3d Printing A Mini Lathe

While browsing on one of our regularly visited sites, RobotsDreams, we found this interesting little video. Here, [Sublime] is showing off his 3d printed mini lathe. In the video he mentions that all the files are available for download so you could make one for yourself, but there were unfortunately no links. A quick bit of googling and we found some more information.  We found the project on Thiniverse, though reading through the comments it seems that [Sublime] no longer uses Thingiverse. You can now find the files on his GitHub account to make your own.

The design seems very solid and looks like it could handle some basic jobs. As [Sublime] points out in the video below, you already know what parts are going to wear out fast and can simply print a few extras to have on hand.  While that may seem somewhat wasteful, he also points out that he’s using PLA which is compostable and much easier to recycle.

21 thoughts on “3d Printing A Mini Lathe

  1. This takes 3d printing to a new level of usefulness. Im curious what limitations this puts on what you can turn, and if it could be overcome by strategic use of non printed parts to reduce wear and increase cutting force.

  2. Looking at the way that his chuck is wobbling around even in that short demonstration when not under any cutting load, it won’t possess much in the way of accuracy, rigidity, or repeatability. Which terrible as mini lathes can be out the factory, they do at least manage.
    I would love to see a demo of it cutting metal and proved wrong. I think you would be better off clamping a drill in the vice and mounting a chuck to it.

    1. It wont be making any pool cues any time soon, but like any RC car you need to see the break points and improve. Still the cad work to make it is impressive. Throw away tools that work as well as chinese cheepos probably have a good future.

  3. Wax printing!
    What a perfect candidate to be printed in wax so the wax forms could be used to investment cast the lathe from steel or aluminum (or whatever).

    I’ve always though a wax printer would be way more useful to me than a plastic printer since I’d be able to use it to make complicated casting forms.

      1. Actually, investment casting with PLA as the substrate works pretty well. You use a low infill and the PLA just burns out during the pour, same as the lost-foam process. I’m vaguely remembering vik doing it for a year or two now…

  4. Very cool.

    Given the lack of stiffness in these materials, I can’t help but wonder if departing from the traditional configuration of the lathe wouldn’t produce much better results.

    The iron of a traditional lathe gives you a lot of stiffness and critical dampening. But without that advantage, I think a more fully boxed and triangulated structure would be important.

    I think there are tremendous gains to be had in departing from the traditions of lathes. That said, my lathe was made in 1948 and is as traditional as they come. Love it. Someday I’d like to own a Hardinge lathe. It’s critical to know what has come before – the mechanical smarts of the folks who developed this tech were tremendous.

    And tooling. Even if the lathe is free, it’s easy to spend thousands on tooling. And it’s generally money well spent.

    1. got tooling? totally agree and even so, if the machine is not set up right, cutter or work piece not rigid enough, even the bast machine can turn out rubbish. That said, there are many deals to be had in the local freecycle or craigslist. I got my 6″ atlas lathe for a $300 including a modest bit of tooling. some times it just makes more sense to spend the $$ than struggle to re-invent the wheel.

    2. It’s always worth going back and re-examining designs in context of new materials, but tradition does have its advantages. A traditional metal lathe has a century of field testing behind it. It’s what you get when you give a few million guys who know how to build tools a tool capable of making parts to improve itself.

      Unfortunately, it’s hard to compensate for lack of stiffness in a material. It’s like trying to build a stiff spring from a bunch of soft ones. You have to put them in parallel to build up equivalent stiffness, but that leaves you with the force distributed across a larger area. Distributing force across that area means you need to build outward, but that puts springs in series, which reduces the overall stiffness of the assembly again.

      Given that mild steel is 50-100 times as stiff as most plastics, and hadrened tool steel is 10-50 times as stiff as mild steel, you can end up with real problems.

      About all you can reasonably do is reduce the amount of force you apply to the structure, which means working softer materials (not such a disadvantage if you’re working plastic), lighter cuts, and longer working times.

  5. Since this is actually working, the pieces could be used to make sand molds for pouring aluminum into. This would make an aluminum lathe, which would probably work just fine. Cast iron is quite a bit harder, I understand.

    1. Aha! There’s the idea! It would be much easier to print foundry patterns than to print workable lathe parts. If the patterns are thin-shell hollow, so much the better; might be able to use the lost-pattern process.

      Anyone out there got both a 3D printer and the Gingery books for building a lathe/milling machine from scratch? The project awaits!

      1. Oh yeah – the Gingery books. And more significantly, Lindsay Books’ catalog of old book reprints. They have some amazing titles, at very reasonable prices.

        No discussion of maching making is complete without mentioning the amazing books in the Lindsay catalog. There is a lot of genius stuff in there that really should be required reading for anyone doing 3d printing, etc.

  6. Here’s a second to what [Reg] said.
    backyardmetalcasting(dot)com good stuff
    and Dave gingery’s set of books on building your own machine shop from scrap absolutely! If you can’t find them anywhere else you can find them over at lindsaybks(dot)com. Combined with a 3D printer you could use the casting setup to make just about anything.

    P.S. Sorry to sound trollesh

  7. To clarify this was printed a long time ago on a machine made out of salvaged printer parts in the infancy of 3D printing. It was not printed on Tantillus but “can be”. It was also the very first one ever produced and has been improved upon by others since its release almost two years ago. Also wobble on the outside of the chuck does not effect the center from spinning true.

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