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The world of CNC machining can be overwhelming — I’ve personally gotten turned around by all the CNC machining jargon before. There’s a whole dictionary of commonly used acronyms and when you head to research what they mean, there isn’t a lot of data available. 

Within the CNC milling machine classification, there are many types you can utilize, but in general, a CNC mill will either be horizontal or vertical. A CNC vertical mill machine has a spindle (cutting tool) fixed in its vertical orientation, perpendicular to the horizontal bed. They use cylindrical cutters oriented vertically on the spindle axis and come down on the workpiece.

CNC milling provides a variety of cuts and can be performed on a variety of metals and non-metals, such as ABS, aluminum, brass, bronze, copper, Delrin, Kovar, magnesium, PVC, PTFE, stainless steel, Teflon, zinc, and more. Read on to learn more about the benefits of CNC milling, a comparison of types of CNC mills, and the best type of vertical CNC milling machine.   

Applications and Advantages of Vertical CNC Milling Machines

CNC Machining with a Vertical CNC Mill

CNC vertical milling machines are advantageous because they can provide quick processing times along with the precision and accuracy you need for even the most complex machining jobs.

Some common applications include:

  • Large part machining
  • Slots
  • Helical grooves
  • Reamer
  • Bevel gears
  • Toolroom work
  • Mold manufacturing
  • Complex geometry machining

CNC Vertical Mold/Die Mill

A CNC vertical mold/die milling machine is utilized for high-precision, high-accuracy machining. A mold machine is primarily utilized to manufacture, you guessed it, molds! They are also utilized for tool & die machining as well as other high-performance machining work. 

In general, CNC vertical mold/die mills have the following characteristics:

  • High spindle speed (5k – 30k RPM)
  • Feed rates as high as 600 inches/minute
  • Excellent surface polish results, as low as a fraction of a micrometer Ra
  • Excellent, smooth fitting clearance for fitting molds
  • High pitch accuracy
  • Great and constant Z-axis control
  • High torque spindle motor (i.e. 90 ft-lb @ 2k RPM)
  • Typically consist of 3-5 axes
  • Thermally stable platform

CNC vertical mold/die mills also offer the following benefits:

  • High accuracy and precision to reduce lead time and cost
  • Excellent surface finish reduces post-processing finishing operations
  • Dynamic accuracy due to machine rigidity
  • Hard milling enables mold components to be machined as-hardened, allowing for a reduction in machining complexity and post-processing hardening

CNC Vertical Toolroom Mill

industrial cutting tools for cnc machining

A toolroom mill is classified as such because they are typically found in – and you’re not gonna believe this – toolrooms. A toolroom is typically a place where machinists make tooling for other CNC machines, including production CNC machinery. Of course, such mills can also be found in labs, teaching environments, and schools. 

As precision, tight tolerances, and accuracy are critical for production tooling, a CNC vertical toolroom mill tends to be more precise. This type of CNC mill is typically smaller and requires more (or all) manual operator control and manual tool changes as well. Vertical toolroom mills also typically have a reduced number (2 or 3) of operational axes. Some CNC vertical toolroom mills have the option to be run completely manually or with CNC controls.

 CNC vertical toolroom mills have the following characteristics:

  • Relatively simple to use, even if you don’t understand coding or CNC programming
  • Spindle speed in the range of 4k to 6k RPM
  • Impressive torque at an affordable price (i.e. 33.0 ft-lb @ 1200 RPM)
  • Cutting speeds that rival larger CNC mills (around 400 inches/minute)
  • A majority have manual controls as well as CNC controls

CNC vertical toolroom mills offer the following benefits:

  • Precision performance at an affordable price
  • Versatile — can perform a wide array of machining tasks
  •  High reliability
  •  Some can operate on a standard power supply (220 VAC)
  • Superior accuracy and precision
  • Can be utilized as a teaching machine
  • Excellent spindle nose to tabletop ratio (better than standard vertical CNC mills)
  • Higher rigidity than standard vertical CNC mills

CNC Vertical Drill/Tap Mill

A CNC vertical drill and tap mill offers the ability to perform precision drilling and tapping, along with full milling capabilities. These mills perform high-speed tapping while maintaining rigidity to get the accuracy required. Non-cutting time is typically reduced with these machines due to the rapid feed rate and higher than standard acceleration rates. These are ultra-productive machines with compact footprints. 

