Vertical Machining Centers: Two Important Options to Look For When Buying
Walk into almost any machine shop and you’re sure to see a line of vertical machining centers (VMCs). You’ll probably find that all of them have similar travels, similar controls, and similar features, regardless of the machine logo or paint color. Does that mean, then, that all vertical machining centers are about the same? That it doesn’t really matter what brand of VMC you buy, provided the price is right and it fits the parts you need to machine? Hardly. Go ahead, talk to the setup people, programmers, and especially the operators. Ask them what options they ask for the most on any new VMC. You might be surprised.
A Vertical Machining Centers Wishlist
This one’s a no-brainer for anyone drilling holes or machining pockets (which is practically everyone). That’s because through-spindle coolant flushes chips out of the way, eliminating re-cutting and extending tool life. While you’re at it, be sure your next VMC is plumbed for a high-pressure coolant system. It might seem like overkill at first, but your part quality and productivity will thank you.
Three-axis vertical machining centers are already quite versatile but become even more so when equipped with a 4th axis rotary table. Given the right application, a trunnion-equipped rotary will let you run unattended at least four times longer than the classic pair of 6-inch machinist vises so often used. You can also machine two additional sides in the same operation, reducing part handling. And a 4th-axis opens the door to helical milling work that you’d otherwise no-quote. As with coolant-through, you’ll want to make sure your next VMC has this important option.
Nice to Haves
Those are the big hitters, but there’s plenty more. Things like built-in Ethernet capability and remote jog handwheel make machine operation easier. So does coolant wash-down and up-front hose connections. A high-flow coolant system with an automatic skimmer and spiral chip auger means stopping less to clean out swarf. As you might have guessed, Kent CNC’s KVR-series vertical machining centers checks all these boxes and more, but we encourage you to see for yourself how the others stack up. Get shopping.