What is a CNC Lathe?
A lathe is a machine tool that rotates a workpiece about an axis of rotation to perform various operations such as cutting, sanding, knurling, drilling, deformation, facing, and turning.
Lathe machines are typically used for shaping the material into the desired form by removing the excess material from a given workpiece to produce a symmetrical object. The workpiece is usually held in place by either one or two centers, at least one of which can typically be moved horizontally to accommodate varying workpiece lengths. Other work-holding methods include clamping the work about the axis of rotation using a chuck or collet, or to a faceplate, using clamps or dog clutch.
Main Parts of a CNC Lathe Machine
While single-bed lathe machines are quite popular, lathe also get two-three pieced beds, pieces bolted together to meet the desired length. The beds have a high damping capacity to absorb the vibrations produced by the working machine.
Horizontal vs Vertical Lathes
CNC Lathes come in either vertical or horizontal machines.
Horizontal Lathes – These machines rotate a workpiece cylindrically, while tooling shapes the piece by cutting away excess material. Since workpieces have to lie vertically, horizontal lathe machines tend to have a larger footprint or take up more total space. Because of this, horizontal lathes are best reserved for use on smaller or midsize workpieces. Workpieces are also usually lighter materials, since the chuck on these machines hold the piece vertically against the gravitational pull of the object.
Vertical Lathes – In comparison to horizontal lathes, vertical lathes rotate the workpiece upright like a pottery wheel, allowing the spindle to cut at hard to reach angles. This makes it ideal for manufacturing super large and heavy workpieces because vertical lathes have a naturally smaller footprint than horizontal lathes. The smaller footprints also allow for the option of dual-spindles to work on a piece without compromising floor space, and makes them a good choice for pinch turning operations. Gravity also works in favor of vertical lathes, which allows for steady spindle movements and more accurate cutting.
Like other CNC machines, CNC lathes have become a major part of the manufacturing industry in recent years. So, it is expected that the operations of such machines will continue to improve and carry significant weight in this field.
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