Vertical or Horizontal Machining Center?

Today’s machining and milling processes are very accurate, precise and capable of providing a wide range of operations. However, some methods are done with a horizontal machining center or HMC while others utilize a vertical system. So which method is best for you and why? Let’s look closer at the operations to find out what they are all about.

If you want to grind material from a work piece you might place it against a revolving surface like a lathe. This provides a rotary cutting motion which can create all kinds of shapes and sizes. However, with this method of milling, your cutting machinery can either be situated in a horizontal or vertical configuration. So why choose horizontal (parallel to the floor)?

HMC Benefits

One of the most important advantages HMC has over VMC is position and gravity. In the process of milling, chips and cuttings are naturally going to fall straight downward and with an HMC they can easily be collected or disposed of. This is possible because the spindle is in the horizontal position. With VMC, the spindle is vertical and cuttings can get in the way as they accumulate. In fact, with many VMC operations, someone must manually remove the cuttings periodically.

There can be another problem with vertical machining. For instance, because the cuttings may not immediately fall out of the way, they may build up and can affect the integrity of the milling process. In other words, it could produce dents, tiny gouges or affect precision cutting accuracy. This is not a concern with a horizontal machining center.

Fourth Axis

With vertical milling you have three axes to work with. For example, a large block (the tombstone which sits over the rotation axis) may be used for attaching your work pieces and this can serve as an additional axis. This provides added versatility. With a 4th axis you have the capacity to mount a vice and more work pieces and this can greatly increase your capacity and efficiency.

More Accurate Cutting

Because HMC does not have a problem with cuttings buildup, you receive more accurate machining and this can eliminate the need to machine an item more than once to ensure accuracy. This feature can save a great deal of time, money and business resources.

Working with a Horizontal Machining Center

HMC equipment can be difficult to program. Also, visibility is not quite as good as with vertical equipment. In other words, it takes a skilled and experienced machinist to deliver the highest quality work in the shortest amount of time. This is why many shops today choose to outsource some or all of their HMC work with a trusted machine shop.

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