The world’s biggest lathes fashion the world’s largest shafts to spin the world’s largest propellers on the world’s largest ships. And if you’re in need of a lathe, the world’s largest lathe just happens to be for sale.
As we have noted, the world’s ships are getting larger and larger. Take the “Emma Maersk” cargo ship built by the Danish Odense Steel Shipyard: it is 1,302 ft (397 m) long, 183 ft (56 m) wide, 98 feet (30 m) in depth, has a gross tonnage of 1,070,974 tons and moves at a speed of 26 kn. As you can imagine, the engine and propeller needed to move the ship are huge; but what about the lathe needed to fashion the propeller shaft?
How Big Can a Lathe Get
The theoretical limit of a lathe is only limited by the Earth’s curve; a flat line of about 3.1 miles (5 km), after which point the lathe would be unable to do its job: making symmetrical changes to a rotating object.
All lathes are the same in that they rotate a workpiece made of wood, metal, glass or other material on its axis of rotation for the purpose of cutting, sanding, knurling, facing, deforming or turning it.
There are three types of lathes: engine, turret and special purpose. It is the special purpose category we are after and specifically rotary lathes. For example, one of the longest horizontal waves in the world is used for machining direct driven propeller shafts for very large ships. The lathe is 118 ft (36m) long, making it the second largest of its kind in the world.
It’s been reported Waldrich Siegen of South Africa built the largest lathe in 1973 at 126 feet (38m), weighing 485.6 tons, the same weight as a jumbo jet aircraft, and capable of handling a workpiece up to 330 tons. Some specs:
- swing over bed – 16 ft (4.87m)
- max turning diameter – 3000 mm
- boring diameter range – 350-1800 mm
- max workpiece length – 13,000 to 10,000 mm
- spindle speed 60 to 2400 rpm
- speed adjustment range : 60 ~ 2400 rpm
- faceplate speed (1st.step / 2nd. Step) : 1~41 / 4.2~169 rpm
- nominal speed (1st.step / 2nd. Step) : 10.3 / 42.2 rpm
- torque at the faceplate : 130000 N
Shin Nippon Koki (SNK)
According to Shin Nippon Koki (SNK) of Japan, they have developed the largest rotor lathe in the world capable of handling a workpiece of 400 tons or 70 tons more than the Waldrich Siegen lathe.
- max turning diameter – 3,400 mm
- max work length – 20,000 mm
The largest lathe in the world is for sale and is still working in Korea. If your garage is big enough, you can inquire here. Other manufacturers of large lathes include: Craven, Kramatorsk, Waldrich and Skoda.