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cnc grinding

CNC Grinding 101: Everything You Need to Know

Welcome to the intriguing world of CNC grinding in the machine tool industry, where precision, speed, and efficiency amalgamate to craft perfection in metalworking.

CNC grinding, renowned for its ability to yield high precision and superior quality, has carved out an irreplaceable niche in numerous industries.

Let's dive into this captivating subject to comprehend the reasons behind its significant prominence.

What is CNC Grinding?

CNC, standing for Computer Numerical Control, is a grinding process prevalent in the manufacturing industry that leverages computer technology to govern machine tools. In the scope of our discussion, these tools represent grinding machines designed to mold the workpiece in diverse manners.


CNC grinders employ a power-driven grinding wheel to meticulously strip material from the workpiece’s surface, thereby facilitating the production of precision parts. Controlled and supervised by a computer, this process, with the assistance of advanced grinding wheels, provides unmatched precision, repeatability, and versatility, surpassing conventional grinding methods.

What are The Types of CNC Grinding

Surface Grinding:

This process utilizes a rotating grinding wheel composed of abrasive particles to refine the flat surface of metallic or nonmetallic materials meticulously. It aims to eliminate the oxide layer and impurities, resulting in a polished and enhanced appearance. To facilitate the procedure, the workpiece is firmly secured to a table that facilitates multi-directional movement—back and forth and side to side—beneath the rotating grinding wheel. For instance, The Automotive manufacturing company may rely on surface grinding to achieve a flawless finish on crucial vehicle parts like crankshafts, piston rods, or engine valves.

surface grinding
Surface Grinding

Cylindrical Grinding:

This process utilizes Cylindrical Grinders, armed with a specialized grinding wheel, as the cutting tool to precisely remove the surface layer from a cylindrical workpiece. As the workpiece rotates around a fixed axis, the machined surfaces remain concentric to this axis. For instance, a roller bearing manufacturer would apply cylindrical grinding, capitalizing on precise grinding wheels, to achieve the requisite size and surface finish on the bearing rollers.

Cylindrical Grinding
Cylindrical Grinding

Centerless Grinding:

This process deploys a dual-wheel mechanism—a larger grinding wheel and a smaller regulating wheel. The workpiece is cradled on a work rest blade and held between the two wheels, with the larger wheel performing the cutting task. As a highly efficient CNC Grinder process, centerless grinding is frequently employed in producing high-volume items, such as dowel pins or shafts.

centerless grinding
Centerless Grinding

Internal Grinding:

This process employs a small wheel mounted on a slender spindle, which is introduced into the workpiece. The wheel spins at high velocity, stripping material and creating a smooth internal surface. For instance, a hydraulic equipment manufacturer may deploy this machine tool technique to refine the inner surfaces of the cylindrical components within hydraulic cylinders.

internal grinding
Internal Grinding

Creep Feed Grinding:

This process involves the grinding wheel carving a full-depth contour into the workpiece in a single, slow pass. This method of precision grinding is typically employed when the workpiece necessitates complex precision features. For instance, an aerospace manufacturer might deploy creep feed grinding to create intricate shapes and profiles in turbine blades and vanes.

creep feed grinding
Creep Feed Grinding

Jig Grinding:

In this process, a grinding wheel is accurately positioned with the aid of a machine jig to execute fine, precision cuts. This procedure, facilitated by advanced CNC grinders, could be employed by an electronics manufacturer to produce precision holes and shapes in circuit board fixtures.

jig grinding
Jig Grinding

Gear Grinding:

One of the advanced machining processes is employed to finalize gears after heat treatment. The gear is meticulously ground to achieve the exact final dimension. An automotive manufacturer can use this technique to finish high-precision gears, such as those integral to high-performance automotive transmissions.

gear grinding
Gear Grinding

Understanding the CNC Grinding Process

The CNC grinding process, a meticulously computer-controlled machining process, is akin to a precision dance. Let’s embark on a simple step-by-step walkthrough:

Programming the Machine:

cnc programming

The next step is to program the CNC machine. The program will detail the exact movements the machine needs to make, the speed at which it should operate, and other parameters such as the depth of cut. The programming process involves converting the desired operations into specific numerical control codes (G and M codes) that the machine will understand.

