What Is a Gang Tool Lathe – Difference Between Swiss Lathe and Gang Tool Lathe


A gang tool lathe is a machining tool used for producing high-precision small parts. How to operate the gang tool lathe and what are the common applications of a gang tool lathe? We’ll also talk about the difference between Swiss lathe and gang tool lathe.

What Is a Gang Tool Lathe?

A gang-tool lathe is a type of lathe that utilizes a gang tooling system, where multiple cutting tools are mounted on a single tool holder or turret. This tool holder can be rotated into position near the workpiece, allowing the cutting tools to quickly and efficiently perform operations such as drilling, turning, facing, and threading. Gang-tool lathes are commonly used in high-precision, small-part manufacturing, where multiple operations are required to complete a workpiece. They are particularly useful for operations that require multiple and frequent tool changes, as the turret allows for quick and easy positioning of the required tool. Some gang-tool lathes are also equipped with live tooling, which allows for additional milling, drilling, and other operations to be performed on the workpiece without the need to change tools or transfer the workpiece to another machine. This can significantly reduce machining time and increase efficiency.


Applications of a gang tool lathe

1. Medical and Dental Implants: Gang tool lathes are used to precision machine a wide range of medical and dental implants, including screws, pins, and dental prosthetics.

2. Aerospace Machining: Gang tool lathes are used to manufacture a variety of small parts for the aerospace industry, including fasteners, valves, and connectors.

3. Electronics and Instrumentation: Gang tool lathes are used for machining small parts for electronic and instrumentation devices, such as sensors, connectors, and micro switches.

4. Automotive Industry: Gang tool lathes are used to produce a variety of automotive parts, including shafts, screw nuts, and gear parts.

5. Watchmaking and Jewelry: Gang tool lathes are ideal for producing small, precise components required in watchmaking and jewelry, including screws, bezels, and watch cases.

6. General Machining: Gang tool lathes are widely used for a variety of general machining operations, such as drilling, turning, grooving, and threading of precision small parts for various industrial, commercial, and consumer products.

How to Operate a Gang Tool Lathe?

1. Prepare the workpiece: Mount the workpiece securely in the lathe chuck or collet, and adjust the tool height and center position in relation to the workpiece.

2. Select tools: Choose the appropriate cutting tools for the desired operation and mount them in the tool holder or turret.

3. Set the program: Program the desired machining operations into the lathe software, specifying factors such as tool path, depth and speed of cut, and the number of passes. 

4. Load the program: Load the program into the lathe and set the machine to the correct operating mode (such as turning, drilling, or facing).

5. Run the program: Start the spindle and initiate the machining program. The cutting tools will automatically index into position as required and remove material from the workpiece.

6. Inspect the workpiece: After the machining program is complete, inspect the workpiece for accuracy and quality. Make any adjustments as needed, repeat the program, or proceed to final operations as required.

7. Turn off the lathe: Once the machining process is complete, turn off the spindle, retract the cutting tools, and safely shut down the machine.

Differences Between Gang Tool Lathe and Swiss Lathe

1. Workpiece Size:

Gang tool lathes are designed for machining relatively small parts, typically with a diameter of up to 2 inches. Swiss lathes, on the other hand, are capable of machining larger workpieces, often up to 32mm or more.

2. Material Handling:

Gang tool lathes typically use a bar feeder to feed stock material into the machine, which is then secured and machined into the final product. Swiss lathes, on the other hand, use a sliding headstock that allows the workpiece to be fed through the spindle, enabling the machine to perform precise machining operations on both the front and rear of the workpiece with minimal deflection.

3. Tooling:

Gang tool lathes use a turret or gang tool holder that holds multiple cutting tools, allowing them to perform multiple operations on a workpiece without needing to change tools. Swiss lathes, on the other hand, use a specialized collet and guide bushing system that enables the machine to perform precision turning, drilling, and milling operations in a single setup.

4. Complexity of Parts:

Swiss lathes are especially well-suited for complex small parts, such as medical and dental implants, precision watch parts, and aerospace fasteners. Gang tool lathes are typically used for smaller parts with simpler geometries.