The lathe is a versatile tool that is used in the most diverse applications. Let’s take a closer look at what this type of equipment allows to do.
The lathe is one of the first “complex” tools made by man, at least on a conceptual level, and was born immediately after the discovery of the wheel, of which it is a direct derivation.
The first examples made date back to prehistoric times, in fact, and obviously we refer to the potter’s lathes; the real potential of this tool, however, remained extremely limited in terms of applications until the tool was finally powered. The manual potter’s wheel and other traditional specimens for specific uses still survive today, but most of the modern lathes by now are all equipped with motor and equipped with electronic control components.
How does it work
In traditional models such as the potter’s wheel, or pottery wheel as it is often defined, the rotary movement occurs around the vertical axis; the piece to be worked, that is the clay mass, is placed on the wheel which is made to rotate more or less quickly in order to exploit the rotary motion to facilitate the modeling of the vase. The applications of the potter’s wheel, therefore, are essentially reduced to the modeling of clay and its subsequent decoration.
With technological progress and the invention of new metal alloys that are increasingly robust and resistant, as well as electric and induction motors, the lathe has found a whole series of new and important applications, both in the artisanal and domestic sectors and in the professional field and above all. industrial. The first revolution, especially in the industrial field, took place thanks to the developments in mechanical engineering, the parallel lathe was created, in which the rotation movement was transferred from the vertical to the horizontal axis.
The parallel lathe, in fact, allows a type of machining where the piece, instead of being placed on a planar platform, is placed and rotated longitudinally between two tailstocks. This feature, together with the use of the motor, has made it possible to work other materials besides clay, especially wood for example, as well as plastics, metals and even glass and crystal.
The creation of the object
All the turning operations therefore culminate in a single creative process, which is essentially the modeling of a piece from which, thanks to a high-speed rotary movement, material is removed with the aid of a chisel or other tool. cut. Consequently, both those intended for hobby use, which among other things are the best-selling lathes as do-it-yourself is one of the largest market segments, and those used in the professional field, are used for operations such as roughing, sanding, polishing and painting of pieces of various kinds and materials.
This applies to all lathe specimens regardless of size, of course, and the differences are only in the area of use, parallel lathes are used by both hobbyists and professionals in fact. In the industrial field, however, where the machining or grinding of large pieces is required, gigantic lathes are used, but they are mainly used by heavy industry, the aerospace industry and shipyards.
Hobbyists such as model-making enthusiasts, on the other hand, usually use small lathes suitable for the measurement scale of the pieces to be machined; the same goes for artisans and professionals.
The various types of processing
Another particular series of turning operations are threading, drilling and reaming, which are aimed at creating and grinding parts intended for precision mechanics.
Threading, also known as breading, is in any case a material removal operation, but unlike the simple removal aimed at modeling a single piece, the purpose of threading is to create a shape capable of creating a coupling between two distinct and separate pieces, which is why it requires extreme precision and strict compliance with millimeter-level measurements because the coupling is helical and must ensure that the two pieces fit together perfectly without creating gaps or impediments.
The threading must therefore be performed externally on one piece and internally on another; the external thread, consequently, is used to make the screws, while the internal thread is called the nut screw and is usually performed on annular or hexagonal shaped pieces, such as nuts.
The drilling is used to make holes, the shape of which can be conical or cylindrical and whose diameter can range from a few millimeters up to several centimeters, depending on the piece to be worked; boring, on the other hand, is an operation that takes place after drilling, as it has as its ultimate purpose the grinding of the diameter and axial line of the holes.
For the creation of certain types of pieces, such as the nuts we have mentioned previously, all three of these operations must necessarily be performed, in addition in the correct order of succession, namely drilling, boring and threading; if the piece needs to be ground, however, then only reaming or threading is done.
The special cases
Furthermore, the lathe ( the best models ) also makes further operations possible, but they are of a highly specialized type and for this reason the lathes used are made according to very specific characteristics that limit their application to certain fields.
A classic example is represented by the lathe for phonographic engravings, also known as phono engraver, which is designed and used exclusively to engrave the matrices that will then be used as masters in the mass production of vinyl records. It hardly needs to be added that, consequently, phono-recorders are used exclusively in the music record industry.
The copying lathe also falls into the category of specimens for specific use, and in fact it is a particular variant of the lathe used for the mass production of identical pieces, based on a previously worked prototype. These lathes are equipped with special additional mechanisms that allow them to reproduce the shape and features of the prototype piece in an exact manner.