Lathes have gotten a lot more sophisticated these days. The best cnc lathe machine options out there are the ones that fulfil your design and manufacturing goals. Below is a guide on how to choose the best cnc lathe machine for your goals
What is a cnc lathe machine?
A cnc lathe machine is a lathe that uses a cnc (computer numerically controlled) system to control the lathe. So the lathe is pretty much run by a computer.
All you need to do is create your project in 3d using a cad (computer aided design) program. Then export that file and import it into a cam (computer aided manufacturing) program. This will then translate it into a ‘language’ that the machine will recognize and will do the rest for you on the cnc machine lathe.
Best Lathe cnc machine
Mini lathes – Definitely go with Sherline. These guys are based in the U.S. and have been around since way before I was even born. Their mini cnc lathes come in a full package, so include the lathes, chucks, accessories and computer. This is a great choice for someone who wants to get all the parts all together with the least amount of hassle.
Check out this page from Sherline for their range of different types of mini cnc lathe machine. The website has a good faq that will allow you to see what their mini lathes for cnc can or can not do. For example, they woon’t cut threads without other accessories.
Regular sized lathes – Check out CNC Masters here. They have a few solid types of cnc turning lathe machine that you can choose from. They have pretty reasonable priced machines that start at under $10,000 USD. Their CNC 1340 Turning Center lathe can be used as both a cnc lathe milling machine as well as a manual lathe, so you do not need to cnc program for shorter runs.
Cnc lathe machine operator and Cnc lathe machine programming
Cnc operator jobs are becoming more and more in high demand and the standard cnc operator salary has gone up due to the niche. If you have experience with cad/cam and cnc programming, then you could earn between $30-70,000 USD a year from the job postings that I have seen. Check out our cnc operator salary guide.
Cnc lathe machine parts
For standard lathes and lathe parts, check out some of the top brands such as Jet, Shop Fox or Grizzly.
For more standardized cnc parts, I would recommend going to the manufacturer whose machine that you have. Parts may include spindles, tool holders and cutters, but this all depends on the machine and brand that you have.
Cnc vertical lathe machine
Youji, Femco and Kaast – Youji is based in China has a massive range of cnc vertical lathe machines that you could consider. Obviously, if you are in the U.S., then this may be a little hard. I would recommend for you readers out in the U.S. to check out Femco as well as Kaast which both have a couple of larger scale cnc vertical lathes that you can look at as a good starting point.
The above three cnc lathe machine manufacturer directions are a good way to see what is out there. Obviously, with larger scale machines, the price is going to go up. This may mean outsourcing certain jobs if you do not need the machine much.
Save on cnc lathe machine prices by buying a used cnc machine
Buying a used cnc lathe machine is a great option to save some money. You may be able to pick up an older lathe and retrofit it, or you may be able to buy an older cnc wood lathe machine that will help you achieve the same goals as a new one.
Obviously things like wear and tear as well as the lack of a warranty are some of the downsides. But if you are diy person, these challenges alongside online help forums should be able to help you out. The cnc community is a very helpful group online, especially the members on cnczone.com or the popular machinist forum. Good luck!