Nothing beats the sheer power of freestanding industrial lathes. Larger models can occupy an entire room and handle parts with dimensions measured in feet, not inches. But while full-sized lathes are incredibly powerful, they often aren’t the best suited for smaller jobs.
That’s where the benchtop CNC lathe comes in. Desktop or benchtop lathes are more compact versions of freestanding industrial lathes. Despite being smaller, desktop lathes can still perform many of the same functions that larger units can. These machines are also usually designed with powerful control technology built-in, and they typically feature the same components used in bigger machines.
Smaller doesn’t mean more delicate – good benchtop CNC machine tools feature the cast-iron columns and rigid construction of large lathes or milling machines. All of the components of a desktop lathe must be heavy-duty and very hard-wearing. Like its larger counterparts, a desktop lathe must support and display CAM files and converted DXF files.
What is a desktop CNC machine?
CNC controls allow an operator to automate much of the machining process. Computer Numerical Control relies on computer programming in a machine language known as g-code, which allows an operator to deliver incredibly precise instructions to the machine. CNC can be integrated with all categories of machine tools, from turning centers to CNC mills.
Desktop CNC machines are simply smaller versions of their industrial counterparts. These machines are designed to offer the same power and precision in a more comprehensive package. That makes desktop or benchtop machines ideal for small machine shops or even home workshops, where CNC precision can be applied to smaller workpieces.
Common CNC machine tools
CNC technology applies equally well to a number of different materials. Woodworking and metalworking shops use CNC milling machines, CNC routers, and CNC turning machines – lathes – to cut everything from steel to PVC and carbon fiber.
Most CNC machine tools will share common characteristics: programmable machine controls, a bed to support the workpiece, jaw chucks to mount the workpiece and movement along multiple axes. That means at least the X-axis and Y-axis, although machines with a minimum of 3-axis movement (including the z-axis) are common.
Some of the most common tools for CNC machining are lathes, wood lathes and metalworking lathes.
Basics of a CNC desktop lathe
Nearly all lathes are constructed with the same principles. The workpiece mounts on a spindle between two centers – the headstock and the tailstock. As the workpiece rotates rapidly, a cutting tool is brought into contact with the workpiece, removing material and shaping it into the correct pattern.
Even small CNC machines are capable of high degrees of precision. For example, a desktop CNC lathe with two axes can handle parts up to six inches in diameter and is commonly used for smaller projects like jewelry. These mini CNC lathes are also used for small parts fabrication or even for prototyping in R&D labs. They’re also perfectly at home in a hobbyist’s workshop.
Lathes rely on simple mechanical processes to remove material, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of highly detailed work. For more information, you can READ MORE: Understanding a CNC Lathe.
What can I make with a desktop CNC lathe?
Desktop CNC lathes are great for learning how to apply basic CNC machining principles to the world of parts manufacturing. With a CNC desktop lathe, you can learn and apply the same CNC commands that are used in big industrial CNC machines. Operating a desktop lathe is a great way to learn the basics of g-code, CNC programming, and even Computer Assisted Design (CAD) and Computer Assisted Machining (CAM) programs.
Skilled operators can craft nearly anything on a high-quality CNC lathe. That includes custom replacement parts for a classic car, threaded screws or custom bolts, or just basic cylinders or shafts.
What are the benefits of a desktop CNC lathe?
Greater accuracy and precision on smaller parts. Smaller machines are often better suited for more delicate or detailed machining. With benchtop lathes, you can achieve precision and accuracy on smaller objects while maintaining control.
Compact but powerful package. Many machinists don’t require a full-sized industrial lathe. They just need something that will provide the necessary machining precision without taking up half their workspace.
Easy to learn. Benchtop CNC lathes often come with are considered very easy to use and have fewer issues. No CNC lathe is exactly easy, but enhancements like CAD/CAM and conversational language have made CNC lathes easier to learn than ever.
Budget-friendly. Industrial CNC lathes can run into the tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, per machine. Desktop CNC lathes are available from reliable manufacturers like CNC Masters for far less.
Common features of a CNC desktop lathe
– High-speed spindles
– Variable spindle speed settings
– Live tooling control
– Threading guides
– Advanced coolant systems
– Extended warranty
Benchtop CNC lathes from CNC Masters
CNC Masters offers three high-precision benchtop lathes, suitable for advanced hobbyists and full-function machine shops alike.
The CNC Jr Table Top Mill packs all the features of a mid-sized CNC lathe in a compact package. The smallest of the CNC Masters benchtop lathes, the Jr. still weighs an impressive 700 lbs, thanks to solid cast-iron construction. That’s enough weight to provide much-needed stability and ensure accurate cuts.
CNC Masters’ Baron Table Top Mill is a level up, adding another 100 lbs to the overall weight and takes the precision up another notch. X and Y zero-backlash ball screws keep the machine on track, while micro-stepping motors ensure that the entire cutting process moves smoothly.
Top of the line is the CNC Max Table Top Mill. With the potential for 4-axis cuts, the CNC Max is an incredibly powerful machine tool at home in nearly any situation.
Each desktop CNC lathe from CNC Masters comes with complete technical support services
If you’ve thought about investing in a CNC lathe in the past, but lack the room or resources for a large freestanding unit, a desktop model is a great option to consider. At CNC Masters, we can work with you to help you find a machine that suits your unique needs.
We offer a diverse selection of CNC lathes that can be used for a variety of applications. Our CNC lathes are crafted in the United States and quality is 100% ensured. No matter your situation, if you’re in the market for an affordable CNC with high performance, our desktop machines are a great option.
Master MX Software Program – Included with desktop CNC lathe machine
Try out the new Master MX. The MX works exclusively with the CNC Masters MX Numerical Control Units now being built with our CNC milling and lathe machines. The MX software is included with your CNC Masters Machine.
You can import FANUC-based G code and M code programs from your CAM software. We also offer Visualmill CAM as an option which comes with a guaranteed post processor made for CNC Masters machinery.
Give us a call today or contact us online to learn more!