Setting up the Machine:

Once the program is prepared, the machine setup stage commences. This crucial step includes installing appropriate grinding wheels, specifically selected based on the workpiece’s material and the grinding operation’s nature. The workpiece is subsequently mounted and firmly secured either on the machine table or chuck, this choice being determined by the specific type of grinding machine involved.

Starting the Machine:

With everything set up, the machine can be started. At this point, the CNC machine takes over and performs the grinding operation according to the set program. The machine operator monitors the machine to ensure everything is running smoothly and as expected.

Monitoring the Process:

The machine operator will monitor the grinding process, checking that the machine is operating as expected and making adjustments if necessary. This might involve adjusting the machine speed, feed, or grinding depth.

Quality checks:

quality control manufacturing

During and after the grinding process, it’s essential to check the quality of the work. This might involve visual inspections or more precise measurements using tools such as micrometers or surface finish testers.


After the grinding operation, the workpiece may need further processing. This might involve cleaning to remove grinding dust, deburring to remove any sharp edges, or additional finishing processes like polishing.

This process requires careful consideration of various parameters, including wheel speed, feed rate, and grinding depth, all contributing to the precision of the operation.

Benefits of CNC Grinding

CNC grinding has many benefits, giving it an edge over traditional grinding methods.

1. Precision: Utilizing CNC grinding and its specialized grinding tools, you can attain exceptional levels of precision, frequently reaching down to the micron level. This high precision establishes CNC grinding as a superior choice for tasks necessitating rigorous accuracy.

In general, CNC grinding machines equipped with these advanced grinding tools can accomplish an accuracy of around 0.001 inches (0.025 millimeters) and, in some instances, even superior. However, the exact accuracy attainable is influenced by a variety of factors, such as:

  • The type and model of the CNC grinding machine
  • The skill and experience of the operator
  • The condition and quality of the grinding wheel
  • The type and quality of the workpiece material
  • The specific grinding operation being performed

High-precision grinding machines can achieve even better accuracies, often in the range of 0.0001 inches (0.0025 millimeters) or better. These machines are often used in industries that require extremely high precision, such as aerospace and precision instrumentation.

2. Exceptional Surface Quality: One of the key advantages of CNC grinding lies in the remarkable surface quality it can achieve. The high precision and controlled nature of CNC grinding means it can generate extremely smooth and uniform surfaces.

centerless grinded parts
Centerless Grinded Parts

3. Versatility: CNC grinding machines are versatile. They can handle a variety of workpiece shapes, sizes, and materials. This versatility extends to different types of grinding processes as well, including surface grinding, cylindrical grinding, and more.

4. Repeatability: Once a CNC grinding machine is programmed for a specific task, it can repeat that task over and over with high accuracy. This is especially beneficial in mass production settings where consistency is key.

5. Automation: With CNC grinding, the process is largely automated. This reduces the chances of human error and frees up your human workforce to perform other tasks. Automation can also lead to greater productivity as machines can run continuously with little downtime.

6. Efficiency: CNC grinding can often complete jobs more quickly than manual grinding processes. This is because automation allows for constant work without breaks, and the machine can be programmed to perform tasks more efficiently.

7. Safety: CNC grinding machines can also be safer to operate than manual grinders. The operator doesn’t need to get as close to the machine, and safety guards and other features can be included in the machine design.

8. Flexibility: CNC grinding machines can be quickly reprogrammed to take on a new task. This flexibility is a significant advantage in a production environment where the types of parts being produced can change regularly.

9. Reduced Waste: CNC grinding machines can reduce waste because of their precision and consistency. The precise nature of CNC grinding means there’s less material waste due to errors, and the consistency of the process means fewer defective parts.

Which materials can be used for cnc grinding

CNC grinding is a versatile process that can be used with various materials. These include:

1. Metals: CNC grinding is commonly used with many different types of metals. This includes softer metals like aluminum and brass and harder metals like steel, stainless steel, and high-temperature alloys. The process is also used with precious metals like gold and silver and specialty alloys.

metal cnc grinding
Metal CNC Grinding

2. Ceramics: CNC grinding can be used to shape and finish ceramics, including both traditional ceramics (like porcelain) and advanced ceramics (like silicon nitride and zirconia).

3. Composites: CNC grinding can be used to shape composite materials made from two or more constituent materials with significantly different physical or chemical properties.

