Zone: Machining Centers & Milling Machines

OVERVIEW: The term “machining center” describes almost any CNC milling and drilling machine that includes an automatic toolchanger and a table that clamps the workpiece in place. On a machining center (as contrasted with a turning machine), the tool rotates, but the work does not. The most basic variety of this type of machine is also the most basic CNC machine tool—a vertical machining center. While vertical machining centers can be high-end machines because of their precision and/or their size, a small and simple vertical machining center is a relatively low-cost CNC machine tool that often represents a new machine shop’s first machine tool purchase. The orientation of the spindle is the most fundamental defining characteristic of a machining center. Vertical machining centers and horizontal machining centers have (obviously) vertically and horizontally oriented spindles. Vertical machines generally favor precision while horizontal machines generally favor production—but these generalizations are loose, and plenty of machines break out of them. Other choices in machining center orientation include the universal machining center, which can change between vertical and horizontal spindle arrangement. More common than this is the five-axis machining center, which adds rotary motion to the machine’s linear motion. The machine pivots the tool and/or the part not only to mill and drill at various angles, but also to mill swept surfaces. Machining centers linked by an automated pallet system can form an automated machining cell. Such a cell can machine a queue of different parts without operator attention by shuttling the parts in and out of the various machines as appropriate. Related machines in this category include the boring mill, which generally describes a large machine for heavy and/or precise milling and hole making. Another related machine is the manual milling machine. Such a machine may have some basic programmability, but it generally lacks an automatic toolchanger, meaning the tool change is a manual step.

Featured Zone Content

Beyond Secondaries: Vertical Machining Center Enhances OEM's Capability

Like many turning based shops, Clippard Instrument Laboratory first applied vertical machining centers to perform secondary operations on its screw machined parts. That view has changed for the better. ...MORE

Larry and Rodney de Caussin with the SMTCL HMC80 machining center

HMC Saves Floor Space, Increases Production Capacity

When Calmotion LLC's production capacity fell behind demand for its rotary products, it added horizontal machining with the SMTCL HMC80 for reduced operations and setup times. ...MORE

SNK America FSP-80V

Five-Axis VMC Performs Complex Contouring

The FSP-80V vertical machining center from SNK America is intended as a cost-effective alternative for applications requiring complex, simultaneous five-axis contouring of difficult-to-cut materials. ...MORE

GF Mikron HSM 500 MoldMaster

Milling Center Produces Mold Cores, EDM Electrodes

Available from GF Machining Solutions, the Mikron HSM 500 MoldMaster high-speed milling machine was designed with die/mold makers in mind. ...MORE

retrofit additive head

Easing the Entry into Additive Manufacturing

With funding from America Makes, Optomec and MachMotion worked together to develop a retrofit additive manufacturing system for machining centers. ...MORE

F500 Plus VMC Offers High Speed Axis Travel

The F500 Plus VMC uses a high-precision, high-torque Big Plus spindle in a construction that virtually eliminates thermal growth during heavy-duty cutting. ...MORE

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