The vertical turret lathe is a specialized metalworking tool. While traditional lathes hold the workpiece in a horizontal position parallel to the floor, the vertical turret lathe places the workpiece at a 90 degree angle to the floor, in the same fashion as a potters wheel. The turret is an adjustable tool holding device that facilitates ease of manufacturing because it can be used to make several different cuts to a turned part without operator interaction or changing of tools.
Turret lathes differ from traditional lathes because they do not require a human operator to manually position the cutting tools. The turret holds an assortment of cutting equipment and is capable of positioning these blades against the metal at appropriate pressure and position for precision cutting, which is also called turning. This increases the safety of the operator and improves the overall quality of production parts.
Vertical turret lathes offer a further distinction from other types of lathes in their unique positioning of the workpiece. This 90 degree alignment gives the vertical lathe its designation as a vertical boring mill. The unique alignment of the stock makes it possible to perform cutting tasks on oversize, heavy objects that would be too short for turning with traditional, horizontal lathe machinery.
While traditional lathes were used to create turned parts for many years before the invention of the vertical turret lathe, the addition of the turret made it possible to mass produce parts with more accuracy and speed. Later evolutions of the vertical turret lathe even eliminated the need for human operators to manually operate the machine. This specialized cutting equipment can be controlled using computer programs and servo-mechanisms or a jig system to move the cutting tool along the workpiece to the appropriate locations. By eliminating much of the potential for human error and creating a simple setup that performed multiple functions, the vertical turret lathe improved the quality and production speed of mass produced parts.
In manufacturing settings, the vertical turret lathe is sometimes set up to perform a single set of tasks from which it is rarely changed. The turret is loaded with the appropriate cutting tools for these tasks and programmed via computer technology or manually set up to perform a series of repetitive tasks. In such situations, the operator's primary function is merely to ensure that the vertical turret lathe is functioning correctly and is being replenished with stock to work on.