The History of the CNC Lathe

Posted on September 27, 2019

Computer Numerical Control (CNC) lathes now form an integral part of a huge variety of manufacturing processes, able to produce repeatable, precision components with ease. The lathe itself though, prior to its computerised attachment, has a long history.

The first evidence of the use of lathes dates back to around 1300 BC in ancient Egypt, using tools to work on a spinning workpiece.

With the advent of the Industrial Revolution, lathes began to become larger, more complex and more powerful. The use of steam and waterpower allowed the applications to become more sophisticated and the products to advance in quality.

It was around this time that this new generation of lathes was used to create a more refined series of cannons which were used to some success by the British in the American Revolutionary War.

From here, lathes were later advanced with the introduction of individual electric motors, allowing for greater power and dependability, along with a smaller footprint, especially in comparison lathewith those units which were horse-powered.

The next phase of development was brought about after the end of WWII, as Numerical Control systems were developed. Though basic by today’s standards, these systems brought lathes away from the use of wheels and levers for control input.

This evolved throughout the ‘60s, with operators able to input sequences using alphanumeric systems recorded onto tape and subsequently floppy discs.

The first CNC lathes were a product of the 1970s when advancements in computer technology enabled the creation of more sophisticated control, whereby the operator could interface directly with the CNC computer control, rather than simply inserting pre-recorded controls.

Now, the increasing availability of computer systems and open source software has allowed CNC lathes to not only become more diverse but also to become more accurate, faster and at a lower starting price point.

This, in turn, means that more manufacturers are able to take advantage of the technology and integrate CNC lathes alongside traditional models.

To find out more about the world of modern CNC lathes and ETG’s range of industry-beating lathe technology, contact us today.