lathe CNC conversion

5 Benefits Of Automating Your Manual Lathe With A CNC Conversion Kit

A lathe CNC conversion can be the best value addition to your machine shop 

As a manual lathe machinist, an upgrade to CNC is something you should go for, and thanks to conversion kits, you can do so hassle-free. 


But why go for a CNC lathe, you may ask? 


The answer is simple, to produce top-notch pieces more efficiently. 


You see, on a manual lathe, you need intense time and effort to create a high-quality part. And even after relentless efforts, there’s a good chance the pieces won’t be as good as one machined in a CNC lathe. 


On the contrary, with the advanced capabilities and endless customization options that CNC machining offers, you can precisely machine just about any workpiece. 


However, the biggest worry for you as a hobbyist or small workshop owner could be the high cost of a CNC lathe. 


So, what’s the solution? 


Well, if you already own a manual turning machine, turning it into a CNC machine using a CNC conversion kit can be your best bet. As such, you’ll have the same machining capabilities as a brand-new CNC lathe without breaking the bank. 


There’s more to lathe machine CNC conversion, so let’s have a look in detail. 

What is a lathe CNC conversion kit? 

lathe CNC conversion

As you may know, a lathe machine, at its very basic, is a machine tool used to rotate a workpiece on an axis. And that is true for both manual and automatic lathes performing multiple operations like drilling, turning, facing, knurling, cutting, and more. 


Now coming to a lathe CNC conversion kit, as the name suggests, you can use one to automate your manual lathe machine and make it CNC-capable. 


CNC conversion kits for turning machines bring about ‘computer numeric control,’ which uses pre-programing software/s to control and run your machine. 


The result: you no longer need to run your lathe manually, as you can simply program it to your workpiece specifications, and it’ll do the machining. 


Interesting, isn’t it? 

Reasons to go for lathe CNC conversion:

lathe CNC conversion

#1. Easy and quick machining with 100 percent automation

If you’ve some experience with a manual lathe, you’ll agree with the fact that machining on such lathes isn’t easy at all. It can rather take days, if not months, for even a seasoned machinist to attain accuracy on a certain workpiece. 


But what if you could make machining easy and quick on your lathe? 


It’s now possible to do so with CNC lathe conversion, which automates and turns your regular manual lathe into a high-capacity CNC lathe. Meaning, you can now produce pieces of the highest quality with the click of a button. 


As a CNC lathe eliminates the requirement to manually machine the pieces, all you need to do is set the G-codes and monitor the machining process. That’s because your CNC lathe will produce the parts from start to finish all by itself.


Talking about machining speed, a CNC lathe machine outplays its manual counterpart here as well. 


You see, while attaining accuracy and precision on a larger quantity of workpieces is time-consuming on manual lathes, that’s not the case anymore post CNC conversion. So you can produce tons of parts way too quickly, as CNC increases the speed of your lathe manifold. 


In fact, industry data show that CNC lathes can produce twenty times more than manual lathes in a given time period. 


Also, with greater speed comes scalability, meaning you’ll be able to machine a lot more pieces in far less time, thus growing your business. 


Sounds awesome, doesn’t it? 

#2. A CNC kit can make your lathe versatile

When it comes to the kinds of workpieces you can machine on your manual lathe; the list will be really small. And for obvious reasons as there are serious limitations to such lathes’ machining capabilities. 


Nevertheless, with a CNC lathe kit, you can change it, making your machine highly versatile and flexible. 




While you can work, at the most, on one or two workpiece types with a manually controlled lathe, it’s an entirely different story on a CNC lathe. That means the materials you can machine on your converted CNC lathe machine will be endless. 


So from different wood types to plastic to soft and hard metals, you name it, and your CNC lathe can handle it. 


Want more? 


After lathe CNC conversion, your machine will be able to create just about any shape you want on your workpiece. In fact, you’ll be able to create even such shapes, designs, and patterns that aren’t humanly possible on a non-CNC lathe. 


Amazing, right? 

#3. Unmatched machine tolerance after CNC conversion

As you saw, with lathe CNC conversion comes scalability since you’re able to produce more and better pieces. 


But, when scaling your production, there’s another challenge that you’ll be faced with, which is the tolerance of your lathe. 


