Modern production schedules require machines that can manufacture and finish parts at a rapid pace and also with a very high level of consistency. The humble lathe machine that at one time was purely mechanical has now morphed into modern CNC lathe with a very high degree of automation and accuracy.

Uses of CNC lathes

CNC lathes are usually used on metal components that require some material to be cut out through turning. They are also used to drill multiple holes including centered holes usually in blocks of metal. However, modern CNC lathes are also used on other materials including plastic and wood. Lathe machines are widely used for making cylindrical parts such as gears, crankshafts, etc which require a very high level of accuracy as manufacturers compete to produce engines and gearboxes that are more silent and efficient than their adversaries. Manual lathes such as the turret lathes, engine lathes and special purpose lathes were previously used but with a rise in production levels automated CNC lathes offer higher production output with fewer errors, while the manual ones are still used by smaller workshops.

Modern types of these machines can make short work of a job-work

Modern types of these machines are a combination of a computer with a lathe machine and a controller that converts each digital signal into the desired action. Specialized software is first used to create the required design that needs to be replicated physically on metal, wood, etc. Next, the job-work, work or work-piece is fitted on the chuck and rotated at slow or high speeds depending on the material and the type of cut or centering required. The program instructs the lathe machine on the type of cutting, drilling or centering required including the depth and width. While older lathe machines could only do cutting functions, newer machines can do cutting and milling and the high end ones can even have four spindles to perform multiple jobs simultaneously, thereby reducing operations and improving productivity.

The latest CNC lathes require an operator to oversee the mechanical process, which in the past would have required one or two operators for actual physical work. A programmer is also required to compile the software commands needed to instruct the machine to provide precise cuts or holes. The tool bits that are required to cut through steel are usually made of titanium carbide, tungsten carbide, etc depending on the material that needs to be cut. The tool bits are used until the tolerance levels are maintained after which they are either sharpened, if possible, or simply replaced with a new bit.

Advantages of using CNC lathes

The advantage of using CNC lathes is that it offers a very high level of accuracy in drilling, cutting, milling, etc while also maintaining optimum production speed. With the advent of computers, the risk of physical injury to the operator is also reduced while the software offers manufacturers a chance to give shape to products that would not be possible if manufactured by hand. While small and medium sized CNC lathes are used by workshops to craft products that might have gone out of production a long time ago, such as parts for antique cars or even for older machines, larger lathes are usually used on the production line to manufacture parts in large quantities.

The advent of newer technologies has turned the humble lathe machine into CNC lathes capable of converting any creative thought into a real shape. Various models and sizes are used for specific purposes and CNC lathes do not need to be taught the entire process every time a new tool is attached thus saving time, effort and money while offering safety, efficiency and accuracy.

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