discharge Machines (EDMs)

CNC electric discharge machines rapidly emit current discharges between electrodes to remove materials from a workpiece and create complex shapes, even with small, potentially fragile workpieces. 

There are two main types of CNC EDMs: sinker and wire EDMs. When using a sinker EDM, the material is completely submerged in an insulating fluid, while with a wire EDM, only the brass wire is submerged. During CNC EDM processes, the tool does not make any direct contact with the blank. 

What Are CNC Machines Used For?

CNC machines are used to efficiently produce precision components out of a broad range of materials. They can be used to cut away material, bore holes into a workpiece, or shape a blank into an intricate part. These are just a few examples of CNC machine use cases; due to their versatility, CNC machines are integral to a wide range of industries. 

Industries that Use CNC Machines

CNC machines are commonly used in sectors such as:

  • Consumer electronics: Many consumer electronics components, such as small cell phone parts and laptop enclosures, are produced using CNC machining. The industry typically uses EDM equipment or multi-access machining centers, depending on the parts they are producing.
  • Automotive: The automotive industry uses CNC lathes to produce cylinder heads and acrylic components for lighting. 
  • Robotic: CNC multi-axis machining centers and their EDM equipment allow robotics companies to produce precision gears, custom fixtures, and jigs.
  • Aerospace: The aerospace industry uses horizontal and vertical boring mills, EDMs, and 5-axis CNC machining centers to manufacture essential aircraft parts, such as stator assemblies and turbine exhaust struts. 
  • Medical: The medical device sector has no margin for error, so in order to create precision medical equipment, manufacturers turn to CNC machining devices such as EDMs, lathes, and multi-axis machining centers.

Manufacturers in these fields, and others, leverage CNC machining techniques to efficiently produce quality components out of a diverse range of materials.  

CNC Machine Guide: Top CNC Brands

Premier Equipment’s used CNC machine guide includes recommended products from the following leading CNC Machine brands:


Japanese tool manufacturer Mazak has been producing reliable machinery for over five decades, including vertical machining centers, turning centers, and CNC lathes. They also provide a CAD system that works flawlessly with their equipment. 

Premier Equipment’s Mazak CNC machines inventory


As one of the largest machine manufacturers in North America, Haas Doosan provides a variety of different equipment, including horizontally and vertically configured CNC mills that are available in several different sizes and operational across 3, 4, or 5 axes. 

Premier Equipment’s Haas CNC machine inventory


From high-precision part production to meeting your specific needs, our comprehensive range of pre-owned Doosan machines ensures we can assist you in finding the perfect fit for your requirements. Trust Doosan Machine Tools to be your trusted partner in acquiring the ideal used Doosan machine for your operations.

Premier Equipment’s Doosan CNC machine inventory

DMG Mori

DMG Mori is a German CNC machine manufacturer best known for its CNC lathes and mills. You can purchase milling devices from DMG Mori in 5-axis, vertical, and horizontal configurations. 

Premier Equipment’s DMG Mori machine inventory


Okuma is one of the oldest CNC tool manufacturers featured here in our CNC machining guide. The organization has been in operation for over a century and offers its own CAD software alongside a tremendous selection of CNC equipment, including versatile milling grinders. 

Premier Equipment’s Okum machine inventory


When you want to purchase state-of-the-art EDM machines for your business, equipment from Makino is an excellent choice. The Japanese manufacturer produces a variety of EDM hole drilling, wire EDM, and sinker EDM equipment. 

Premier Equipment’s Makino machine inventory


Nakamura-Tome creates innovative CNC machines. They also have a robust software suite that expedites the design process. Their multi-axis machining centers can produce complex components and shape blanks from every angle. 

Premier Equipment’s Nakamura-Tome machine inventory


Hyundai-Wia, a subsidiary of Hyundai, produces CNC turning centers and lathes. Its selection of devices includes horizontal and vertical configuration turning centers. 

Premier Equipment’s Hyundai-Wia machine inventory


Kitamura specializes in creating horizontal, vertical, and 5-axis machining centers. The Japanese company manufactures its equipment in its home nation, but it has offices in Germany and the USA. Kitamura pairs its world-class equipment with intuitive software to support machining efficiency. 

Premier Equipment’s Kitamura machine inventory

CNC Machine Guide: Final Recap

As you can gather from our CNC machine guide, there are dozens of reputable brands and device types to choose from when shopping for equipment. Fortunately, you can simplify your shopping experience by connecting with a trusted used equipment dealer like Premier Equipment. Explore our used CNC machine buying guide to find high-quality equipment to support your machining workflows. If you would like personalized support, contact our team directly.

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