A lathe is traditionally used in woodturning, metalworking, metal spinning, thermal spraying, parts reclamation, and glass-working. One or two centers typically hold the workpiece, and at least one center can be moved horizontally to accommodate workpieces of different lengths. CNC lathes are quickly replacing older production lathes due to their ease of setting, operation, repeatability, and accuracy. CNC lathe work is just one type of CNC machining.
But what is a CNC lathe? First, CNC stands for computer numerical control and refers to a machine operated by a computer system. A CNC lathe is operated with precise design instructions to machine parts to precise specifications. A CNC lathe is a machine tool where the material or part is held in place and rotated by the main spindle as the cutting tool that works on the material is mounted and moved on various axes.
A simple CNC lathe operates on two axes with the cutting tool in a fixed position at 8 to 24 station turret. The rotating action of the workpiece is called “turning.” This is why certain types of CNC lathes are called CNC Turning Machines. CNC lathes produce precise round shapes with an outer diameter (OD) and an inner diameter (ID). Many different kinds of structures can be machined with this machine tool, depending on their various industries’ needs. They are commonly used in oil and gas, automotive, aerospace, medical, electronics, mining, power plant, steel and paper mills, and shipbuilding industries.
Modern CNC lathe machines usually come with tools that could work on multiple axes. Different types of machines can include both X and Y-axis, incorporate a second turret with other tools, or include a second spindle. This means a CNC lathe can perform additional milling, drilling, and tapping operations, resulting in a complete and even complex part manufacturing process and eliminating the need to transfer the part to another machine for a second operation. This article looks at the different types of CNC lathes, their applications, and considerations.
Read more: What is a CNC Lathe?