Lathe or milling machine? What is the best one for your business?

But wait! Aren’t lathes and milling machines the same thing? No, it doesn’t.  Even though popularly they seem to work for the same thing, the truth is that those of us who work in the machine tool world know the differences between lathe and milling machine. We’ll explain you the different works that they can do!

The lathe and the milling machine are two machine tools that have had a similar path in their industry history, always seeking one evolution that release the operator from manual work that put his safety at risk.

Most of the times, if you are not an expert in the subject, is easy that you can confuse the works that these two machine tools can make. For that, in this new blog, we want to explain you what the differences between a lathe and a milling machine are. And which operations they can perform.

But before start! Let us to explain briefly what a machine tool is.

Machine tools are power devices used to shape or machine solid materials, mainly metals. In this case, the lathe and the milling machine produce the part, removing material through a cutting device.

Now! Let’s get down to business.

What is the difference between lathe and milling machine?

The most basic difference between a lathe and a milling machine is that on the lathe, the workpiece is attached at the chuck that spin at certain speed, and the tools cut and shape the material. By the other hand, in the milling machine, the workpiece is hold in a steady position while the tools are the ones that spin and get near to the material in order to mechanize it.

We’ll give you a tip: if you are looking to mechanize a cylindric piece, don’t doubt it, the machine tool that you need, is a lathe.

To know which is the best machine tool for your business, we are going to explain in detail how they are and what we can do with this machineries.

What is a lathe? And what works it can do?

The lathe is a machine tool that we control at Pinacho. We have more than 75 years of experience manufacturing the. But today, we are not going to give you a masterclass about lathes (but if you want, you can take a lathe operator training in our factory), today we want to explain some basic issues that maybe you don’t know.

Ok! Let’s start with something easy: what is a lathe? One possible definition is that the lathe is a machine tool that allow us mechanize pieces through chip removal by spinning the workpiece.

While one cutting tool move on in a controlled way and cut the piece generating chips. In brief, we can say that a lathe transforms the initial workpiece (usually in a cylindrical shape) into a final part by removing material

Architecture of a lathe

The modern version of a lathes appears in 1797 by the hand of Henry Maudslay and, little by little, its architecture has been evolved till the today’s most modern lathes. But which are the different components of this machine tool?

  • Bed: is the dorsal spine and biggest part of the lathe. Its function is to bring strength and hold the machine tool from deforming.
  • Headstock: normally, it’s on the left site and is part of the fixed mounting of the lathe. Two of its principal components are the main spindle bore and the motor.
  • Spindle bore is the axis of the lathe that, with help of a clamping chuck, hold and transmits the power from the motor to the workpiece.
  • Clamping chuck: accessory used to hold the piece that is going to be mechanized.
  • Carriage: its´s the part of the lathe that move along the bed and allows the movement in Z axis.
  • Cross slide: is the one that allows perpendicular scroll in X axis.
  • Turret: it’s a lathe accessory that hold the work tools. This part is assembled in the top of the carriage.
  • Tailstock: the axis of this piece overlaps with the axis of the headstock. It is meant to support the longest pieces that are going to be mechanized.
  • Steady rest: are systems that support the workpiece. It provides stability to the machining process. There are two types:
  • Fixed steady rest: it can be putted in any part of the bed guide
  • Follow rest: it is assembled on the main carriage.

Works that a lathe can do

Lathes can make a long list of works depending on the configuration and number of controlled axes available, but in this blog instalment we are going to explain you 4 basic mechanizing’s that they can do.

  • Turning: it consists of mechanizing of the top of the workpiece leaving a cylindric or conic area.
  • Boring: operation that aims to increase the bores dimensions of the work piece.
  • Facing: realization of the flat surfaces in X axe direction. This can be a partial process. On a limit area, on all the free surfaces.
  • Drilling: making of holes in the workpiece.

What is a milling machine? Which work it can do?

The milling machines are machine tools that have a continuous movement that allows the manufacturing of the pieces with different forms and dimensions thanks to one cutter tool.

Milling machine architecture

The milling machine and the lathe have a similar architecture. We’ll tell you to know if you can find de differences.

  • Base: it’s a cast-iron box, normally rectangular, that fix the machine on the floor.
  • Column: is the body machine and, on the frontal part it has tracks that allows movement to the worktable.
  • Worktable: it’s a element that has the function to support the workpieces
  • Over arm: the element in charge of carrying the working tool and transmits the power from the motor.
  • Table traverse: cast part that moves on the worktable.

Main works that a milling machine can do

  • Frontal milling: this exercise is used to make flat surfaces on workpieces perpendicular to the cutting
  • Flat milling: is an operation in which the milling cutter axis keeps parallel while the milling process is performed on flat surfaces.
  • Shape milling: this is the machining of a contour and can be shaped by straight lines, curved lines, or both in the same cut. Rounding cutters (concave, convex or corner) are used for this process.
  • Grooving: this machining is used not only to create grooves (narrow or in the workpiece), but also to split the workpiece into two parts.
  • Threading: machining used to produce threads in the cylindrical workpiece.

Sure that, after this long explanation, you are asking “But ¿what are the main differences?” The basic difference between a lathe and a milling machine is that, on a lathe the workpiece is fixed in a chuck that spin at “x” revolutions and, the tools cut and shape. On the other hand, in milling machines, the material is stationary, and are the tools the ones that rotate and approach the workpiece to machine it.

And here’s a tip. If you are looking to machine a cylindrical part, don’t hesitate, your machine tool is a LATHE.

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