A computer numerical control (CNC) mini lathe is a smaller version of an industrial CNC lathe. It is used to produce very small parts that cannot be produced on larger CNC lathe or that can be produced more economically with a mini lathe. The best CNC mini lathe will deliver high accuracy and precision, will be constructed of durable long-lasting parts and will have sufficient mass to remain stable during use. It should be easy to install and understand, as well as easy to clean thoroughly. Consider also the types of accessories that come with the lathe or can be used with it, because these will increase the range of projects that it can be used to complete.
There are countless options for buying a CNC mini lathe. It is best to speak with an experienced machinist who has used multiple designs and brands before purchasing a lathe. New and used lathes can be found at retail stores and on the Internet, but be sure to inspect a pre-owned lathe for signs of wear, damage or instability. If possible, test the machine and the program that will control it.
Hobbyists and professionals who need to create tiny objects, such the pieces found inside a wristwatch, use these types of lathes. They are small enough to be used on a table top or workbench. A CNC mini lathe is most often used for “turning,” or spinning a metal cylinder at a high speed while cutting it to create a new object. They also can be used for cutting complex curves and other shapes, depending on the machine design and computer program used. The size of a CNC mini lathe also makes it useful for cutting more lightweight materials, such as plastic or wax.
CNC users input instructions into a computer program rather than controlling the machine by hand, as would be done with a conventional lathe. These types of lathes can be used for creating multiple, identical copies of single objects, such as game pieces. They are also used for highly detailed or sophisticated cuts such as tiny right angles or curves. The computer control allows for precision that would be difficult to match with a manual lathe. For instance, a digital readout attached to the lathe’s headstock allows the user to know exactly how far he or she is drilling into an object.