On a manual lathe, tolerance levels are less, meaning you can run the machine only for a fixed number of hours. And because it’s the same machine you’re using after CNC conversion to increase production, you’re sure to wonder how long you can operate it. 


You see, a lathe post CNC conversion is as good as a brand new CNC lathe machine. That’s because the process of turning your machine to CNC involves a change of machine tools and an upgrade to stepper motors. 


So for a medium-sized lathe, the tolerance levels will be quite similar to a mini lathe CNC machine


As such, you can rest assured of high tolerance levels on your newly converted lathe, which can now operate for long hours non-stop.

#4. Nothing beats the efficiency levels of a CNC lathe

CNC machines, including lathes and mills, are known for their high efficiency, which stands to save you money. 


But what exactly makes these machines so efficient? 


You can find the answer to this in the way a CNC lathe works. 


At first, a CNC lathe, be it brand-new or post conversion, brings down waste generation during machining to zero. That’s not the case with many manually controlled lathes, which produce a lot of waste while machining.  


And with the elimination of waste, you’ll be able to utilize most of your workpiece to create parts, thus producing more with the same amount of materials. 


Second, you will no longer need a lot of people at your CNC machine shop to help you with production. That’s because the turning process is automatic and doesn’t require a person to control the CNC machine tools


Also, you’ll need a less skilled workforce since small to medium CNC lathes are fairly easy to operate and don’t need extensive training or expertise. 


As a result, lathe CNC conversion will reduce your operating costs significantly while also increasing the quality of production. 

#5. CNC lathe conversion ensures zero error in machining 

Even if you’re a highly skilled machinist, there are chances that you might make errors when creating a piece on a manual lathe. In fact, the very process of attaining accuracy and producing precise parts on such lathes involves a lot of trial and error. 


And while making errors on a lathe is part of honing your machining skills, the only problem is that it results in a waste of time and resources. 


You can’t afford to be inefficient in a market that is so competitive. Can you? 


Since a CNC lathe eliminates human error entirely, you can easily achieve 100 percent accuracy in manufacturing. 

CNC lathe machine: FAQs

lathe CNC conversion

#1. What are the different types of CNC lathes on the market? 

You may have come across popular names like engine lathes, turret lathes, speed lathes, etc. However, in terms of machining, there are only two lathe types, namely, vertical and horizontal lathes.  


To begin with, a vertical lathe, be it manual or CNC has its spindle axis oriented vertically. Herein, the workpiece is rotated upright, letting the spindle make cuts at certain fixed angles. 


Vertical lathes usually occupy less space and are a great option for machining heavy and large workpieces. 


Next up, we’ve got the horizontal lathes which have their cutting tools mounted horizontally, thus rotating workpieces cylindrically. 


Since workpieces are held vertically on the chuck on these lathes, they are apt to machine light materials. 


But, if you’re looking for a compact lathe, we will suggest you go for a vertical lathe. That’s because horizontal lathes take up a lot of areas, which can be problematic for a small-sized machine shop. 

#2. How to choose the right lathe CNC conversion kit? 

While lathe CNC conversion is an awesome way to turn your manual lathe into a CNC machine, choosing the right conversion kit for the purpose can be tricky. 


Nevertheless, you can have the right CNC conversion kit for your lathe by considering the following: 

  • The conversion kit should be apt to the size of your lathe. And even though finding such a conversion kit may sound hectic, you can simply get one from the same manufacturer as your lathe. For instance, if you own a Grizzly G9972Z lathe, you can go for a Grizzly G9972Z conversion kit
  • You should definitely consider the power and feed rate of the stepper motor and buy a conversion kit with the right motor to cover your requirements. 


As you can see, the benefits of converting your lathe to CNC are endless. So with a lathe CNC conversion kit, not only do you provide a fillip to your business but also make the task of machining a lot easier. 


And not to forget, a conversion kit lets you have a CNC lathe on a shoe-string budget, thus saving your upfront investment. 


Looking for one such CNC conversion kit for your manual lathe? 


You can reach out to us.


At CNC Conversion Plus, we have the widest range of cost-effective and high-performance lathe and mill conversion kits for just about every machine shop. 


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