This paper presents the implementation of an external axis control system on a conventional CNC machine so that the machine can be actively controlled in response to sensors such as vision and force. The controller that runs on an external computer has direct access to the CNC controller for machine position sensing. The control signals to the machine are sent through purpose built circuitry via the machine’s manual pulse generator (MPG) inputs. To demonstrate the accuracy and performance of the control system, it was used to visually track the profile of a mandrel used for shear spinning. The implemented system eliminates the parallax error and the need to use an accurate pixel resolution. The raw tracking data is processed by a curvature detection algorithm that detects linear and circular segments and segment transitions. The results show that the visual tracking system provides accurate tracking results that are well within the tolerances used in the industry.