A lathe is a simple device, purposed to hold a section of chosen material to be shaped, cut or carved. There are different designs of lathe for different materials. This means that there are lathes specifically for use with woodwork, and lathes specifically for use with metalwork.
Both traditional metalworking and woodworking lathes can rotate your workpiece, rather than holding it stationary like a vice. The cutting tool of a lathe remains stationary while your workpiece is rotated, whereas milling machines hold workpieces stationary while the cutting tool rotates. If you’re certain you require lathes over vertical machining centers for milling, you’re on the right track.
Just as with CNC milling machines, Computer Numerical Control can be applied to a lathe to automate the cutting process and provide precise results. Both horizontal and vertical CNC lathes are available to choose from. With this in mind, how should you approach purchasing your own machine? Here are 5 things to consider when choosing a lathe machine.
What type do you need?
The first thing to consider when choosing a lathe machine is the type that will best suit your needs. If you require exact results from your machine, a CNC lathe is your best choice. A CNC lathe is advanced enough to suit working with both metal and wood materials. Vertical CNC lathes are better suited for large jobs and heavy material, where horizontal CNC lathes work best for lighter materials like wood.
If you want a traditional machine, you may consider a woodworking lathe or a metalworking lathe. A woodworking lathe is cheaper than a metalworking lathe, but it can only work with wood and softer material. A metalworking lathe can work not only with steels and metal materials but also with wood.
What is a reasonable price?
As is true in every industry, you get what you pay for when selecting a lathe machine. The aim is to get the highest quality machine possible without overstretching your budget. Don’t shell out for a CNC machine with great specifications if you aren’t going to utilise it to the best of its ability. A manual lathe may suit your work fine.
Recognise that a lathe is an investment, so you don’t want to go too cheap and potentially suffer poor quality work. On the flip side, also try to remember that you also must financially maintain and service any machine that you select. A machine that is too expensive to run could weigh your business down considerably. Opting for professional CNC routing services can be a smart move, as it not only ensures precision but may also alleviate the burden of maintenance costs on your end.
What brand would you like?
Every brand creating lathe machines must carve out its niche. Thoroughly research different brands offering CNC horizontal lathes and vertical lathes before deciding to purchase. The more you understand the unique benefits of each brand before selecting a specific machine, the more prepared you will feel to make an informed decision.
If you can find reviews for lathes before committing to them financially, you’ll be able to see how sturdy the model has been for previous customers. GEMINIS, for example, pride their machines on accuracy, rigidity and reliability, all of which are incredibly important for an industrial machine.
Can you program your machine?
If you decide to progress to a CNC horizontal lathe or a CNC vertical lathe, you must be able to operate it. If you have little experience with Computer Numerical Control and coding in general, you’re better off beginning with a model that understands conversational instructions. Take the time to figure out what style of programming you’re best familiar with, and pick a machine that suits.
Is it worth risking second-hand?
An affordable way to purchase your first lathe machine is to take the second-hand route. Buying a used lathe machine can be a great idea since the machine has proven durable, but private sellers can be dishonest with the health of a machine. The peace of mind of a manufacturer’s guarantee is comforting for such a large purchase. When relying on the performance of machinery for your business, selecting a well-reviewed machine from new is your safest bet.
For further advice on selecting and purchasing a lathe machine for your business, DTS UK can provide all the support you could need.
Lathe machines for CNC turning services
As mentioned, there are different types of lathes. Vertical lathes have a vertical spindle orientation. The workpiece is clamped vertically, and the cutting tool moves horizontally. Vertical lathes are often used for machining large, heavy, and symmetrical components, such as discs, rings, and cylindrical parts.
Horizontal lathes have a horizontal spindle orientation, and the workpiece is mounted and rotated on the horizontal axis. These lathes are versatile and widely used in CNC turning services. They suit various workpiece sizes and can accommodate small and large components.
For precisely turning small, long, and slender parts, Swiss-type lathes, also called Swiss screw machines or sliding headstock lathes, are ideal. These lathes feature a guide bushing that supports the workpiece close to the cutting tool, providing excellent stability and accuracy. Swiss-type lathes are commonly used in watchmaking, electronics, and medical device manufacturing industries.
If you need to simultaneously machine multiple workpieces, you need multi-spindle lathes. These machines have multiple spindles, making them highly productive and efficient for high-volume production of small to medium-sized components. Multi-spindle lathes are common in automotive, plumbing, and fastener manufacturing industries.
CNC Swiss-type lathes combine the capabilities of CNC turning with the precision and stability of Swiss-type lathes. These machines have a guide bushing specifically designed for complex and high-precision turning operations on small, intricate parts. CNC Swiss-type lathes are commonly used in the aerospace, medical, and electronics industries.