CNC Turning Programming : Turning Centre Basics

In this article we are going to take a look at the difference between lathes and turning centres. When it comes to CNC turning programming, the two terms are often used interchangeably. In fact, there really is not formal distinction between the two. What is clear however is that a lathe is a more simple machine, and therefore the operations are simpler. Lathes were invented long before modern day CNC turning centres. A modern day turning centre will integrate both milling and drilling capabilities.

CNC Turning Programming : CNC Lathes

A simple CNC lathe works on 2 axes, X and Z. It typically has only one chuck. A turning centre however will incorporate the Y axis. A turning centre is therefore more of a multi-tasking machine. What this means simply is that they offer far more than turning, which is where the limitations lie with a basic CNC lathe. The CNC lathe can therefore be seen to have evolved into the modern day CNC turning centre we see today. However, whether you are working on a lathe or a complex turning centre, the basic of CNC turning programming stays the same.

CNC turning programming

The Headstock

The headstock houses the speed and gear changing mechanics, as well as the main spindle. In the early days, the spindle was driven directly via a flat belt pulley. Times have changed however, and nowadays it is driven by an electric motor. Connected to the headstock you will find the lathe bed. They are connected in such a way so that the carriage and tailstock move in parallel to the spindle access.

Leadscrews and Feedscrews

The feedscrew can be summarized as a long driveshaft. It connects to a series of gears that allow the carriage to be driven along the Z axis. The leadscrew on the other hand does the same thing, but along the X axis. Both of the above can be found made to metric or imperial standards. The carriage is what holds the tool in place, moving the cutting tool longitudinally or perpendicularly. The carriage is made up of the saddle, and the apron, these casting being found on the top and the side, respectively.

Turning Operations

In CNC turning programming you will find a wide variety of operations that are performed. The amount of different operations will depend on whether you are working on an old-fashioned lathe or a modern turning centre. Operations include facing, knurling, threading, drilling, boring, reaming, and taper turning.

Configuration of your Turning Centre

Nowadays you will find two different types of CNC machining centres. Traditional they would be horizontal, but nowadays you will also find vertical turning centres. Horizontal centre still make up around of all turning centres found.

When it comes to CNC turning programming it can therefore be said that a lathe and a turning centre are basically the same thing. But, a lathe is limited to the parts that it can make due to the fact that it works on only 2 axes instead of 3.

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