5 Things You Should Know Before Buying A Lathe Machine

cnc lathe

A lathe machine is a large piece of machinery that can be used to cut metal into different shapes. Lathes are essential tools for any professional machinist, and CNC lathes are vital parts of many manufacturing processes. Modern metal lathes are highly versatile and powerful machines, but they aren’t small or inexpensive. Buying a lathe machine is a big investment, so before you go out and buy one, there are some things you need to know.

In this blog post, we will discuss five tips on what to look for when purchasing a lathe machine!

Tip One: Know the Size of Lathe You Need

Lathes are measured in terms of swing and size, often given as a pair of numbers  (i.e., 12 x 20). The first number, the swing, is the distance between the center of the spindle and the bed of the lathe. It’s the maximum radius of a workpiece that can be mounted between centers on that lathe. If the radius on your workpiece is 15 inches, and your lathe has a swing of 12 inches, then the workpiece is too big to fit between centers on your lathe.

The second number more straightforward; it’s the distance between centers (the headstock and tailstock) and is often referred to as bed size. In the example given above the bed size would be 20 inches.

Tip Two: Be Sure Your Facilities Can Handle It

Even lathes with small bed sizes can be quite large, weighing hundreds of pounds. Floor-mounted, heavy-duty lathes can be even larger, possibly weighing thousands of pounds depending on the size. Before buying one, make sure that there’s plenty of floor space for it to fit in your work area.

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There are different sizes of lathes available, from small bench lathes to large, room-sized industrial models. Consider your machining needs before buying a lathe, and then position your new lathe on your shop floor accordingly.

Make sure your company has enough power for it! Lathes require a lot of electricity. If you’re purchasing a new lathe for your machine shop, then you’re likely to already have the necessary power capacity. But if you’re adding a smaller lathe to your home workshop, double-check the energy requirements.

Tip Three: Understand the Basic Parts of a Lathe Machine

A lathe is typically composed of three major parts:

-The bed, which can be either fixed or pivoted.

The bed holds and supports the structure of the lathe. The material to be worked is mounted in jaw chucks fixed onto the headstock and tailstock. The workpiece (the piece being cut) is mounted between centers, allowing it to spin freely above the bed of the lathe.

-The headstock, which holds the workpiece in place during machining.

-The tailstock, which supports and provides the clamping action for long pieces of material.

When a workpiece is fixed to both the headstock and tailstock it is said to be “between centers.” Often, lathes are designed to allow the headstock to swing out from its center position, allowing access to both ends of a workpiece that is too large or awkward to machine between centers.

There are a number of types of lathes. Engine or turret lathes are your standard powered lathes. Most lathes work with a variety of materials, but are often sold as metal or wood lathes. High-quality lathes are typically constructed out of cast iron and high-end components.

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Tip Four: Understand Your Lathe’s Capabilities

Before buying a lathe, it would be wise to figure out what you need the machine for and then consider if your new lathe has the capabilities that will help meet those needs. If not, this may lead to disappointment down the line as you try to do something your lathe isn’t large enough, powerful enough, or advanced enough to handle.

Lathe machines have been in use for centuries. They were first used in woodworking. In the 1800s, Henry Maudslay modified the lathe for metalworking, adapting to industrial settings during the Industrial Revolution. Today’s lathes are nearly all powered, known also as engine lathes. Lathes have grown in size and power, and with the addition of modern CNC (Computer Numerical Control) technology, they are far more versatile.

In a lathe, the workpiece rotates on a spindle. The cutting tool, mounted on a tool post and fixed on a cross slide, applies the desired cutting operation across the rotating workpiece. This makes lathes ideal for finishing operations and anything with a cylindrical shape. They can also be used for thread cutting or even to bore or hollow out the interior of a part.

Today’s precision lathes are absolutely vital for many industries including aerospace, automotive manufacturing, furniture making, and toolmaking. Lathes are highly versatile and are used for a wide range of tasks. Many come with variable spindle speeds and tool holders that allow operators to change the tooling on a lathe mid-operation.  Modern toolroom lathes have a high degree of versatility, especially when equipped with CNC technology. These machines when performing more complex machining operations that would otherwise be done by other types of machine tools. Alongside milling machines, lathes are a standby for most machine shops.

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Tip Five: Follow Proper Safety and Maintenance Procedures

Clean your lathe machine’s work area regularly, but don’t use an air hose or anything that will blow debris into hard-to-reach places on the lathe. Check bearings for wear; if they’re worn or damaged, then it’s time to replace them.

For any machine tool, including lathes, it’s best to follow a regular maintenance checklist with daily, weekly, monthly, and semi-annual tasks. This will help protect your lathe machine from expensive repairs and extensive downtime.

Don’t operate your lathe machine without proper training and use the correct protective equipment.

Lathe machines are an expensive but incredibly powerful addition to any machine shop, or even to your home workshop. Do your research, and be sure to purchase a new lathe only from reputable dealers with excellent customer support.

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