Since a discussion on why a lathe was more important than a cnc router sparked this I wanted to mention some thoughts on that.
A cnc router is a great tool but there is one major thing it can’t do - it can’t make things round. It can approximate them. And I guess if you put a 4th axis on it it sorta can. But a lathe can make something round with relative ease. I don’t have a way to reliably make things round without a lathe. And while with the advent of thunderhex has made this less important a small lathe is still one of the first tools I’d want if I were building any sort of custom anything.
What a cnc router is really good at is taking plates of a material and cutting them to form. This is useful but you can accomplish the same task slower by laying out the holes, printing paper templates, or even transfer punching and then drilling. A cnc router is a workflow process optimization.
While I would actually support purchasing a 3D printer prior to a lathe it’s because of the ease of use and encouraging students to learn to design parts rather than just slapping things together. Truth I think a small lathe is a great addition to any frc or ftc shop.
Edit - my phone wants to type lathe as large. I think I caught all of em but idk.