The purpose of a lathe is to remove material from workpieces by exposing them to a cutting tool. The workpiece is clamped to the lathe and spins while pushing onto a cutting tool. The circular movement of the workpiece enables for the removal of material to be done quickly, efficiently, and precisely. Lathes can be used for shaping wood, metal, plastic, and ceramic objects.
Lathes are available as hand-operated or motorized devices. Hand-powered lathes are easy to operate and less expensive than their motorized counterparts, but they are capable of producing only simple shapes. Motorized lathes are more versatile than hand-powered ones and can produce much more complex shapes. They also have greater torque capacity, which allows them to cut thicker materials.
Inside a lathe, there are three main components: the head, bed, and tailstock. The head is the piece that holds the cutting tool. It can be made of steel or other hard materials such as nitrided stainless steel or cubic boron nitride. The bed is the surface on which the head moves when turning the piece. The tailstock is the mechanism by which the piece is held stationary while the head turns it. On some models, the head and bed are one component called the spindle. They are joined together at one end with the spindle hole in the center of both pieces.
These rigid machine tools remove material from a rotating workpiece by moving different cutting instruments, such as tool bits and drill bits, in (usually linear) motions. Lathe design varies widely depending on the intended purpose. However, basic characteristics are shared by all varieties. A lathe has a horizontal rotational axis that can be turned by an electric motor or other power source.
Lathes were first developed in Europe during the 17th century. They remained popular into the early 20th century but have since been replaced by more modern methods. Today, they are used mainly for making parts with smooth finishes or where very fine details are required. They are also used for artistic purposes such as sculpture.
There are two main types of lathes: those that use a single spindle to both rotate the workpiece and move its cutting tools, and those that use separate spindles for each function. On single-spindle lathes, either the tool bit or the spindle may be moved toward or away from the other while the other remains fixed in place. On multi-spindle lathes, each tool head can independently move up and down and back and forth, allowing multiple shapes to be cut from one piece of material.
Single-spindle lathes are cheaper to manufacture and less complex than multi-spindle machines, but they can only cut one part at a time.
A lathe is a type of machining tool that is usually used to shape metal or wood. The workpiece is rotated around a fixed cutting tool. The primary application is to eliminate undesired sections of the material, leaving a neatly formed product left. Lathes can be divided into three main groups: turning, drilling, and grinding.
Turning lathes are used for shaping relatively large pieces of material, such as wheels for vehicles or furniture. These machines use multiple tools, called "cuts", which can each be a different size or shape for cutting various areas of the piece. The tool that is used depends on what section of the material needs to be shaped. For example, if the wheel needs to have some holes drilled in it, a drilling cut would be used; if an end cap was being made, then a turning cut would be used.
Drilling and grinding machines are both used for shaping small parts, such as screws or jewelry. They use a single tool that cuts both drilling and grinding. These machines require less maintenance than turning machines and can produce finer finishes. But they cannot shape irregularly-shaped objects like turning machines can.
There are several types of lathes: hand-operated, motorized, and CNC (computer numerical control).