CNC Lathe Machining 101

CNC Lathe Machining 101

The basic premise of CNC lathe machining relies on rotation. The material that will end up becoming the finished article is mounted onto a single spindle. This is then rotated and moved through pre-programmed axes. As it does so, a variety of machining methods are used to shape the workpiece into the required shape.

There are multiple ways in which this can happen, including turning, boring, tapering, facing etc. The most important thing to note is that the workpiece can be manoeuvred through many different axes during this process – from two upwards. The more there are, the more complex the parts that can be created.

These movements occur in response to a pre-programmed software program, known as computer numerical control (CNC). This enables ongoing, repeatable processes to fashion the required end product.

Advantages of CNC lathe machining

The process brings many benefits, including:

  • Precision: Once the software program is loaded, the cutting tools work in a repeatable, highly precise pattern. This returns a very low margin of error, meaning less wastage and the assurance of parts that are wholly fit for purpose.
  • Speed: CNC lathe machines can work continuously, thus churning out runs in their tens, hundreds and thousands. The amount per hour is driven by the complexity of the part, with simple designs being more prolific than those that require multiple tooling through a higher number of axes. Production speed is also influenced by the material – harder elements, such as titanium, might require more tool passes than softer materials, such as plastic.
  • Cost: Faster production and less waste equal a lower part-per-dollar price.


The different types of lathe machining processes

The process can be programmed to use multiple cutting and shaping processes.

  • Turning: The cutting tool slides up and down as well as away from and towards the centre line. Often used to remove larger areas of material from the workpiece.
  • Grooving: Uses a gradually increasing process by moving up and down the workpiece until the required groove depth is reached.
  • Drilling: A drill piece cuts precise holes in the pre-programmed location.
  • Facing/filing/deburring: Used to remove thin elements to create a smooth surface at the ends of a finished tool/workpiece.
  • Tapping: Creates a thread inside a hole.
  • Knurling: A process for making indentations.
  • Boring: To add contours, steps or tapers to a piece. It’s also used post-drilling to increase the size of a hole and/or the level of precision.
  • Tapering: Creates conical shapes in the material.
  • Chamfering: Produces bevels and can be used as a finishing process for the ends of the tool.
  • Reaming: For adding precision to the size of a drilled hole.
  • Parting: Once the machining has been done, this separates the finished product.

Lathe machining in practice

CNC lathe machining is utilised in a wide variety of applications. This includes making OEM parts and those used within systemic operations. Some examples of industries that utilise the CNC lathing for part creation include:

  • Oil & gas
  • Aerospace
  • Automotive
  • Mining
  • Medical
  • Food processing
  • Construction
  • Engineering

SixDe offers advancedCNC machining andCNC cutting services, providing both a blueprint-to-product service or turnkey operation for pre-existing part creation. Our expert professional team will be delighted to discuss your requirements.

Contact us today for a no-obligation consultation.