Vertical vs. Horizontal Milling – How to Choose?

Posted on May 24, 2021

Vertical Milling

Horizontal milling machines are known for varying, thicker, and shorter cutting tools, while vertical milling machines have long vertical cutting tools. This is why many manufacturers use them to cut grooves and slots into workpieces. Thanks to the rotary table, milling operations can be undergone while positioned at various angles.

Vertical Milling Overview

Vertical milling is a machining process carried out by a milling machine, which involved removing materials from a stationary workpiece using a rotating cutting tool. A vertical milling machine is in fact very commonly used which features a vertical cutting head or spindle, both holding and rotating the cutting tool against the workpiece.

Since the spindle of a vertical milling machine is vertically oriented, other machine parts will move along a single or multiple axes to shift the material in the proper milling position. The up and down movement of the spindle will remove the material by pressing against the workpiece. A vertical milling machine can be manually operated, computer numerical controlled (CNC), or a combination of both.

The very well-known and frequently used counterpart of vertical milling machine is the horizontal milling machine. In this article, we'll address the unique characteristics of both vertical milling and horizontal milling, as well as their differences and how to choose the most suitable milling method.

Key Features of Vertical Milling Machine

Some of the typical features for vertical milling machines include:


Vertical milling machines account for the most milling machinery in many countries. The reason is that they are more inexpensive comparing to horizontal milling machines, making it the more cost-effective investment in the long run, let along with the lower upfront cost as well, ultimately saving more production cost for the clients. The popularity of vertical milling machines has actually sparked the rise of more skilled operators in the job market as well.

Ease of Operation

Firstly, the construction of vertical milling machines allows operators a better view while working. This enables operators to be able to pin potential problems that require immediate correction during the process. Also, the CNC controls of vertical mills have made programming really simple, so that operators won't spend so much time setting things up. Instead, they'll be able to focus on other parts of the project to ensure high-quality results. Despite the above, only let the professionally trained or experienced operators manipulate these machines.

Production Advantage

The superb visibility described above by the vertical milling machine is exceptional for finishing the fabrication of large plate metal. In other words, vertical mills truly excel at less complicated jobs that do not require a high volume of production; they are built around the capability for finish milling jobs quickly.

Features of Horizontal Milling Machines

Before we go into the key features of horizontal milling machines, we'll are going to spend a little time reviewing what horizontal milling entails. 

A horizontal milling machine is different in the way that the cutters are mounted on a horizontal cutting head across the table. Most horizontal milling machines are characterized by a built-in rotary table that enables milling at different angles. Moreover, horizontal milling machines are known for varying, thicker, and shorter cutting tools, while vertical milling machines have long vertical cutting tools. This is why many manufacturers use them to cut grooves and slots into workpieces. Thanks to the rotary table, milling operations can be undergone while positioned at various angles. Now as of the key features of horizontal milling machines:

Chip Evacuation

When the cutting is in action, gravity will pull the chips out due to the configuration of horizontal milling. This will yield end products that have excellent surface finishing and require less fabrication or production at a later time.

Robust Construction

On the contrary to vertical milling, horizontal milling machines are constructed to be able to handle high volume productions. Also, the machine parts are constructed to be as solid and robust as possible so that they can last longer. Thanks to the rigid design, horizontal milling machines have less vibration and are able to function more smoothly.


Another big difference compared to vertical milling machines is the superb productivity. Horizontal vertical machines are constructed for massive productivity, making them the perfect machine for large volumes and complex jobs. The mechanical design of horizontal milling machines also enables at least three times the efficiency of the regular machining tools, thereby saving production cost and time.

:: Read More: Vertical Milling Machine Works Wonders

The Verdict: Vertical Milling or Horizontal Milling

The short answer is that both inherently excel at different things, despite the similarities: horizontal milling machines are more ideal for larger and more complicated projects, whereas vertical milling machines are more suited for quicker tasks that only require a small volume. You should be choosing one of these milling machines based on the requirement of your actual lines of work. 

Another big difference between vertical milling machines and horizontal milling machines is the orientation of the spindle (though this isn't a direct selection factor); vertical milling machines have spindles that feature vertical orientation, whereas horizontal milling machines have spindles that feature horizontal orientation. This means that the cutting tool of horizontal milling machines is mounted horizontally on the spindle that is capable of removing material effectively from the remaining workpiece.

Furthermore, with particular respect to cutting tools, horizontal milling machines have a wider variety of cutting tools to choose from compared to vertical milling machines. While horizontal milling machines have thicker and shorter cutting tools, vertical milling machines typically have thinner and longer cutting tools. Additionally, vertical milling machines are normally not capable of performing heavier and deeper cuts as a horizontal milling machine would.

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