What Is the Difference Between a Lathe and a Milling Machine?

What Is the Difference Between a Lathe and a Milling Machine?

Lathes and milling machines are two of the most used CNC router machines in workshops worldwide. They are excellent cutting tools for shaping and forming various materials, such as wood, metals and plastic.

Lathes and milling machines fundamentally differ in how they perform and interact with production materials. In a nutshell, their difference lies in which components move while the other remains stationary during a machining operation. By understanding these differences, you can take full advantage of their capabilities and take your manufacturing operations to the next level.

What Is A Lathe?

A lathe is a type of CNC router machine wherein its main cutting tool remains stationary as the main material being machined is clamped and rapidly rotated. It is typically used in a process called turning, where the material rotates rapidly while the cutting tool slowly moves along the y-axis and removes small parts of the material to create cylindrical parts.

Other cutting operations performed on a lathe include:

  • Drilling
  • Threading
  • Boring
  • ID and OD Grooving
  • Parting

How Does a Lathe Work?

The lathe is a perfect tool to use when the operation calls for repeatable and symmetrical cylindrical parts. In a normal turning operation, the material to be cut is clamped and rotated by the main spindle. Meanwhile, the main cutting tool is attached to a cross slide, which allows the stationary cutting tool to move along different axes to facilitate the cutting of the flat material.

Typically, the cross slide allows the cutting tool to move along the x- and z-axes, enabling the cutting of the material into shapes with radial symmetry.

Other, more complicated machines, called Turning Centers, are capable of machining more complex parts due to their ability to move along an additional axis (y-axis) or have specific additional functionalities.

What Types of Products Can They Create?

  • Bowls
  • Gun Barrels
  • Candlestick Holders
  • Cue Sticks
  • Baseball Bats
  • Woodwind Instruments>
  • Camshafts

What Is A Milling Machine?

A milling machine is one of the most common CNC router machines you will find in any CNC workshop. In this type of machine, the cutting tool rotates rapidly and can move across different axes while the material being machined remains stationary.

Milling machines are quite versatile when it comes to the types of cutting operations they can perform, such as:

  • Drilling
  • Boring
  • Cutting
  • Shaping
  • Flattening
  • Rounding-Off Edges

How Does a Milling Machine Work?

Milling machines are typically used to produce a wide variety of products, machine components and parts. This is carried out using the rapid rotating action of the cutting tool, which removes material from the workpiece gradually as it moves along the work surface.

Milling machines use cutting tools that are cylindrically shaped. They are capable of working on a wide range of materials, from sheet metal to wood to large blocks, in order to create products in varying shapes, sizes, and conformations as they move through the product either horizontally or vertically.

What Types of Products Can They Create?

  • Metal Engravings & Sculptures>
  • Trophies
  • Car parts
  • Building Fixtures
  • Gears

Take Your Workshop to the Next Level With CAMaster

CAMaster is committed to meeting your efficiency and productivity goals by equipping your workshop or manufacturing facility with industry-leading CNC routers and accessories.

Equip your operations with top-tier CNC lathes and milling machines to give you the means to gain a competitive edge in your industry.

Find out more about how superior machines can take your business to the next level by contacting us today.