A spinning lathe is a lathe that forms thin-walled ductile metals into a variety of cylindrical or semi-cylindrical shaped parts. This type of lathe has been derived from both the wood and engine lathes and, if tooled properly, each style of machine is capable of spinning. A spinning lathe has all of the major components of a wood lathe or engine lathe, but the types of tooling that are used and how these are mounted are different. Wood lathes or engine lathes typically are designed to cut material, but a spinning lathe is designed to form material.
Exterior tools, such as harden rollers or forming spoons, are used to force the spinning metal into the desired size and shape. Sometimes, a mandrel might also be employed to help form the interior of the spun metal shape. The spinning lathe make a variety of products, from metal cones to compressed gas cylinders.
For a spinning lathe to work properly, the material to be spun must be properly chosen. A variety of metals can be chosen, but each of these should have a high ductility. Some of the metals that have been spun are brass, copper, steel, stainless steel and aluminum.
After a metal has been chosen, it is then important for the lathe operator to determine the initial shape and the final shape of the material. The initial and final shape will help the operator determine the size of the spinning lathe to be used. For instance, if a metal disc is spun, then a lathe with a large swing should be used. If the material is smaller or possibly cylindrical in shape, the swing distance might be reduced.
A spinning lathe is used for production and one-off parts. Spinning lathes set for production will generally have standardized tooling and might have a fast changeover capability. Individual parts will not necessarily be used with a dedicated spinning lathe, and the tooling might be of a more generic nature.
With spinning lathes, operations might be performed with a computer numerical control (CNC) or manually. Production spinning of very large parts might generally be paired with a CNC machine. When small quantities or relatively small parts are needed, a skilled lathe operator might produce such items.
For some spinning lathe operations, it is beneficial to heat the material as it is being formed. Heat naturally builds while a product is being spun. If the material is thicker or susceptible to stress fracturing, additional heat might be applied to assist the flow of material as the lathe is in operation.