What Is a Metalworking Lathe?

Not to be confused with a milling machine, a lathe is a machining tool that’s used to cut, sand, knurl, drill and turn workpieces by exposing them to a stationary cutting tool. The workpiece is clamped in place, after which it rotates while pressing against a stationary cutting tool. Lathes have been around for thousands of years, with some of the earliest known examples dating back to Ancient Egypt. In recent years, though, metalworking lathes have become increasingly common. So, what is a metalworking lathe exactly?

Overview of Metalworking Lathes

Also known as a metal lathe, a metalworking lathe is a type of lathe that’s designed specifically for metal workpieces. Like other lathes, they are used to perform a variety of machining processes, including cutting, sanding, knurling, drilling and turning. They also perform these processes using the same technique — with the workpiece rotating against a stationary cutting tool. Metalworking lathes live up to their namesake, however, by supporting the use of metal workpieces.

Lathes are often used to deform and reshape wooden workpieces. Wood, of course, is significantly softer than most metals and alloys. If a manufacturing company wants to deform or reshape a metal workpiece, it will likely need the assistance of a metalworking lathe.

Types of Metalworking Lathes

All metalworking lathes are designed specifically for use with metal workpieces. They support a wide range of metals, as well as alloys, some of which include steel, aluminum, copper and iron. With that said, there are several types of metalworking lathes, each of which uses a different method of operation.

Centering metalworking lathes, for example, feature a dual-head design in which the workpiece is secured in place while the head moves towards it. Centering metalworking lathes are typically used for centering metal workpieces.

In addition to centering metalworking lathes, there are also toolroom lathes. A toolroom lathe is a type of heavy-duty lathe that’s used for toolroom operations. It’s considered one of the highest-quality types of lathes. Toolroom lathes can perform all of the same machining processes as other lathes, but they offer a higher level of precision.

We can’t talk about the different types of metalworking lathes without mentioning turret lathes. A turret lathe is a type of metalworking lathe that’s used for mass-production operations. It can perform repetitive tasks, such as duplicating a product, faster and more efficiently than other types of lathes.

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