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What is a lathe? Main parts, functions and uses | EONSI

The lathe is a fundamental tool involved in the parts manufacturing process. Here we explain how it works and the importance of lathe turning.

What is a lathe? Main parts, functions and uses

The lathe is a mechanical tool commonly used in heavy industry. It uses a swarf removal process to cut, shape or polish parts made of different materials, i.e. to perform the turning process. Lathe types can be divided according to their function: milling, copying, revolver and automatic; and according to their mode of operation: vertical, horizontal (or parallel) and CNC (numerical control). They can also be classified according to their base: table-top and bench-top lathes. This machine works with three movements that often operate simultaneously to turn the workpieces.

What is a lathe used for?

Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the lathe has been a basic and essential machine for machining parts. It is used to manufacture and mould parts made of materials that are very difficult to work with (metal, wood or plastic) and which require a great deal of force and precision when handled. The purpose of the lathe is to cut, thread, rough or finish parts, thus maximising the scale of production and ensuring a homogeneous finish in series production. The main industries that benefit from their use are the automotive, computer, dental, electrical and woodworking industries, as well as any other industry where geometric machining, threading, cutting, turning, boring, drilling and grooving of parts is required.

Parts of a lathe

A lathe is mainly composed of: bed, main axis, head, Norton box and tool carriages. The bed is the structure that supports the machine and on which the other parts slide or rest; they are mostly made of cast iron or castings. The main axis is the base that supports the chuck where the part to be turned is fixed. The heads can be fixed (holding the chuck) or mobile (also called tailstock, they move longitudinally on the bed guides and act as a base to hold the blades that shape the workpiece). The Norton box is made up of gears and levers, and allows the chuck rotation speeds to be adjusted. The carriages are the parts that allow the cutting tool to move, and can move longitudinally or transversally.

How does a lathe work?

When turning, the workpiece fixed on the chuck is rotated on its own axis while the slide holding one or more blades is pushed with millimetre precision towards the surface of the workpiece to control the depth of cut and the desired final size.

The turning process in parts manufacturing

The main movement in the turning process is rotational, and depending on the parts, this can be either cutting or feed. Turning of the workpiece occurs when the slide moves along the axis of rotation. The fixed spindle rotates the workpiece while the cutter moves straight towards the workpiece to cut it. The different functions of the lathe are determined by the type of cutter. Depth and force control is exercised manually, except on the CNC (numerically controlled) lathe, which is controlled by numbers, letters and symbols encoded by computer software.

EONSI, turning experts

EONSI is a leading company in the sector, specialising in turning. We seek to increase efficiency in processes and products, always with an innovative approach. In addition, we have a Technical Training Classroom where we teach different courses and levels, from basic to advanced.