What Are CNC Lathe Machines?

In today’s manufacturing industry, the CNC or Computer Numerical Control plays a vital role in manufacturing.

The complex machines are controlled by a central computer perfectly synchronising the movement to create the desired shape.

With the development of CNC machinery, it is possible to manufacture intricate machine parts that were not possible years ago.

CNC machinery dramatically varies in its design and operation depending on the type of product it produces.

What are CNC lathe machines?

CNC lathes can be considered the only universal CNC machine tool as they can make all the machine parts required to make another lathe.

These machines can be provided with precise design instructions to create the required design.

In a CNC lathe machine, the workpiece is clamped and rotated by the main spindle. A fixed cutting tool approaches the material to slice chips off it.

This type of manufacturing method is ideal for parts that have symmetry around some axis.

Once the material is placed, the machinery drives the cutting tool precisely as directed by the G-code over the X and Z axes.

The method of cutting a workpiece on the lathe can be called “Turning.”

CNC lathes have high precision and are useful in operation when compared to manual lathes.

The entire design of CNC lathe is made to utilise the modern version of carbide tooling and process. The manufacturing instructions are usually programmed through CAM or CAD processes.

If a programmer wishes to do so, he can manually design a tool, and the resulting computer file can be uploaded to the CNC machine.

This file can be then used for repetitive production.

Types of CNC Lathe Machines

The machine can be broadly classified based on the work requirement and number of axes.

Based on work requirement

1) Engine Lathes: Most commonly found lathe machine. Equipped to handle a wide range of metals and operate on varying speeds.

2) Speed Lathes: Comes in a relatively simple design. Can be operated at three or four different speeds and composed of tool post, headstock and tailstock.

3) Turret Lathes: Have the option to handle a variety of different tools.

4) Tool Room Lathes: Can be used to produce products with intricate dimensions.

Based on the position of the spindle

1) Horizontal CNC lathe: Can be divided into slant guideway CNC lathe and flat guide rail CNC lathe.

2) Vertical CNC lathe: The lathe spindle is placed perpendicular to the horizontal. A large diameter circular table is used to clamp the workpiece

Based on the number of axes

1) 2-axis CNC Lathe: Can perform facing, drilling and tapping, outer/inner diameter machining, 

2) 3-axis CNC Lathe: X, Z-axis, C axis. Have a live tool system. Usually used to perform boring, drilling, milling etc.

3) 4-axis CNC Lathe: Have an X, Y and Z-axis.Can be used for manufacturing complex machinery and off-centre operations.

4) 5-axis CNC Lathe: Has a second turret. Two tools can operate at the same time.

Uses of CNC lathes

CNC lathes work well in manufacturing even the most complex of designs. A programmer can easily input the program codes to design any custom machine parts.

The machines are used in industries like aerospace, electronics, automotive, sporting and much more.

The accuracy is more as one or two centres firmly hold the workpiece with either one or two moved horizontally.

Some examples of finished products from CNC lathe machines are:

  • Camshafts
  • Crankshafts
  • Cue sticks
  • Dining Room Table and Chair Legs
  • Baseball Bats
  • Bowls
  • Gun Barrels
  • Musical Instruments

Even though manufacturing is made easy through automation, due care must be taken to ensure that only an experienced technician should operate it.

The article is a part of our comprehensive guide on CNC machines.

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