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

Tool Monitoring for Complex Machining

One of the biggest challenges to tool monitoring on a multitasking machine is coping with simultaneous cutting operations. Caron Engineering (Wells, Maine) designed a system to meet this challenge. ...MORE

OD Turning on a Machining Center

A tool like the one seen here can make it possible to machine precise cylindrical features of an otherwise odd-shaped part to a fine finish without resorting to a lathe. ...MORE

Multi-Pallet HMCs Reduce Setup Time

Incorporating Kiwa horizontal machining centers from Methods Machine Tools helped Baum Precision Machining Inc. reduce setup time and improve productivity. ...MORE

Through-Coolant Capability Reduces Cycle Time

Aided by Walter Titex tooling and a new higher-rpm machine tool from Fryer, Toolmasters Inc. was able to cut cycle time on a complex die set. ...MORE

Sharp Industries UH3 horizontal milling machine

Horizontal Milling Machine’s Universal Table Accommodates Gears

Sharp Industries’ model UH3 horizontal milling machine offers a universal table that is well-suited for gear cutting. ...MORE

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