Should You Choose a Horizontal or Vertical Machining Center?

- Jul 17, 2018-

As a machine shop operator, you might wonder whether you should opt for a vertical machining center or a horizontal machining center. Here's a few facts that might help your decision making process.

What are some benefits of using a horizontal machining center?

HMCs really stand out on spindle run time. Compare 25% on a VMC (vertical machining center) to 85% on an HMC. This translates into a simple fact - An HMC will create the same part, and use 1/3 less labor doing so.

HMCs costs significantly more than a vertical machining center, but they can do the same amount of work as 3 VMCs.

Gravity aids chip evacuation, meaning a more refined surface finish and a longer tool life. HMCs also have a fourth axis tombstone capacity.

What are some of the benefits of using a vertical machining center?

VMCs are considerably cheaper than HMCs (horizontal machining centers) - According to the Association for manufacturing Technology, it costs approximately $120,000 for an average VMC, compared to $380,000 for the average HMC. It's no wonder that 4 times as many machine shops purchase VMCs every year.

It's easier to see what's going on inside a VMC. HMCs are built with the spindle behind the tombstone, which makes seeing what's happening much harder

Many more machinists, shop owners and operators have experience with VMCs, plus a VMC will require less floor space

To sum up - VMCs are better if your shop is new, your funds for investment are tight, and if you're working with small quantities and you change jobs frequently. HMCs are best for shops that have investment capital, and can afford to spend more on skills and upgraded tooling to produce parts in volume.