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A lathe center
, often shortened to center
, is a tool that has been ground to a point to accurately position a workpiece on an axis. They usually have an included angle of 60°, but in heavy machining situations an angle of 75° is used.A dead center
may be used to support the workpiece at either the fixed or rotating end of the machine. When used in the fixed position, a dead center produces friction between the workpiece and center, due to the rotation of the workpiece. Lubrication is therefore required between the center and workpiece to preventfriction welding from occurring. Additionally the tip of the center may have an insert of cemented carbide which will reduce the friction slightly and allow for faster speeds. Dead centers are typically fully hardened to prevent damage to the important mating surfaces of thetaper and to preserve the 60° angle of the nose. As tungsten carbide is much harder than steel, a carbide-tipped center has greater wear resistance than a steel center.
A live center
or revolving center
is constructed so that the 60° center runs in its own bearings and is used at the non-driven or tailstock end of a machine.It allows higher turning speeds without the need for separate lubrication, and also greater clamping pressures. CNC lathes use this type of center almost exclusively and they may be used for general machining operations as well. Spring-loaded live centers are designed to compensate for center variations, without damage to the work piece or center tip. This assures the operator of uniform constant tension while machining. Some live centers also have interchangeable shafts. This is valuable when situations require a design other than a 60° male tip.