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The Automatic Lathe From Ancient Egypt to Today


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In the manufacturing industry there are many machines that come in handy during the manufacturing process. Machines such as drills, grinders, conveyors and air compressors all have their specific purpose. No matter the function of a specific machine, each piece of equipment relies on each other to perform properly and get the job done. If there is a specific piece of machinery not functioning properly it can cause the entire process to come to a stand still until that one machine is repaired.

While most pieces of machinery have a specific purpose, there are machines out there that have multiple functions. A machine such as the automatic lathe serves multiple purposes and is one of the most diverse pieces of machinery.

Automatic lathes serve as spinning machine tools that rotate a piece of material to perform different functions. These functions include sanding, cutting, deformation and drilling. A tool is applied to the spinning equipment to form a symmetrical object on a rotating axis by sanding, cutting or performing any of the other functions a lathe is capable of. Because of its multiple functions, lathes are capable of producing a diverse compilation of products. These products include baseball bats, dining room table and chair legs, wooden bowls, pool table cue sticks and crankshafts. In addition, many lathes are able to be used to shape pottery as well.

Lathes were first reported as being used as early as 1300 BC in Egypt. The Egyptians created a two person lathe where one person would be in charge of turning the wood piece with a rope and the other person used a sharp tool to cut shapes into the wood. The lathe went through many different transformations and additions such as the addition of a pedal to replace the hand-operated turning. It wasn't until the industrial revolution that the automatic lathe was invented by adding a motor that increased the speed of the rotation and allowed the operator to fully concentrate on working with the tool as opposed to turning the wheel.

Now most lathes are automatic because they are hooked up to a computer for ease of operation. Each computer-aided lathe is programmed for a certain function. If the lathe is operated in a furniture manufacturing facility, it would be programmed to shape wood a certain way to fit with other pieces of equipment. The automatic lathe allows for mass production of certain products because more products are able to be made during a shorter period of time. In addition, it also increases productivity and cuts down on the cost of employment. Because it is computer-aided, the number of employees needed to operate it is decreased.

In addition to increased productivity and decreased costs, these instruments also provide safety to the employees that are operating them. Many computer-aided devices come equipped with safety features. For instance, if a lathe operator gets his shirt stuck in the spinning piece of equipment, the computer can detect this and automatically shut down the system. This can prevent operators from getting injuries that might have otherwise occurred if the piece of equipment was not hooked to a computer with these safety features.

Automatic lathes can also provide quality control on products. A computer allows for a product to be produced accurately and without any human-errors. It assures that every product will turn out the same. For many pieces of machinery, products have to go through a quality control test before they can be sent out of the manufacturing plant. These tests make sure that each product is up to the standards of the company and that there are no flaws. By being connected to a computer, the lathe is able to perform this operation effectively, therefore saving time and money.

The automatic lathe has gone through modifications over the years, from ancient Egypt to modern day. Though technology has advanced and made some machinery obsolete there is evidence that these will be around for centuries to come.

Andy West is a writer for Wickman Group which offers a wide selection of machine tools to a global market. Whether you are in the market for an automatic lathe or a screw machine, Wickman can supply it. For more information please visit


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