CNC lathes work in the same way as traditional lathes (spindle / multi-spindle) except they provide a level of automation. The CNC system allows the operator to program a variety of tasks, like turning and milling. These lathes have become popular over recent years, thanks to their accuracy, automation and ease of use (compared to older models).

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While CNC lathes do require a thorough understanding to take full advantage of, they are generally considered easier to use than most of the older, manual models that need an incredible amount of knowledge and skill to use.

To use a CNC lathe, the operator will need to input the program into the computer interface. CAD / CAM plans (the program the CNC lathe will follow to turn or mill the workpiece) are necessary to operate a CNC machine. If your operator has the knowledge or training to create the plans, they can do this themselves. However, there are companies that offer CAD / CAM programming as a service, or you can source pre-made programs online.

As with most machines, CNC lathes are available in a range of shapes and sizes, depending on the make and model. While there are differences between models, there are a few similarities you'll find across most CNC lathes. They tend to be rectangular and almost always fully enclosed. So the workpiece is locked into place and then covered while the program runs.

There will usually be a window or viewing section next to the computer interface, allowing the operator to monitor the lathe as it runs. For CNC lathes that work on larger workpieces, these will generally not be enclosed. However, this is generally for only the largest CNC lathes on the market, some of which are able to work on pieces that weigh up to 18 tonnes.

Some of the specs you'll want to look out for when buying a CNC lathe are things like: swing over bed size, tool size, bed width, spindle speeds, and workpiece capacity.

If you're unsure whether a CNC lathe is right for your needs, or you're not sure what make and model will best suit your workspace, consult with your dealer or seller.