CNC lathe types and characteristics

cnc turning machine

There are several types of CNC machines depending on their function. In one of these types enters the cnc lathe. Much more advanced and precise machines than conventional lathes, where the piece simply turned and an operator was in charge of using different tools to carve or carry out the necessary carving on the piece. Now all this work is controlled in a very detailed way by computer, allowing all parts to be identical for mass production, improving productivity, and allowing much more complex work to be carried out.

In this article you will learn all about cnc lathes, as well as access to a guide to know which model to choose and a list of recommended models so that you can make a good purchase to use it in your DIY projects or for professional use.

The best models of CNC lathes

If you are looking for some good machines, here are some cnc lathe recommendations that you can buy for professional use or some cheaper ones for private use if you are a fan of DIY:

There are some good brands of CNC lathes, such as Sherline, TAIG, Proxxon, Grizzly Industrial, Haas, Z Zelus, Shop Fox, Baileigh, Genos, Hardinge, Tormach, Okuma, Doosan, Mazak, DMG Mori, etc. However, these brands for industrial or professional use do not usually sell on online platforms. For this reason we have selected other alternatives that are for sale online.
If you are looking for something good, cheap, and with a more compact size for private use or for your home, you can see the Sherline models, which even have software compatible with Ubuntu Linux. Proxxon, Z Zelus, Shop Fox, and TAIG also have some cheap models. On the other hand, for use in professional workshops, Tormach or Grizzly may be fine in terms of performance-price. For industry and large scale, you can go for Mazak, Genos, Okuma, Doosan, DMG, Haas, etc.

210 mini lathe

simple lathe

It is a compact lathe, with a total weight of 83 Kg, and with features such as a chuck diameter of up to 125 mm, spindle passing from 38 mm, variable speed between 50 and 2250 RPM, support to ensure that vibrations are minimized, LCD display showing speed details, and very basic usage. It is a very simple lathe for beginners, and includes almost everything you need, such as the metal lathe, oil gun for maintenance, vices, and other accessories.

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L-Salt Multipurpose CNC Lathe

cnc lathe l-salt

This is a professional CNC lathe, a model LSL1530 from L-Salt. The weight of this industrial machine is 1.7 tons, and it has important dimensions, so you must have a spacious place for its placement. As for more technical details, it can use pieces up to 200 mm wide, allows piece lengths between 100 and 1500 mm, works at feed speeds of up to 40 mm/s, with high precision of 0.00125 mm, with a powerful motor of 5.5 Kw spindle, it can be connected to 220v single-phase or 380v three-phase networks, and it is compatible with AutoCAD, Type3, ArtCam, etc. It can work with all types of wood.

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Golden CNC iG-1516


Another CNC lathe for industrial use with which to process pieces with a maximum of 1500 mm, with diameters of up to 160 mm if they are two pieces at the same time or up to 300 mm if it is a single piece. With GXK System control system, solid bed, high precision, speeds up to 2800 RPM, and compatible with 380v three-phase electricity networks.

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CNC lathe types

cnc lathe

Several types of cnc lathe according to material that can work, according to the axes, etc. Some lathes could work various materials without modification, simply by changing the tool. However, others are specific to one type of material and will not be able to turn others.

Lathe tools can be diverse, from milling cutters to make some type of drawing, to blades to remove material, and even bits to drill and hollow out the piece.

According to the material

CNC lathe for metal

One of the materials that can be worked with one of these machines is metal. In fact, the CNC metal lathe is one of the most used machines at an industrial level and in many workshops. As for metals, elements such as steel, aluminum, or brass. Those are the most common, although there may be other metals or alloys.

These metal lathes must have two fundamental characteristics. On one hand some tools hard enough to be able to work these very hard materials. Depending on the properties of the material to be worked on, some considerations must be taken into account:

  • The tool must have necessary hardness to work the metal chosen for the piece.
  • Some metals, such as aluminum, need highest feeds per bite (Fz)Therefore, tools with fewer flutes should be used to leave more free space in the cutter to evacuate the larger chips that will be produced.
  • For very hard materials, widths of cut (Wc) at lower speeds can be used up to 6-8 lips.
  • Always respect the manufacturer's recommendations of the CNC lathe, adapted to the type of material you are going to use.

Between the materials used for tools that can work metals, the most common are:

  • tungsten carbide- They cut great, are durable, and are ideal for CNC aluminum lathes.
  • HSS or high speed steel: They are made of the same material as regular drill bits and are inexpensive. They are softer than the previous ones, so they must be used for soft metals or alloys.
  • Diamond (PCD): they are among the hardest, perfect for working with materials that could not be worked with other softer tools.
  • Other: they can also be found in other metals and alloys, metal-ceramics, etc.