4. Glass: Glass can also be ground using CNC processes, although the brittle nature of glass requires special considerations to prevent cracking.

glass cnc grinding
Glass CNC Grinding

5. Wood: While not as common, CNC grinding can be used with certain types of hardwood.

6. Plastics: Various hard plastics can also be shaped and finished using CNC grinding.

7. Silicon: In the electronics industry, CNC grinding is often used to shape silicon wafers, which are used as the substrate for integrated circuits.

Each material has its own unique characteristics that must be considered during the CNC grinding process. For example, hard, brittle materials like glass and ceramics may require a slower grinding speed or a different type of grinding wheel than softer materials like aluminum. The choice of material to be ground will largely depend on the application and the specific requirements of the finished part.

What materials can not be worked on with CNC grinding?

While CNC grinding is a versatile process that works well with a range of materials, certain materials pose challenges or are generally not suitable for grinding. Here are a few examples:

1. Very Soft Materials: Extremely soft materials, like certain plastics or rubbers, can challenge CNC grinding. These materials may deform or melt during grinding rather than being effectively ground. Examples of such materials include rubber, certain types of plastics, and some elastomers.

2. Extremely Hard Materials: CNC grinding of extremely hard materials, such as diamond or advanced ceramics, can be highly challenging due to their resistance to the grinding process. These materials cause excessive wear on the grinding wheel, necessitating specialized skills and equipment for CNC grinding.

alumina ceramic grinding
Alumina Ceramic Grinding

3. Brittle Materials: While many brittle materials like glass and certain ceramics can be ground, it requires special care to prevent cracking or chipping. Not all grinding operations or machines may be suitable for these materials.

4. Hazardous Materials: Some materials may generate hazardous dust or fumes when ground. For example, grinding certain types of metal can produce dust that is hazardous if inhaled. Likewise, materials that contain asbestos or certain types of chemical compounds may pose a health risk when ground.

5. Highly Reflective Materials: Highly reflective materials can sometimes cause problems for CNC systems that use optical sensors for positioning or measurement.

Frequently Asked Questions About CNC Grinding

Let’s tackle some frequently asked questions about CNC grinding to round off this blog post.

How precise are CNC grinding machines?

ultra precision grinding
Ultra-precision Grinding

CNC grinding machines can generally achieve precision levels within microns (μm) or even sub-micron ranges. This means that they can consistently hold dimensions and tolerances with high accuracy. Some advanced CNC grinding machines equipped with advanced control systems and measurement technologies can achieve even tighter tolerances, reaching a few tenths of a micron (0.1 μm) or less.

Is CNC grinding suitable for high-volume production?

Absolutely. CNC grinding is precise and efficient, making it ideal for high-volume production runs.

What’s the difference between CNC grinding and conventional grinding?

CNC grinding relies on computer control and automation, offering precise and consistent results. It allows for complex shapes and is more productive but costs more. Conventional grinding is manual, less precise, and simpler, making it more cost-effective for specific applications. The choice depends on precision needs, volume, complexity, and resources available.

Do I need any special training to operate a CNC grinding machine?

Yes, CNC grinding machines require operators to have specific knowledge and skills. This usually includes CNC programming, machine operation, and safety training knowledge.

With CNC grinding continuing to advance and shape the manufacturing world, there’s no better time to delve into its intricacies and master this craft. Whether you’re exploring the basics or looking to expand your knowledge, remember that the journey of CNC grinding is one of continual learning and discovery.


CNC grinding, an incredible manufacturing innovation, marries computer control and grinding precision. This field, rich with diverse machine types and process intricacies, offers much to learn for both the novice and the seasoned machinist. It’s a realm where knowledge fuels precision, efficiency, and quality, and there’s always something new to explore.

china cnc grinding services
China CNC Grinding Services

AT-Machining is a beacon of CNC grinding expertise at the heart of China’s industrial scene. Our team’s broad industry experience is harnessed to deliver precision, high-quality machining services. We’re not just a service provider but your partner in creating unrivaled surface quality and consistency, underpinned by our mastery over CNC grinders and unwavering commitment to precision and efficiency.

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Hey there, I’m Sam!

From AT-Machining, I’m a CNC Machining Expert in this field for more than 20 years.  We offer cost-effective machining services from China. Ask for a quote for your ongoing or upcoming projects now!

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