What is a CNC Lathe?

Posted by Briana Lipor on 1/8/20 9:00 AM


Lathes are one of the most versatile machining tools in the manufacturing industry.


A lathe is one of the oldest machine tools used dating back to 1300 BC in Egypt. It was a man operated wood working lathe that was used to shape symmetrical wooden objects. The late 20th and 21st centuries have been defined by the advancements in computer technology and the industrial sector is no exception. In the 1950's the CNC lathe was created. This technology allowed machinists to pre-program specifications, making the first hands off lathe. CNC machines have become so useful that they outnumber their manual counterparts in your average shop. 


What is a lathe? 

A lathe is a machine tool that is used to remove metal from a workpiece to give a desired shape and size. A lathe machine is typically used for shaping the material into the desired form by removing the excess material from a given workpiece. Lathes are commonly used in metal working and metal spinning. A lathe is one of the most important material removal methods in the technology of manufacturing. 



CNC lathe

Computerized numerically controlled, or CNC lathe machines are most commonly used because they are fast, accurate and the most advanced type of lathe. With CNC lathes, the material being worked is slowly sheared away resulting in a beautifully finished product or intricate part. CNC lathes have at the very least the ability to drive the cutting tool under g-code control over 2 axes, referred to as X and Z. They may have a considerable amount of other functionality as well and there are many variations on lathes. 


How does it work? 

A typical lathe is comprised of a bed, headstock, tailstock, chuck, tool turret, carriage and a spindle for feeding purposes. A lathe spins the workpiece in a spindle while a fixed cutting tool approaches the workpiece to slice chips off of it. Because of this geometry, lathes are ideal for parts that have symmetry around some axis that could be chucked up in the spindle. 



Basic lathe capabilities


Facing is when you remove metal from a cylindrical work piece, usually creating a smooth surface.


Turning is when a turning tool is applied to the work piece to create groves, ridges and indents. 


Boring is when you enlarge an existing hole. The hole can be drilled, molded, cast or a forged hole. 


There has been considerable growth in the CNC machining industry, particularly when it comes to the design and use of CNC lathes. CNC lathes have become a huge part of the manufacturing industry. At RCI we are proud to offer our capabilities with our Haas ST-20Y lathe. If you have a project you need CNC lathe capabilities for, give us a call at 866-276-6242



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