On the other hand, another detail is also important. Since metal is a hard material, friction with the tool can generate high temperatures. For this reason, these CNC machines usually have a water or oil cooling system to cool the machining area.

And I wouldn't want to forget about safety. Always stay away from the machine while it is working to avoid accidents, unless it is a closed machine, which will prevent accidents from happening. In addition to that, in this type of CNC metal lathe, chips are produced that can cut quite a bit. And care must be taken when removing the part or cleaning said chips. Always wear protective gloves, as well as protective glasses to prevent them from jumping into the eyes.

CNC lathe for wood

A CNC wood lathe can process cylindrical or prism-shaped pieces of wood such as hardwood, plywood, and softwood. And within hard and soft wood there can be many types: oak, pine, cherry, walnut, olive, etc.

Wood CNC lathes are slightly different from metal lathes in some ways. On the one hand, do not need refrigeration liquid as before. In fact, if the piece of wood gets wet it could be damaged, swollen, or stained. Therefore, these machines lack that system. However, this does not mean that they do not generate heat due to friction. In fact, you have to control the speed and advance very much so as not to burn or splinter the piece.

Other materials that can be turned

A CNC lathe can also work plastic materials, although it is less common. Generally, these polymers are usually treated by means of extrusion processes, moulds, etc. But they can also use CNC lathes to generate the desired part. They share some similarities with those made of wood, since it is a soft and easy material to work with, as well as not requiring refrigeration.

Among the materials most common plastics usually:

  • Acetal (POM)
  • Acrylic (PMMA)
  • Polycarbonate (PC)
  • Polypropylene (PP)

I'm sure many of you are familiar with the topic about 3D printers, where their characteristics and properties were discussed.

According to the axes

If you pay attention to the number of axes of the CNC lathe, then you can differentiate between simpler machines, with only 2 axes, or more complex ones that allow a greater degree of movement for the tool by adding more axes. The most used are:

  • 2 axes: It is the most basic configuration, with two linear axes capable of operating on the inside and outside diameter of the part, that is, cylindrical machining, facing, drilling and tapping in the center of the part. But they will not allow milling.
  • 3 axes: in this case a third axis is added, allowing milling, boring and threading. May be useful for helical milling.
  • 4 axes: to the three previous ones another one is added to be able to carry out off-center machining operations, that is, to generate more irregular and complex shapes.
  • 5 axes: a second turret is added in the CNC lathe, that is, it would have the 2 axes in each turret (upper and lower) and an additional rotary axis. That allows two tools to be used on the part at the same time, which can perform machining faster.
  • More: There are also more advanced and expensive CNC lathes with more axes, including 6 axes (main spindle axis, sub spindle axis, upper and lower turret with 2 axes each, an additional axis in the upper turret, and a second spindle that can move towards the main spindle to pick up the part). There are also 8-axis, etc., but they are not as common.

Features of the lathes

cnc lathe machine

It is important to know some features about cnc lathe, both to understand its handling, and to properly treat each tool, etc.


Lathes have been in the industry since the XNUMXth century. However, the modern CNC lathes they are much more sophisticated and automated. They are machines operated by computer numerical control and provided with great precision to work the pieces. The difference with other CNC machines is that, in this case, the material is clamped to the machine and rotated by a main spindle. As it rotates radially, a cutting or milling tool will be brought closer to the part to remove the necessary material to achieve the expected model. The parts that are usually worked using this type of machining are usually axes, tubes, screws, etc.

CNC turning machines can operate with 2 axes the most basic, to more complex ones with a much greater degree of freedom. As for the tools that approach the part by turning, they are usually milling cutters, boring tools, threading tools, etc.

Parts of a CNC lathe

Hen/Stag different parts that can be found on a CNC lathe are:

