Vertical vs. Horizontal Milling Machines

Milling machines are built to complete specific tasks, including drilling, routing, boring, and shaping complex metal surfaces. Vertical mills and horizontal mills are given their names from the direction which their spindle, or cutting head, is positioned. Knowing the differences between these two types of machines can help you determine which type will best be used to complete your project.

Vertical Milling

On a vertical milling machine, the spindle is positioned vertically over the table, which allows the machine to reach both the top and bottom sides of the material. Two variations of vertical mills are bed mills and turret mill.

A bed mill has a spindle that can either lowered and raised, along with a bed that moves perpendicular to the spindle, or side to side. Because the bed doesn’t have to be moved vertically in order to reach the spindle, bed mills are ideal to machine heavy products.

With a turret mill, the spindle is stationary while the table or bed can move both vertically and horizontally in order to move the material around the spindle. A turret mill is often a smaller, more flexible vertical mill than a bed mill.

Horizontal Milling

A horizontal milling machine functions a different way altogether. With this machine, the cutters are mounted on an arm above the table called the arbor, meaning material can be fed from three axes. These arbor-mounted cutters are similar to the blade of a circular saw but are typically thicker and smaller in size. Their size means that they can, in most cases, mill slots and grooves faster than the spindle on a vertical mill. Multiple cutters can be installed on horizontal mills which can mean that

Some horizontal milling machines have what is called a universal table. Because this rotating table allows the machine to mill at different angles, it provides more versatility than machines that allow milling on just a horizontal plane.

These mills are ideal for heavier cuts due to the cutters having support from the arbor and a large cross-section area. A horizontal mill design also allows for fast removal of excess material.

Which is best for my project?

Both machines have their advantages and disadvantages, but what will decide which milling machine we use entirely depends on your project needs. Many pieces can be successfully created by both machines, it’s just a matter of shape, size, and how many planes a pieced needs to be worked on.

The great thing is that both types of milling machines have the ability use CNC technology which allows for accurate automation on even the most intricate projects.

No matter what your project needs are, our expert machinists will determine the best milling machine that will fit your budget and timeline. Call us today at (281) 893-0411!