CNC vertical drill/tap mills have the following characteristics:

  • Fast spindle speed in the range of 10k-20K RPM
  • Impressive torque at an affordable price (i.e. 33.0 ft-lb @ 1200 RPM)
  • Superior cutting speeds (around 2k inches/minute) 

CNC vertical drill/tap mills offer the following benefits:

  • High productivity with a small footprint
  • Full milling capabilities coupled with precise and accurate drill and tap machining
  • High-speed rigid tapping
  • Reduced cycle-times
  • Specially optimized for machining die-cast parts
  • High-pressure coolant capability 

CNC Vertical Gantry Mill

CNC vertical gantry-style mills exist primarily to meet the need for machining both large workpieces and even the smallest parts at quantities of a few thousand a time. A gantry-type mill has a gantry frame, along with a large horizontal bed. The gantry mill can cut metals and plastics alike and can cut parts from sheet metal. 

CNC vertical gantry mills have wide tables and can handle parts up to several inches or even a foot thick — so they can handle a lot of weight and have several feet of travel. They are capable of machining even the largest and toughest to handle parts, including 5-axis, complex machining jobs.

CNC vertical gantry mills have the following characteristics:

  • Fast spindle speed in the range of 10k-20K RPM
  • Good torque (i.e. 11.3 ft-lb @ 7500 RPM)
  • Good cutting speeds (around 800 inches/minute) 

CNC vertical gantry mills offer the following benefits:

  • Dual-axis spindle head
  • Excellent for machining larger components, such as those found in the aerospace or composite structure industries, and layup molds
  • Excellent cutting platform stability
  • Versatile enough to perform traditional complex machining as well as cutting large parts and sheet metal 
  • Reduced process times for loading and unloading the CNC mill because of the bridge found on most gantry mills
  • Efficient, productive, accurate machining

CNC Vertical Column Mill

a CNC vertical column milling machine

A CNC vertical column mill offers ultra-high efficiency. A vertical column mill style machining center has a fixed table and a vertical column where all the X, Y, and Z axis movement occurs. As the name implies, a vertical column mill consists of a vertical column with the spindle attached. The column also houses the mechanism which provides the drive functionality to the spindle. 

There are also double column mills that provide extra stability, precision, and accuracy. The large table, which moves longitudinally, allows for manufacturing productivity gains because you can load a multitude of parts on a table at one time — reducing the need for single part loading and unloading. The large table also allows for the machining of otherwise difficult-to-machine large or heavy pieces (similar to gantry-style mills).

CNC Vertical Drill/Tap Mills have the following characteristics:

CNC Vertical Drill/Tap Mills offer the following benefits:

  • Versatile, customizable, and adaptable
  • Increased precision
  • Easy to maintain due to simple construction
  • Great at machining undercuts, heavy cuts, multi-sided components, and complex surface contours
  • Can handle heavy parts — up to10000 lbs!
  • Superb at machining for industries like aerospace, alternative energy, and oil/gas

Sourcing Simplified

Many metal and plastic parts can be cut utilizing the vertical CNC machining technologies discussed in this article. But you don’t have to figure out the best manufacturing process for your parts alone. If you’re tasked with sourcing and supplying mechanical parts, Fictiv is your operating system for custom manufacturing that makes it faster, easier, and more efficient. 

In other words, Fictiv lets engineers, like you, engineer. We offer a range of manufacturing capabilities to produce both simple and incredibly complex geometries — create a free account and upload your designs today!