Vertical Turning Lathes vs. Horizontal Machining Center, Which One Is Better?

Posted on Dec 31, 2020

Vertical Turning Lathes

Vertical turning lathes are suitable for applying various castings. Therefore, many manufacturers who produce casting products tend to use vertical turning lathes as their means of increasing productivity. A vertical turning center configuration is based on traditional lathes which provide production and cost benefits.

What Are Vertical Turning Lathes?

Vertical turning lathes also called vertical boring mills or boring mills, are the vertical boring mill equipped with a turret. Usually, they are used to deal with very large and heavy workpieces. The vertical turning lathes have been around for a and are still being improved and developed. New technology and innovative concepts are still applied to them. Moreover, with the combination of horizontal turning lathes, they are still creating new technological innovations. The size of this equipment can be considerably large. The large-scale vertical lathes are known as ram-type machines or vertical boring mills (VBMs). They are not high production machines but are ideal for dealing with heavy and large workpieces.

When Are Vertical Turning Lathes Used?

Vertical turning lathes are suitable for applying various castings. Therefore, many manufacturers who produce casting products tend to use vertical turning lathes as their means of increasing productivity. A vertical turning center configuration is based on traditional lathes which provide production and cost benefits. Vertical turning lathes are usually used to cut casting products, such as brake discs, pump housings, aircraft parts, heavy equipment parts, energy field parts, and more.

:: Read More: Why Choose Vertical Turning Centers?

Why Are Vertical Turning Lathes Popular?

Vertical turning lathes are now still popular on the market because they are well-developed and still improving. Below are features of the vertical turning lathes:

Able to Deal with Large Workpieces: As we discussed above, the vertical turning machines are mainly used to deal with huge workpieces that other lathes cannot handle. Since vertical turning lathes use gravity to hold workpieces, stabilizing them tightly on the machining platform would not be a difficult task for these machines. Moreover, the vertical turning machines provide large machine shops that enable the factories with these lathes the ability to cut bigger and heavier castings.

High Efficiency

Vertical turning lathes usually use the main spindle to load and unload themselves, which allows them to multitask. The multitasking capabilities make the vertical turning lathes efficient processing centers for producing chucked parts.

Equipped with Indexable Tool Turret Head

As with the machining centers, vertical turning lathes are equipped with indexable tool turret heads that allow the machine tool to exchange suitable cutting tools to apply on the workpiece and then make the progression go more smoothly.

Equipped with Rotating Table

Besides the indexable tool turret head, this machining center also contains a rotating table which can make the cutting tools deal with the workpieces from any angle. The rotating table the vertical turning lathe contains can support the workpiece and use a bridge-type construction that carries the X-axis. A ram would traverse the X-axis guides and deliver the cutting tools.

Shorten the Cycle Time

As with a machining center, the vertical turning lathe has the ability to shorten the cycle time that would lead to the result of increasing productivity. Through the two achievements, the production cost would be deducted also.

CNC Control System

Nowadays, lathes are mostly equipped with CNC control systems, not except the vertical turning lathe. With the CNC control system, these machine tools can do their tasks more accurately and perfectly provide well-machined products.

Comparing with Horizontal Machining Center

Horizontal machine center is another kind of lathes that can do machining work from the level of briefly machining as rings and bearings to complex parts like automotive or aerospace parts. As the vertical forms do, they are perfect working partners to manufacturers. They are suitable for processing heavy workpieces and the cost of the machine is relatively lower.


Cost is usually the priority for the manufacturers to consider. The vertical turning lathes are often low on initial purchasing prices followed by higher maintenance costs. The horizontal machine centers can be much more expensive than the vertical machining centers. However, they cost less by reducing cycle time and maintenance costs. Since the vertical turning lathe would typically require the operator to move the workpieces in and out several times, for example, while machining a six-sided workpiece, it might need to be moved seven times or more. This would cause an increase in labor cost and risk for making a mechanical or human error which would lead to scrap and rework and longer spindle downtime. All the outcomes listed above would lead to a waste of time and costs.


When it comes to using a horizontal machining center, the result would be different. While working with the horizontal machining center, the operators would not need to take the workpieces in and out frequently. The times they touch the workpiece cannot be more than three. The touching of workpieces should be avoided. Moreover, the movements of the parts are all made within the machining cycle that no spindle time would be wasted. In common situations, a horizontal machining center is equivalent to four vertical turning machines. That means the manufacturer working with the horizontal machining center would need to hire only one operator while using the vertical tuning machines need four. In other words, the horizontal machining center can help to reduce labor costs.

Overall Quality

Moreover, because of less setup time and greater spindle utilization, spending on fixtures would be reduced and then increase productivity. Combined with the features listed above, the rate of making mistakes during machining progression would be highly deducted or even eliminated that can provide higher and more stable product quality while the cost goes down.

So Which One Is Better?

After reading this section, you might feel confused that it seems choosing the horizontal machining center as the working partner would be a more ideal choice. In fact, it depends. The cost of the two is not the same that the horizontal ones would be much higher. Moreover, workpieces they can expertly deal with are different. It is true that some would be the same, but they have their own professions that the other one cannot reach. For example, vertical turning lathes are not as expensive as horizontal machine centers do. Although the vertical ones cannot produce as efficiently as the horizontal ones do, to small factories, they are ideal to work with since it does not spend much to own one, compared with owning the horizontal machine center.

Combined with the discussion above, the answer to the question “which one is the best?” would not have a standard answer. It really depends on what would be your priority factories. For example, large manufacturing factories with plenty of purchasers would put their main points in productivity and high quality. In that situation, horizontal machining centers would be an ideal choice for them.

For small factories with fewer customers, they do not need high productivity to manufacture that much since too many stocks would also result in financial loss. Combined with all the contents in this section, we cannot just simply say that a horizontal machining center is the best. In some situations, vertical turning lathes might be the best choice for some manufacturers.

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