What Is a Turret Lathe?

Not to be confused with milling machines, lathes are a common machining tool used in the manufacturing industry. They can perform everything from cutting and sanding to facing, turning and more. Lathes are defined by the way in which they hold the workpiece. In a lathe, the workpiece rotates while a stationary cutting tool presses against it. Turret lathes use this same approach, but they differ from traditional lathes in several ways.

Overview of Turret Lathes

A turret lathe is a type of metalworking lathe that’s characterized by the use of interchangeable cutting tools. Like traditional lathes, it presses a stationary cutting tool against a rotating workpiece. Turret lathes are unique, however, because of their interchangeable cutting tools. The cutting tool can be quickly changed to accommodate a specific manufacturing application.

Benefits of Turret Lathes

Because they feature interchangeable cutting tools, turret lathes are more versatile than traditional lathes. Traditional lathes often support multiple cutting tools as well, but they are more difficult to change than those of turret lathes. To change the cutting tool in a traditional lathe, a worker must detach the existing cutting tool, remove it from the lathe, and then reattach a different cutting.

Turret lathes, on the other hand, can feature multiple cutting tools at once. There’s no need to swap out the cutting tool. Rather, the turret lathe can switch to the appropriate cutting tool automatically, resulting in faster and more efficient production processes for manufacturing companies. It only takes a few seconds for a turret lathe to change to a different cutting tool, whereas it may take a human worker several minutes to manually swap out the cutting tool in a traditional lathe.

Types of Turret Lathes

There are many different types of turret lathes. Some turret lathes are numerical control (NC), for instance, whereas others are computer numerical control (CNC). NC turret lathes are older and generally use punch cards or similar rudimentary methods of control. In comparison, CNC turret lathes are newer and use more advanced methods of control involving the use of a computer.

Turret lathes can also be classified according to their method of operation. There are automatic turret lathes that can perform a variety of processes with little or no manual labor. There are also manual turret lathes that require at least some amount of manual labor. Other common types of turret lathes include semi-automatic, vertical and flat.

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