Introduction to Vertical Machining Centers

Posted on Aug 20, 2020

Vertical Machining Centers

Vertical machining centers have appeared in their most basic form for more than 150 years. However, it is still one of the latest forms of machining technology (turning/locking is the oldest). The "milling" process requires a rotating tool or drill and a movable worktable where a workpiece is secured.

The tool installed in housing is called the spindle. The rotation of the spindle is the primary machining mechanism that cuts, drills, or mills a workpiece. By pushing the material into the cutter, and applying the sharpness of the tool as well as the force of the table, the material will be cut or scraped off as needed. The force axis can be up/down (called the Z-axis), left/right (X-axis), or front/back (Y-axis). A vertical machining center is also commonly referred to as VMC.

VMC can be equipped with many extra accessories. For example, there are many approach angles available, as well as swivel and other bench positioning devices. Later versions of the VMC design added power and hydraulic power devices to make the system more automated. Later on, computer control was added to allow for greater automation of operation, repeatability, tool selection/change, and contour control. These new CNCs took the "milling machine" to a new level of productivity and the term VMC (Vertical Machining Center) was born.

Read More: Introduction to Vertical Machining or CNC VMC


CNC VMC: the basics of the process

VMCs are mainly (but not limited to) used as metal cutting machines that remove steel, aluminum, or other hard materials - thus shaping a raw block of material into a precisely formed or machined surface.

VMC can be used not only for cutting but also drilling, carving, engraving, tapping, countersinking, chamfering, and many other applications. Due to their versatility and relatively low cost, they are extremely popular machines that can be found in stores around the world. In fact, chances are good that just a few miles from where you are reading this, a machine is running.


All VMCs use common elements which are as follows:

• Rotary spindle - A spindle that is perpendicular to the work surface or table can house a variety of cutting tools (or cutters as they are sometimes called). The spindle cartridge is mounted in a housing that moves up and down - this direction of movement is called the Z-axis.

• Table - The table is a platform on which workpieces can be mounted - directly or with various elements such as milled aluminum plates or hard clamping vices.TThe table has a left and right movement which we call the X-axis, and a front to back movement which we call the Y-axis. These two axes of movement, combined with the Z-axis, allow for virtually unlimited contouring in the planes of movement.

• Tool changer - A tool changer greatly increases VMC's productivity by enabling automatic, computer-controlled tool selection for a variety of tasks, from roughing to precision boring.

• Cooling System - To keep parts and cutters cool and lubricated, most VMCs employ some type of coolant recirculation system; which is usually a mixture of soluble oil and water, but it can also be many other liquids.

• Chip Conveyor/Screw - To remove chips from the work area, a variety of chip conveyors and chip augers can be used to increase productivity and reduce downtime associated with manual chip removal.

• Full covers/housings - can be added to reduce spatter / spattering caused by milling operations and to protect operators and the environment from the machining process.

• Rotary Tables - Adding additional axes to a machine can greatly increase its productivity by transforming a simple three-axis machine into a four or even five-axis system, capable of machining complex components with different surfaces (such as turbine blades).

• Quick Load Loaders - Another great addition that greatly increases productivity is the use of shuttle tables or other automatic part loading systems. This can reduce downtime and significantly increase the spindle "on" time of most VMC systems.

Common VMC applications include assembly parts machining, die casting, automotive, mold / die manufacturing, and many other metal cutting tasks.


Typical industries that use these processes:

• Automotive branch

• Shipbuilding

• Industrial Machines

• Energy

• Aerospace

Read More: Why Vertical Machining Centers Are so Popular?


One explanation for two popular, yet different CNC Machining Centres

There are two forms of machining centers, horizontal and vertical. This applies to the orientation of the main spindles. Both horizontal and vertical machining centers are supplied as small, table-mounted devices to a room-sized machine.

Horizontal machining centers have an x ​​- y table with the cutter mounted on a horizontal arbor across the table. Most horizontal machining centers are distinguished by a rotary table a = 15 / -15 degrees, which enables milling at shallow angles. Horizontal machining centers are often used for milling slots and grooves. It can also be used to shape flat surfaces.

Vertical machining centers have a vertically oriented spindle axis. Its cutters are held in the spindle and rotate around its axis. In general, the spindle can be extended to allow plunge cuts and drilling, although the table can also be lowered or raised. Vertical Machining Centers have two subcategories. These categories are the bed mill and the turret mill.

Although they may be similar since both are machining centers, vertical and horizontal machining centers serve different purposes. Horizontal machining centers were first to appear to put milling tables under lathe-like headstocks. However, through the desire to change the angle of the horizontal machining centers, accessories such as add-on heads were created to convert the horizontal to vertical machining centers.

Horizontal machining centers work best with a heavy workpiece that needs machining on multiple sides. Die sinking on the other hand is best with vertical machining centers.

Read More: Is Vertical CNC Lathe Better than Horizontal CNC Lathe? Why, Or Why Not?, Horizontal Machining Center and Vertical Processing


IMTS Exhibition

IMTS gathered worldwide Vertical Machining Centers manufacturers into this online platform. Browse and search for your next supplier with us.

Should you run into any difficulties, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Quick Link to Suppliers

0Inquiry Item Contact IMTS