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What is a CNC Lathe?

1 Apr 21

A traditional lathe is an ancient tool that dates back to early Egypt. While the Ancient Egyptians operated a two-person lathe purely to perform woodwork, the lathe’s purpose has evolved! Developments have been made to the lathe concept to fit modern manufacturing needs, such as automation options. New processes, like computer numerical control, mean that lathes can achieve fantastic precision.

What is computer numerical control, though? And how does it affect the function of a lathe? To help you determine what manufacturing machine will best suit your requirements, we’re here to list all the benefits of a CNC lathe. If you’re just wondering, ‘what is a CNC lathe?’ then read our handy guide below, including what manufacturers can use them to create!

 

The Definition of a CNC Lathe

A computer numerical control lathe is a machine that turns material around a central spindle and stationary cutting tool. Your material’s movement is dictated by coded instructions fed through a computer rather than operated with manual labour. Multiple steps can be programmed at once, so your material doesn’t have to leave the lathe between manufacturing, guaranteeing correct placement for cuts.

A simple CNC lathe operates on 2 axes and moves the material it is cutting with a rotation. The material’s rotation is commonly called ‘turning’, so you may hear CNC lathes being referred to as CNC turning machines. Lathe machines with more than 2 axes, perhaps with an additional Y-axis or sub-spindle, will likely be nicknamed a CNC turning centre rather than a CNC turning machine.

 

The Benefits of a CNC Lathe

There are numerous benefits to investing in a computer numerical control lathe over a manual lathe. Firstly, computer-operated lathes are incredibly precise since their movement is managed by code. Extra precision means fewer mistakes, cheaper operation, and less wasted material during the manufacturing process. Manual lathes are subject to human error during their turning.

One operator can also manage multiple CNC lathes at a time, whereas manual lathes require closer attention! While CNC lathes are a pricier investment initially, they prove cheaper to run in terms of hiring staff for oversight. Manufacturing times are quicker, with more CNC machines on the go at one time, and all products created are nearly identical due to the reliability of computer numerical control.

 

The Products of a CNC Lathe

While CNC lathes create the same products as manual machines, they can do so faster and more efficiently. Parts machined with a CNC lathe could be used in automotive creation, electronics, medical equipment and sporting goods! CNC lathes can operate with such precision that they create intricate parts for firearm manufacturing.

Even though most CNC lathe usage is for individual manufacturing steps, some products can be made from start to finish. Baseball bats and cue sticks are perfect examples of products that are entirely lathed. Dining room tables and chair legs are similar, and even musical instrument bodies can be crafted from a CNC lathe’s operations. CNC lathes can’t quite string a guitar, but they can handle everything else when crafting wooden instruments.

 

The Price of a CNC Lathe

As previously mentioned, a CNC lathe is an investment. Bulky machinery doesn’t come without a cost. The good news is that computer numerical control lathes quickly pay themselves off with reduced manufacturing time, fewer operatives needed for hire, and decreased mistakes with finished products.

 

Contact us at DTS UK if you’re still unsure whether a CNC lathe is right for your company or you need advice on choosing between different models of milling machine, lathes, or turning centres. We’ll carefully consider your manufacturing needs to equip you to make the best choice on machine investment!

Article written by: Mike
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