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Whether you run a huge manufacturing plant or are a small machine shop owner, buying one or a whole line of HMCs is likely going to be an investment that you don’t want to make without diligent research.
If you’ve always been using Vertical Machining Centers (VMCs) and need to upgrade your machinery you might find it hard to bite the bullet and opt for a more expensive CNC Horizontal Machining Center (HMC). But if you know you will have to work on more complex, intricate parts of various sizes, you should consider the following points before making up your mind whether or not to buy a horizontal machining center.
Even though the price of an HMC is on average three times as high as that of Vertical Machines, that doesn’t mean that buying a Horizontal Machining Center can’t be the smarter long-term investment that pays off.
Even if we gave you the average price for HMCs worldwide, that would be a very useful number to have. Machine list prices can range anywhere from 15,000 USD for small, entry-level machines to huge state-of-the-art machining centers that cost 350,000 USD and more, there is no upper limit. So it depends on your budget, applications, and your long-term plan for the machine you are looking to acquire. However, when you plan out your budget don’t assume that you can spend it all on the machine itself.
Purchasing a CNC Horizontal Machining Center can entail quite a lot of other expenses that come with it. Before we break down the true cost of an HMC machine, let us quickly take a look at the main advantages of an HMC over a VMC.
:: Read more: Two major lathe machine categories explained. Horizontal vs. Vertical
1. Increased productivity through shorter cycle times
HMC machines can swap pallets which nearly eliminate any delay between machining cycles. Besides, thanks to the tombstones you can manufacture different types of parts in the same process, as you can use the fixtures on each side for different jobs. Overall this is a huge productivity boost.
2. Lower production cost per part
As a consequence of benefit No. 1 above, machining time and labor time are lower for parts processed with HMCs which will bring down the price you can sell your parts for, making your business more competitive.
3. Increased spindle uptime
After switching to an HMC machine you will gladly realize that you make use of the spindle much more efficiently than on a vertical machining center. That is due to reduced part handling. Studies indicate that the spindle on a VMC operates only about 25% of the time, while an HMC typically produces 85% uptime.
4. Multi-side machining
Thanks to the B axis, a CNC horizontal machining center can cut all three sides of the workpiece in one cycle. For instance, with an HMC machine the operator only need to perform three interventions to machine a six-sided part, so the cost-per-part is significantly lowered.
5. Complex part machining
Your shop or business will be able to manufacture more complex parts that you would have not been able to machine in the past. This will open up new business opportunities and generate more income.
6. More flexibility= more concurrent jobs
HMCs make it feasible for you to carry out the orders of two customers on the same machine on the same shift. You make use of the pallet system and alternate the different parts for the two customers.
7. Potential to free up floor space
As HMCs are so flexible when it comes to the range of parts they can handle, one machine can replace two, three, or even four of your old vertical machining center, freeing up your floor space for other applications.
8. Deburring and other specialized tools included
Many HMCs have big enough tool magazines that allow you to equip them with various deburring and other specialized tools. Especially deburring is easily performed on horizontal machining centers as the removed material automatically falls away due to the horizontal structure.
As we have already hinted at above, when you are buying an HMC machine, the price of the machine is not the only cost that comes along with it. Especially when it comes to determining your expected ROI, the list below is a good starting point on what other expenses you might have to include in your calculations and to determine whether or not the HMC you want to purchase is a good long-term investment or not.
Acquisition costs include the machine purchase and getting it ready for operation:
Purchase price Installation and arrangement Potential employee training costs Throughout a machine’s cycle time after-sales support, manufacturer reputation, as well as the warranty conditions can be very important and should be considered.
2. Costs during Operation
Just like with your car, you are accumulating additional costs for your HMC with every hour of machining. Operation costs can vary a lot and depend on the machine’s design, constructions, and other factors that might affect its productivity.
One key factor is the cycle time when you want to determine the lifecycle ROI of your HMC. For instance, a high-power spindle can perform high-speed cutting operations while a large spindle bearing handles cutting forces better. This results in greater accuracy and less finishing jobs. Part setup is also something to consider. Can you prepare multiple workpieces in a single setup and does the machine support preprogramming for each workpiece? Finally, operation costs are also linked to tool life. Quite possibly, your tools on an HMC machine might last longer due to shorter cycle times and therefore less cutting passes, prolonging the lifespan of your tools. These and other parameters can help you decide whether a certain price tag is reasonable and justifies the investment for your HMC.
3. Maintenance Costs
Maintenance means downtime, but maintenance issues can affect a machine’s productivity well before it goes down and needs to be repaired. You will have to consider the costs of the unplanned downtime and overtime to catch back up, but even before that gradual failure of a crucial component can result in inferior part quality.
4. Hidden Costs for Additional Equipment
With all the new machining capabilities of your new HMC, the complexity and production rate of your machining jobs will increase as well. This might make you consider investing in better inspection equipment, such as 3D coordinated measuring machines (CMM) to validate the accuracy and quality of your parts. The same might apply to your current computer hardware. HMC machines allow for more complex machining routines that require more advanced supplementary equipment. Other things that might cause additional expenses are higher quality high-pressure coolants, more advanced fixturing devices and tool presetters to measure your tools separately from your HMC to not interrupt the cutting operation
:: Search: Horizontal Machining Center Suppliers
Many owners believe that the additional initial investment in an HMC machine well-worth it since parts are less costly coming off the machine. However, if you decide that the investment for a brand-new CNC horizontal machining center would blow up your budget you should have a look at used machines. But you need to pay attention to certain aspects while buying a used machine so that you don’t end up regretting your purchase after a few weeks.
1) Machining Hours
The most important number is the amount of net hours the machine has been used for cutting operations in the past. Make sure to ask the seller for not only the original purchase date but also for a log of total power-on hours.
2) Machining Tolerances
Before purchasing ask the seller about the machining accuracy and tolerances. In case of too much deviation means the pieces you manufacture might be unusable. Therefore, it is crucial to crunch the numbers while inquiring about tolerance.
3) Price, machine condition & additional costs
There are various sites online re-selling used CNC HMCs. When browsing offers make sure to compare prices with other sites and have a close look at the images of the machine provided. Don’t just pay attention to the machine itself but also the shop or manufacturing plant it is in. How the area is maintained is an indication of how the HMC machine was cared for. If there are no images, request the seller to send you some. Also, make sure if any parts need to be changed or if you will have to buy any additional equipment to carry out your machining jobs.
You can find a wide range of Horizontal Machining Centers in all price ranges our site. Just head to our HMC machine section or check out our search function to find hundreds of manufacturers in our product database. If you want to know more about HMC machines and their applications make sure to check out our other blog entries.
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