Posted May 21, 2020

    Designing for Live Tooling on a Lathe

    Great part design isn't limited to functionality. You need to also consider the manufacturing capabilities that directly affect cost and turnaround. The more complex your part, the more time may be required for setup, additional machining, and adjusting for different equipment tolerances.

    With the evolution of live tooling, the line between turning and milling processes has blurred. Many designs that once required additional milling can now be completed on a lathe, dramatically decreasing project costs and production time.

    When designing complex cylindrical parts, it’s important to understand the basic production capabilities of different types of turning centers. Knowing these limitations will help you discover the the most efficient and profitable manufacturing option for your project. You can then choose to either budget for an additional milling step, adapt your design so that the part can be completed on a lathe, or find a shop that has the live tooling equipment needed to produce your part as economically as possible. 

    Simple Turning Lathe


    Facing produces a flat surface on the end of a part. 


    Threading produces external or internal threads on a part.




    Turning reduces the dimensions of the outer cylindrical faces.




    Parting creates deep grooves that cut off the finished part from the parent stock.




    Finishing produces a finer, lighter cut to create a smooth surface finish. 





    Turning Lathe with Second Spindle

    A second spindle is used to complete features on both sides–important when ordering larger quantities of parts that don't have one end that's flat.


    Live Tooling Lathe Capable of Radial and Axial Milling

    Radial Drilling

    The drill plunges and retracts (X axis motion), with the axis of the live tool (drill) intersecting with the axis of the part. The part then rotates (X axis motion) to go to the next hole.



    Axial Milling

    The tool moves up and down (X axis motion) and is coordinated with the part rotation (C axis motion) to make flats. 



    Axial drilling

    The tool is offset from the part's centerline in X direction (up). Tool plunges into part (left) in Z axis. Part rotates about C axis to move from one hole to the next.



    Zc plane RADIAL tool

    The live tool spins about an axis parallel to the axis of rotation of the main spindle holding the part.



    Live Tooling Lathe With Additional Y Axis

    Off Axis Milling



    The live tool axis does not cross through the axis of the part (offset in Y, toward the back of the machine). 

    XY Motion



    This process is used to chamfer holes or to engrave text. Note that similar results could also be achieved through XC milling.

    Live Tooling Lathe With Additional B Axis

    In this process, the spindle is neither parallel to or perpendicular to the part's rotational access.  LiveToolingAdditionalBAxis



    It's important to work closely with your manufacturing vendor to fully understand their capabilities and how different part design elements may affect your project's costs and turnaround time.