CNC Vertical Machining Center: Which Is Best for Your Shop?

Posted on Aug 11, 2020

CNC Vertical Machining Center

Milling is one of the most used processes in the metal industry today, offering skilled craftsmen a method of expertly cutting and shaping rolled steel. While many different types of machining centers are used in the industry, they are generally classified as vertical machining centers and horizontal machining centers. Vertical mills have spindles (cutting elements) that are arranged vertically. Horizontal cutters have a spindle parallel to the ground.

Although the task of both types of machines is the same, the production method for order fulfillment is slightly different. Both machining options have their pros and cons, and it should be remembered that the milling capabilities may differ between the two categories. But when the right machining center is combined with the best operators, your specific metalwork will be finished with precision craftsmanship.


Vertical Machining Centers

Vertical machining centers make up the majority of milling machines in the entire industry. They tend to cost less than horizontal machining centers, making them a sensible investment that pays for itself over and over again for metallurgical workshops. Their lower initial costs usually mean that the savings in production costs are passed on to customers. Because these types of mills are so common, there are more skilled operators equipped to operate the machines throughout the industry.

Ease of operation: Due to the design of the VMC, operators have better visibility when working on these machines. This allows operators to more easily spot and fix potential problems during the milling process. The user-friendly CNC control makes programming easy. This means operators can spend less time setting up and programming, and more time ensuring that your project specifications are completed while meeting the highest expectations.

Manufacturing Benefit: The visibility offered by VMC is ideal to complete large sheet production. Due to their ease of use, VMCs are the ideal choice for less complex tasks that require smaller amounts. These machines are the perfect solution for fast milling work.

:: Read More: How VMC Machining can boost your productivity



The outcome of production: Compared to horizontal mills, VMC usually cannot compete in terms of production efficiency. They are not the best choice in terms of time and cost savings for large volumes, more complex machining jobs.

Risk of human error: Since this type of mill gives operators the chance to "see" the job as it is running, there is a greater risk of introducing human error into a computer-programmed equation. It is important to ensure that the highest quality operators are employed to supervise each milling job from start to finish to reduce the number of errors that can occur throughout the process.


Major Functions and Characteristics

Currently, machining centers are widely used in production plants. Machining centers are critical equipment for machining metal parts and components, in addition to their primary purpose for producing dies. For example, machining centers in the automotive industry are used to efficiently grind and drill engine parts, and to make dies for body parts. Many other products commonly used in everyday life and in industrial conditions are manufactured in machining centers.

Machining centers have a computerized automatic tool change function. Basically, the operator has to change tools on the NC machine tool. Machining centers, however, have an interchangeable arm that automatically retrieves and replaces tools from the tool magazine where the tools are stored while machining workpieces. This saves the time and effort required to change standard tools, thus enabling automated and energy-efficient operations while reducing costs.

In recent years, the advent of five-axis machining centers, equipped with two rotary axes in addition to the conventional three axes, has made it possible to machine shapes of even greater complexity.


Establishment and development of machining centers

Manufacturing metal parts generally involves grinding surfaces and grooves, as well as using a series of complex machining methods such as drilling, boring (enlarging holes), and tapping. Conventionally, various cutting tools have been selectively used for these machining processes, such as cutters, end mills, drills, boring tools, and taps.

With the later advent of numerically controlled lathes, a manually operated tool changer called a revolver was developed, making blade replacement more convenient. Machining centers take this idea one step ahead with computer-controlled automatic tool changing. Machining centers can continuously perform several types of machining simultaneously on different surfaces of a detail, greatly improving production efficiency. Even today machining centers are still improving with advances in machining precision and speed year after year, making them a fundamental part of the manufacturing process.

Visit any metal factory to see the many machining centers working non-stop day after day. Only a few operators on-site are required to monitor the machines.

In NC lathes, the tools are clamped to a turret, which is rotated by hand.

:: Read More: What Vertical Machining Centers Are so Popular?



In NC lathes, the tools are clamped to a turret, which is rotated by hand.

Machining centers can automatically change tools. Machining centers can automatically change tools.


General structure and types of machining centers

Machining centers can be broadly classified into three types according to their structure: horizontal, vertical, and gantry. Horizontal type - the first to be developed - can be defined simply as a machine where the spindle to which the cutting tool is attached is mounted horizontally (or parallel to the floor). Unlike vertical types, the spindle is vertical. On the other hand, gate types have a gate structure with a pin mounted on the door's ceiling, facing downward.

In the example of the horizontal type, the overall structure of the machining center consists of a base part called the bed at the bottom, a saddle that moves across the bed, a table attached to the saddle for placing the raw material, a column installed perpendicular to the bed, and a spindle head to which the cutting tools are attached.


Differences between horizontal and vertical types

Horizontal machining centers have a spindle mounted on the blade extending out to the sides to machine the workpieces in a horizontal direction. The column moves along the X-axis, the saddle along the Y-axis, and the table along the Z-axis, and this connection enable three-dimensional machining. In addition, some models have a B axis that rotates the table horizontally, allowing materials to be processed using a total of four axes.

One advantage of the horizontal types is the ability to machine four workpiece surfaces - using a four-axis machining center with a B axis - simultaneously. This eliminates the need for operators to manually switch the four sides of the workpiece, and thus contributes to greater machining precision. In addition, machining from the horizontal direction allows the chips to fall, which prevents them from accumulating on the workpiece and hammering into the blade.

Conversely, vertical machining centers have a vertical spindle and the workpieces are machined from above. In general, the table moves horizontally on the X and Y axes and the spindle moves vertically, allowing triaxial machining.

Compared to horizontal types where the spindle is to the side of the workpiece, vertical types take up less space for installation, making them a popular choice. In addition, top-machining on a workpiece enables operators to work while comparing machining to design drawings. However, machining on top of the workpiece causes chip build-up on the workpiece, necessitating the use of a compressed air blower or a grease flush to properly remove the chips.

:: Read More: Horizontal Machining Center and Vertical Processing


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