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Horizontal vs. Vertical Milling Machines – Which Do You Need?

Horizontal vs. Vertical Milling Machines – Which Do You Need?

16 Oct 20

Milling is a common machining process that removes material from a stationary workpiece using a rotating, cutting tool. In the milling process, the material always remains stationary while your machine’s cutting tool rotates. As the cutting tool moves around, it presses against your workpiece and shapes your material as you desire. These machines can be both horizontally and vertically oriented. 

The orientation of the spindle is what separates a vertical milling machine from a horizontal. Vertical machining centers usually have long and thin cutting tools, while horizontal milling machines have shorter and thicker cutting tools. Horizontal mills are ideal for cutting heavier and deeper grooves into the material, while vertical mills are ideal for milling more parts with more detail.

To make an educated decision as to which type of milling machine will best suit your needs, read our guide below.


The benefits of a vertical milling machine

A vertical turret milling machine is incredibly versatile. These machines can be easily adjusted and manoeuvred to cut a wide variety of shapes, making them able to perform in a wide range of projects. 

Manual movement is still required to cut in different directions, which involves employee attention. However, maintenance is low with this type of machine, while functionality is high, making them particularly ideal for industrial manufacturing (such as cutting automobile parts).


The benefits of a horizontal milling machine

Horizontal milling machines are ideal when there is less need for accuracy, the material is harder to work through, and your grooves need to be thicker or deeper. Horizontal milling machines can perform at a quicker rate than their vertical counterparts, and finished results have smoother surfaces. Due to the setup of a horizontal milling machine, gravity aids in pulling chips out of your material, and your work will require less fabrication at the end.


The cost of each machine

Horizontal milling machines are more expensive to purchase than their vertical counterparts, with fewer trained operatives available to run them. That being said, a skilled employee could keep two vertical machines cutting 75% of the time, while an attentive employee could keep two horizontal machines cutting around 90% of the time – which is much more productive. 

Horizontal milling machines have a shorter processing time per part, lower prices in machining and labour time, and perform three side machining. This means that a horizontal milling machine can reach three faces of a part in one cycle. Features that relate to one another can therefore be milled in the same process to assure accuracy and no mistakes in the positioning of new cuts. Material is wasted less often in this case, saving money for your business in the long run. 

Vertical milling machines are initially more attractive due to a lower price point for the actual machine, and they’re more than worth it for less complex tasks. If your company is smaller, the investment of a vertical milling machine may seem more reasonable. Plenty of accuracy is assured with computer numerical control, and milling is precise with thinner cutting tools. Smaller products such as pencils are milled with vertical milling machines since vertical machines can mill at detail and fulfil large jobs with some oversight.

Both vertical and horizontal milling machines are a wise investment for your business, but there are economical and functional upsides and downsides to both machines. Vertical milling machines are cheaper at the cost of purchasing the machine but don’t operate at the quick capacity of a horizontal machine. Horizontal milling machines are rarer, and cost more initially, but could save your business money in the long run with their fast processing times and minimal need for employee attention.


Consider the size of your company, what type of jobs you’d require from your milling machine, and the budget you are prepared to part with for your new machine. If you are still unsure and would like further guidance, don’t hesitate to contact us.

Article written by: Mike

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