Turning Lathe Guide

What Is a Turning Lathe?

A turning lathe is a lathe machine that creates the required configuration of workpieces by removing materials from their surfaces. On a turning lathe, the cylindrical workpieces rotate with the spindle while the cutting tools are advanced towards it. As the cutting tools keep moving either axially or radially, they create the diameter differentiation from the inside or outside of the cylindrical objects.

How Does a Turning Lathe Work?

A turning lathe works mainly depends on the rotary movement of the workpieces. With the appropriate arrangement of the tool holder, the cutting tools are able to remove the materials from around the inside or outside diameters of workpieces. In this way, even the removal of a partial material of workpieces can be accomplished. This makes turning lathes be commonly applied in the field of precision machining, or even in conjunction with the CNC system for more complex tasks.

How Does a Turning Lathe Form?

Depending on the type of machine being applied, the arrangement of components may be slightly different between each type. According to the manufacturing scale, the machine sizes also differ from one another. Generally, a turning lathe consists of a headstock, spindles, a tool holder, a tailstock, a bed, a base, and switches for adjustment. 

● Headstock

As the name implies, the headstock is the head of turning lathe. It is attached to the motor on the one side, where the power source of the machine comes from. The main spindle is arranged on the other side, and is integrated with the clamping device, such as a collet or a chuck. The headstock not only provides a channel for the motor to transfer the power source, but also gives supports to the spindle and the workpiece when the turning lathe is in operation.

● Spindles

On a turning lathe, there are usually more than one spindle on the headstock and tailstock respectively. The main spindle on the headstock takes the most part in
facilitating the workpiece to rotate, and allowing the cutting tool to move back and forth in order to perform the required machining techniques. 

When it is required to machine on larger or longer workpieces, the other spindle on the tailstock would be applied. The two spindles rotate the workpiece simultaneously, which help smooth the operation and enhance the working efficiency. 

● Tool holder

The tool holder is set between the headstock and tailstock, which is in charge of holding the cutting tool when the machine is turned on. As the cutting tool is advanced towards the rotating workpiece, the tool holder helps achieve the z-axis machining direction. In addition, the tool holder stabilizes the cutting tool by supporting it on the tool rest, which also prevents the tool from deviating during operation.

● Tailstock

As mentioned above, the tailstock is applied when it is required to machine on larger or longer workpieces. It is also compatible with the spindle from the other side of workpiece, in order to ensure the maximum stabilization of the works.

● Machine bed and base

The bed is the surface that supports all the above components on turning lathe. Under the machine bed, the base holds the entire mechanism and allows the machine to be set on the ground.

● Switches

In addition to the switches that turn on and off the machine, the turning lathe is also equipped with switches for speed control. This enables the on-site operator to adjust the operation in a controlled manner.

Horizontal vs. Vertical Turning Lathes

Turning lathes can be categorized into two main forms, including horizontal and vertical turning lathes. The required elements are basically the same on these two forms, while the main difference between them is in the spindle arrangement. On a horizontal lathe, the spindle on the headstock is arranged horizontally with the work table or ground. When dealing with larger or heavier workpieces, the spindle that supports the other side of workpiece on the tailstock is arranged in the same way. In contrast, the spindle on a vertical lathe is perpendicular to the work table or ground, which is more suitable than its counterpart when heavy-duty machining is required.

Comparing the horizontal or vertical arrangement of the spindles, there are some different factors that make one form preferable to the other in practical applications. One of them is the issue of chip cleaning. No matter in what kind of precision machining process, chips are produced as the materials are removed from the workpieces. Once the chips are left behind on the working site, they will be the factor that causes tool deviation or product deformation. Due to the nature of gravity, the chips on a horizontal turning lathe naturally fall from the working site, which makes them easier to be collected. Therefore, the horizontal arrangement of spindles is relatively more common than the vertical one.

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