“Turning” defines the work that is traditionally done on a lathe. “Turning centers” is a term sometimes applied to machines with secondary spindles and/or rotating tools for milling and drilling. Another term, “turn/mill or multitasking” describes machines that can be thought of as being just as capable at milling and drilling as they are at turning. Lathes, turning centers and turn-mill machines can have horizontal or vertical spindles, with horizontal being most common. Machines with a vertical spindle are generally called a vertical turret lathe, or VTL. If the workpiece is held from above by the vertical spindle, then this type of turning machine is generally called an inverted vertical lathe.

Buying a Lathe: The Basics

Lathes represent some of the oldest machining technology, but it’s still helpful to remember the basics when considering the purchase of a new turning machine. 

Turning Machines: Essential Reading

Threading On A Lathe

The right choices in tooling and technique can optimize the thread turning process.

Choosing Your Carbide Grade: A Guide

Without an international standard for designating carbide grades or application ranges, users must rely on relative judgments and background knowledge for success.

Machining 101: What is Turning?

Turning uses a lathe to remove material from the outside of a rotating workpiece, while boring does the same from the inside of a rotating workpiece.

How to Save Time When Mounting Jaws on Three-Jaw Chucks

Precisely placing jaws on three-jaw chucks for CNC turning machines is difficult, but a laser pointer and clever programming can ease the issue.

Why Binderless CBN Inserts Turn Titanium Faster

A new formulation of cubic boron nitride could provide a more solid alternative to cemented carbide as finish-machining becomes more demanding. 


FAQ: Turning Machines

What is turning?

Turning is the process of using lathes to remove material from the outer diameter of a rotating workpiece. Single-point tools shear metal from the workpiece in (ideally) short, distinct, easily recyclable chips.

Source: Machining 101: What is Turning?

What is a lathe?

One of the key characteristics of a lathe, unlike a vertical or horizontal milling machine, is that the workpiece turns, as opposed to the tool. Thus, lathe work is often called turning. Turning, then, is a machining process used to make round, cylindrical parts.

Source: Buying a Lathe: The Basics

What is the basic configuration of a lathe?

The basic two-axis lathe consists of a headstock with spindle, chuck for holding the part, lathe bed, carriage and cross-slide, tool turret and tailstock. While most lathes have a moveable tailstock to support the workpiece at the end, away from the chuck, not all machines come with this feature as a standard. A tailstock is particularly useful, however, when the workpiece is relatively long and slender.

Source: Buying a Lathe: The Basics

What kinds of spindles do lathes typically have?

The spindle on a turning center is either belt-driven or direct-drive. Generally, belt-driven spindles represent older technology. They speed up and slow down at a lower rate than direct-drive spindles, which means cycle times can be longer. If you’re turning small-diameter parts, the time it takes to ramp the spindle from 0 to 6,000 rpm is significant. In fact, it might take twice as long to reach this speed than with a direct-drive spindle.

Source: Buying a Lathe: Spindles and Tailstocks

What are the types of programmable tailstocks?

A built-in, numerically controlled tailstock can be a valuable feature for automated processes. A fully programmable tailstock provides more rigidity and thermal stability. However, the tailstock casting adds weight to the machine.

There are two basic types of programmable tailstocks—servo-driven and hydraulic. Servo-driven tailstocks are convenient, but the weight they can hold may be limited. Typically, a hydraulic tailstock has a retractable quill with a 6-inch stroke. The quill also can be extended to support a heavy workpiece, and do so with more force than a servo-driven tailstock can apply.

Source: Buying a Lathe: Spindles and Tailstocks

What are some variations of the basic lathe configuration?

Slant-bed lathes provide a number of advantages, while multitasking lathe configurations might open up possibilities heretofore unthought of.

The slant-bed lathe design is probably the most common and well-known configuration in today’s CNC lathes. Typically, the bed of the lathe slants at a 30- or 45-degree angle, although some 60-degree models also are available.

Multitasking machines are often built on a turning center platform. These machines use rotary tools to combine several cutting processes such as turning, milling, drilling, tapping, grooving, threading and deep-hole boring on one machine.

Source: Buying a Lathe: Slant-Beds and Multitasking Configurations


Turning Machines Suppliers

How to Start a Swiss Machining Department From Scratch

When Shamrock Precision needed to cut production time of its bread-and-butter parts in half, it turned to a new type of machine tool and a new CAM system. Here’s how the company succeeded, despite the newness of it all. 

Romi Launches Flatbed Lathe for Machining Large Parts

The C 1100H is a heavy-duty flatbed lathe built with a monoblock cast iron bed that absorbs machining efforts and vibration, making it highly rigid, stable and accurate.

Index's Multi-Spindle Automatic Lathe Features Flexible Tool Slide

Index Corporation’s MS32-6 multi-spindle automatic lathe features a flexible tool slide platform that reduces changeover times.


Modern Bar Feeds Bring New Life to Automatic Swiss Lathes

Cam-actuated Swiss lathes are still the fastest way to process many parts. By adding modern bar feeders, this shop has dramatically improved their utilization with the ability to work unattended, even in a lights-out environment.

Digital Demo: People and History Drive Solutions

Bourn & Koch has long provided unique manufacturing solutions. However, the people who work at Bourn & Koch enable the company to deliver value to each partner they work with. From service to assembly to engineering, each step builds on the solution—helping you solve your most challenging manufacturing problems. (Sponsored)

Kaast Machine Tools Updates Dual-Spindle Lathe

The A-Turn SYMCNC Dual-Spindle Lathe is now available in four different swing lengths, including 22.5", 24", 26.75" or 36".