The horizontal machining equipment you may need

Posted on Aug 28, 2020

The horizontal machining equipment you may need

Horizontal machining, also known as milling, involves the use of rotary cutters to remove metal from the workpiece. Horizontal machining takes place on a horizontal machining center (HMC) that uses a spindle parallel to the ground floor. In the case of a horizontally oriented spindle, the tools extend from the side of the tool holder and cut through the side of the workpiece, encouraging the chips to fall off the table. Horizontal machining centers also allow integration with a two-pallet changer to facilitate unattended work and reduce part cycle times.

Horizontal Machining Centers (HMC) Process description

Machining center with a spindle parallel to the ground floor.

Horizontal Machining is a common choice for mass-produced metal products in industrial applications. Horizontal machines vary in size and style, have N / C and CNC functions.

These machines are characterized by high dynamics, quick tool changes and excellent precision. Where versatility is key, machines should offer 3, 4, and 5 axis capabilities.

The horizontal machining center allows many configurations, including loading / unloading a robot and the integration of secondary operations. Thanks to the CNC capabilities of HMC, they offer efficiency and productivity in manufacturing operations.

Stores looking to buy new equipment or upgrade existing equipment have many opportunities in today's market. Certainly, the decision to buy equipment is always related to the company's business model and the parts produced; However, it is also important how the world's competitive equipment can help the manufacturer.

Read More: What is a horizontal machining center?


Vertical machining centers vs horizontal machining centers

Vertical and horizontal machining centers are excellent devices, but for many manufacturers, price is often the deciding factor. Most instinctively think that cheaper hardware is the obvious choice because less capital is an investment. The lower price is one of the reasons most manufacturers choose a vertical machining center (VMC) over a horizontal machining center (HMC).

If a manufacturer is able to exceed the price of a sticker and research the dollars spent on making a part or the cost of a part, many features can affect the return on investment (ROI) of a machine. For example, when the cycle time is examined, the price gap narrows. An HMC can significantly increase your store's throughput. In fact, manufacturers see a 30 to 50 percent reduction in cycle time compared to using VMC for the same task.

One explanation can be found in the ability of the HMC to perform batch machining, where the parts are treated as a group for simultaneous machining. The horizontal machining center also provides additional access to parts. Multiple workpiece surfaces can be processed in one setting. As a result, a part that can have six operations on a vertical machine can be completed in just two per horizontal. Performing batch processing or being able to access multiple pages in one setup leads to better part quality. The ability to reduce setup, maintenance and processing time makes horizontal machines the perfect solution for repetitive, low-volume jobs.

In addition, pallet changers are typically added to horizontal machining centers, allowing parts to be preloaded into holders and replaced in seconds. This reduction in loading and unloading times minimizes post-break times and labor requirements. Adding multiple pallets can also support automation, increasing the spindle load and leading to unattended operation.

Fast speeds are another advantage with horizontal machines - they are typically around 65 percent faster than vertical machines. Movements can be combined for parallel processing, reducing cycle times.

In VMC, operators often have to stop the spindle for longer periods of time when tool changes or part changes are required. However, horizontal machines can perform tool changes while indexing. On average, tool changes on the HMC are approximately 30 percent faster than on the VMC. Thus, the more tool changes made to one part, the greater the chance of reducing costs.

Tooling can also save you money. While the horizontal configuration provides shorter and more rigid tooling, it typically supports larger capacity tool changers. With a tool capacity of 60 to 300 plus all tools can be stored in the machine, saving time when loading the tool changer. It is one of the functions that allows you to set up work on a horizontal machine and then leave it unattended.

The work area is another issue. A horizontal machine has more than four times the working area of ​​a vertical machine. This additional area allows operators to configure more parts and amortize tool changes to these additional parts, reducing cycle time and cost per part. The ergonomics of the horizontal unit include a comfortable height where the operator can load and unload parts while standing upright. The workpiece is at eye level, and a foot pedal on the floor allows the operator to rotate the part to gain access to the front and side of the pallet.

Better chip flow is an additional attribute of horizontal machining, thanks to spindle orientation, cooling through the spindle and chip evacuation. On a horizontal machine, gravity tends to pull the chips away from the part and out of the cut into the chip management area. These characteristics affect not only labor but also quality due to the advantages of chip removal and coolant management. While vertical machines are usually seen as more accurate in drilling and boring operations because they have no spindle slope and have fewer axes, the way they are constructed means that chips can get stuck in deep pockets - causing re-cutting which affects part quality and tool life.

All these features affect direct labor costs. Since the operator does not have to stand in front of the horizontal machine all day, improving tool offsets, loading and unloading parts and removing chips, labor saving combined with reduced cycle time can be a real alignment. Staff may be transferred to other operations.

Read More: Horizontal Machining Centers (HMCs) – price, costs and other considerations


To accurately gauge a machine’s true cost, a manufacturer should consider all of the numbers when choosing a machine, for example:

• Cycle-time reductions

• Fewer setups

• Saving of costs in out-of-cut time

• Reductions in rapid rates

• Reduced labor requirements


Together, depending on the application, they can add up to anywhere from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars per year depending on the application, and can quickly close the investment gap between VMC's initial purchase price and HMC. So when all costs are included in your investment, a more informed decision based on a true ROI will ensure that your store remains competitive worldwide.

Ultimately, the manufacturer must select the best equipment for its application. However, if you are using three or more VMCs within your capacity and are considering upgrading your equipment, it may be time to try out a horizontal machining center to achieve the highest productivity and get the best value.

Read More: Why Horizontal Machining Center Wins in Certain Cases, Horizontal Machining Center and Vertical Processing


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