  • Bed: is the bench, the main base of the machine. The different components of the machine, such as the spindle, etc., are assembled there. They can be made of different materials depending on the machine. Brands like Hwacheon make some high quality cast iron beds that are very durable and stable.
  • Spindles: consists of the spindle itself, a drive system, motors, gears, chuck, etc. It is one of the moving parts of the CNC machine. Of course, the tool holder will be placed in the spindle for the tool, in which the tools for machining can be exchanged.
  • Mandril: structure similar to a vise that will hold the parts to be machined so that they do not move during the process. The main spindle will turn both the apron and the workpiece. This part can limit the stability and finish of the part if it is not too stable, as well as the size of parts that can be clamped.
  • Guide: It is the axis or guide through which the tool will move in the allowed directions, depending on the number of axes of the CNC turning machine.
  • Head: It is made up of the main motor and the axis that mounts the chuck. These can be of higher or lower speed of rotation, which is important to take into account to work according to what types of materials. In addition, they should have systems to minimize vibrations from the motor, preventing them from passing into the part and altering the results.
  • Counterpoint: It is at the opposite end of the head, as an additional support for the part. It is necessary when working longer parts, such as tubes, shafts, etc. Some machines allow the tailstock to be programmed to improve the firmness and precision of the machining.
  • tool turret: offers the possibility to change the tools for machining. Its size will be determined by the number and size of the tools that the machine can mount.

Applications of a CNC lathe

A CNC lathe machine can be used for round shapes, with inside and outside diameters, and can generate different machining patterns throughout the part. Some usage examples are:

  • Create pipes
  • make screws
  • Turned parts for ornaments
  • Axes
  • Certain medical parts or implants
  • for electronics
  • Manufacture hollow containers or containers

lathe tools

cnc lathe drill bit

Hen/Stag CNC machine tools can be very different, taking into account the type of blade, or the material from which it has been made.

According to the material

Hen/Stag tools cutting of a CNC machine can be made of materials such as:

  • High speed steel or HSS: They can work in general cutting operations for roughing or semi-finishing.
  • Carbide: They are very hard, and could be used for ferrous, non-ferrous metals, plastics, fibers, graphite, glass, stone or marble, common steel, etc. They are heat resistant, do not rust, and are robust.
  • Diamond: These tools have very high hardness and wear resistance, in addition to having a low coefficient of friction, high elastic modulus, high thermal conductivity, low coefficient of thermal expansion, and low affinity with non-ferrous metals. Therefore, it is often used to machine very hard materials, brittle materials such as graphite, glass, silicon-aluminum alloys, ceramics, and non-ferrous metals.
  • Others: There are also others made of ceramic, cubic boron nitride, etc.

According to its use

Depending on the use of the tool, can be classified as:

  • Turning: It is used for roughing a piece, in order to prepare it for more precise finishes.
  • drill rod: it is a boring bar that can enlarge an existing hole (preformed), that is, a way to enlarge the diameter of holes, hollow out a piece, or create a tube.
  • chamfering tool: You can make chamfers, that is, a chamfer on a transition edge between two faces, or groove. It can be used to remove dangerous sharp edges from a part.
  • knurling tool: Used to print a pattern on a round surface with a series of holes or clips. For example, those rough or dotted spots that you see on the handles of some tools with metal handles, or to hold nuts or pieces, etc.
  • Knife: it will divide the piece in two, in addition to being used to turn or plan the piece. There are many forms.
  • thread cutting: Used to carve a thread in a part.
  • of facing: used to cut a flat surface perpendicular to the axis of rotation of the part, advancing perpendicularly through the axis of rotation of the part.
  • grooving: This is usually a carbide insert mounted on a special tool holder. It is designed for dimension grinding or slot forming and other complex work.
  • training tool: has a flat or circular shape, with cut edges to make a thread, undercut, or groove.

cnc lathe price

types of CNC machines

Can't talk about a price for cnc lathe, since it will depend on the brand, the model, the number of axes, the number of tools you can use, the materials, the size, etc. You can find from some of hundreds of euros to others of thousands of euros. In addition, some factors that affect the final price must be taken into account:

  • País de origen: There are CNC machine manufacturers in Germany, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, China, etc. Depending on the origin, it can have a great impact on the price, being cheaper those from the East.
  • Manufacturing process: Depending on the quality and performance of the machine, it may cost more or less. A simple machine whose investment in R&D has been lower is not the same as if cheaper manufacturing materials are used, or if they are mass-produced or customized according to customer specifications. All this will make the price one or the other.
  • CNC machine size: the small ones are always going to be cheaper than the big ones.
  • Integrated: They can be standard or complex machines, the former with lower prices compared to the latter. In addition to costing more for those extras, maintenance and repair may also be more expensive.
  • Specifications: the number of axes, maximum rotation speed, type of guide system, whether or not they use a cooling system, chip transport systems, automatic tool setting, use of normal or hydraulic chucks, automatic or manual tool change, etc., will affect the final price.
  • Bus Routes: And you should also consider the cost of transporting the machine, since they are quite bulky and heavy. Sometimes it can be competitively priced, but if the shipping costs are too high from your country of origin, it may not be worth it. The freight will include transportation by whatever means, packaging, if necessary a container or flat rack, etc.

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