Manual vs CNC Lathes

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Lathes have been essential tools in the machining industry for literally hundreds of years. These versatile pieces of equipment have been used to make everything from furniture to automotive parts. Over time, the traditional manual lathes evolved as new technologies were adopted. Eventually the CNC (Computer Numerical Control) lathe was developed. These are a few of the differences between manual and CNC lathes:

Manual Lathes

Manual lathes are powerful tools when operated by a skilled worker. Still, despite what is theoretically possible with a manual lathe, it takes many years of experience for an operator to become highly proficient and versatile.

It is not uncommon for machinists with limited experience to discover that they do not have the skills to produce certain types of parts on a manual lathe. The path to proficiency on a manual lathe involves many hours of practice and many wasted materials.

Another consideration with manual lathes is the difficulty of perfectly replicating parts. This may not be a consideration with artistic creations or one-off parts, but it is very hard to produce a large number of identical items on a manual lathe.

CNC Lathes

CNC lathes are more expensive and complicated than manual lathes, but they also offer some exciting benefits when compared to a manual lathe. The bottom line is that a CNC lathe can do anything that can be done with a manual lathe, plus a whole lot more.

Since CNC lathes are controlled by a computer, they are able to produce perfect duplicates of a design. This accuracy and precision saves a machine shop time and money by significantly reducing waste due to errors. This accuracy is especially important when machining precise parts.

While CNC lathes are more expensive than manual lathes, and involve the expense of the computer and software to operate the lathe, the increased productivity and decreased waste means that they usually pay for themselves rather quickly.

Manual and CNC lathes both have benefits when operated by a skilled machinist. At Lowrance Machine, we maintain both types of lathes so that we can best meet the needs of our customers. Contact us today at 281-449-6524 to learn more about our capabilities.