What is a Vertical Machining Center?

by | Jul 13, 2016 | Metal Fabrication

Some people might not think spindle location is a major consideration when it comes to machining. However, in the machine shop business, it can make all the difference in the world. Let’s discover what a vertical machining center (VMC) is, what it does and some of the many benefits it offers today.

What is VMC?

If you look at a standard lathe operation, you’ll see a cutting surface in a horizontal position. Vertical machining takes place in an up and down motion, as opposed to sideways. So why choose vertical instead of horizontal? There are many good reasons why.


Some types of machining are best done in a vertical position. For instance, a standard drill press is a perfect example of a vertical machine. One only needs to pull a lever after starting the machine and drilling is simple and easy. With this method you are getting the maximum benefits from gravity.

For some applications, coolant must be used all during the process. With VMC, coolant can be applied from the top and allowed to run down the entire cutting area. This is the most efficient method because gravity is utilized to provide an even distribution of coolant.


If you are using a horizontal machining center (HMC) visibility can be impeded by the spindle. However, this is not the case with a vertical machining center. There is no large tombstone structure in the way.


Due to the nature of their construction, you can usually buy a good VMC much cheaper than an HMC. In fact, the cost differences can be significant and it is not unusual to pay twice as much or more for HMC equipment. For the machine shop with a tight operating budget, this is a huge consideration.


Is space very important in your shop? If so, a vertical machining center may be your best option. Many HMC machines are quite bulky and can take up a very larger amount of area in a building. Your new VMC may be much smaller and more compact.


On average, it takes more skill to operate HMC equipment. This means it can be harder to find machinists with a lot of experience in HMC. In addition, you may have to pay your machinists more and provide additional job benefits to attract the most qualified help. With VMC, this is not an issue.

In some cases, you may not be ready to add a new vertical machining center to your shop. When you go to a trusted contract manufacturer you will receive all kinds of valuable services, including vertical machining and fabrication. It can help you expand your business and offer services you wouldn’t have been able to provide on your own.

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