CNC Machine Tools

Lathes and Turning Centres Information

Metal lathe and turning centres cut a rotating part with a stationary cutting tool. The tool moves parallel and perpendicular to the workpiece axis to provide the desired finished shape. A lathe is a machine tool which spins a block of material so that when abrasive, cutting, or deformation tools are applied to the block, it can be shaped to produce an object which has rotational symmetry about an axis of rotation.


There are several types of lathes and turning centres. Examples include a wood lathe, metal lathe, CNC lathe, CNC turning centre, CNC machining centre, and multi-axis machine tool.

A wood lathe is a power machine used to hold and turn wood that is being shaped or cut.

A metal lathe is a power machine used to hold and turn metal that is being shaped or cut.

A CNC lathe (computer numerically controlled) is a machine tool which is operated under automatic control, as opposed to manually by an operator.

A turning centre is used to operate a CNC lathe and is a versatile system that enables control of the motion of tools and parts through computer programs that use numeric data.

A CNC machining centre is a multi-function machine that typically combines boring, drilling, and milling tasks.

A computer-controlled multi-axis machine tool can manufacture various workpieces automatically according to tool paths generated by software and workpiece models.

Other lathes and turning centres are commonly available.


Lathes and turning centres are designed with a variety of specifications. Lathes and turning centres are manufactured to meet most industry needs.

A wood lathe is available in many sizes, from small pen lathes to huge bowl turning machines. A wood lathe is designated according to the maximum diameter of material that can be swung over the bed. A wood lathe capable of turning an 11-inch diameter disk is referred to as an 11-inch wood lathe. Another dimension on a wood lathe is the centre to centre measurement, this determines the maximum length of material that can be mounted between the headstock and tailstock.

A metal lathe spins a workpiece along a horizontal axis. A mandrel or chuck is mounted to the headstock of the metal lathe and a follower block or tail block is mounted to the tailstock. A metal lathe can also form hollow parts by a process called metal spinning.

A CNC lathe has a choice of function expansion options including sub-spindle for two-sided machining, and driven tools and Y-axis for eccentric boring and milling.

A typical CNC machining centre is usually a 3-axis milling machine. Typically, a CNC machining centre is designed to remove material using a rotating cutter that moves laterally to a workpiece mounted onto a table or fixture. Machining centres can be horizontal or vertical in design.

There are several multi-axis machine tool programs that can provide turning results from roughing and grooving to threading and finishing, for faster, more accurate results.

CNC Lathes Including:

- From Miniature to Extra Large Parts

- High Efficiency Machining Solutions

- Optional C-Axis and Driven Tools

- Barfeeder and Auto-Loader compatible


- Chuck Size 4" - 40"

- Turning Diameter from 0 - 1,500 mm

- Turning Length from 0 - 30,000 mm

Horizontal vs. Vertical CNC Machining Centres (Lathes)

One explanation for two popular, yet different CNC Machining Centres

There are two machining centre forms, the horizontal and vertical. This refers to the main spindles orientation. Both the horizontal and vertical machining centres come in small, bench-mounted devices to a room-sized machine.

Horizontal machining centres have x – y table with cutter mounted on a horizontal arbor across the table. Most horizontal machining centres highlight a rotary table allowing one to mill at shallow angles. Horizontal machining centres are often used to mill grooves and slots. It may also be used to shape flat surfaces.

Vertical machining centres have its spindle axis vertically oriented. Its milling cutters are held in the spindle and it rotates on its axis. Generally, the spindle could be extended to allow plunge cuts and drilling, although the table could also be lowered or raised.

Although they may be similar since both are machining centres, vertical and horizontal machining centres serve different purposes. Horizontal machining centres were first to appear to put milling tables under lathe-like headstocks. However, through the desire to change the angle of the horizontal machining centres, accessories such as add-on heads were created to convert the horizontal to vertical machining centres.

Horizontal machining centres work best with heavy work piece that needs machining on multiple sides. Die sinking on the other hand is best with vertical machining centres.