What Is Vertical CNC Machining?

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  • Written By: Paul Scott
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 01 December 2019
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Vertical CNC machining is any machining operation with a computer controlled power tool featuring a vertically orientated tool bit. These operations typically include milling and drilling and are carried out on machines which rely on computer numerical control (CNC) computer programs to complete any given cycle. Vertical CNC machining can be used to complete jobs such as planing, slot, and keyway cutting, profile contouring, and drilling. The machines typically feature multidimensional work planes moving both the cutting head and workpiece around to complete any job. CNC machines are driven by computer aided design (CAD) programs which control most, if not all, functions, require minimal operator input, and produce extreme levels of accuracy.

Vertical power tools are machines with vertically orientated tool bits. The most common of these are the drill press and the vertical milling machine. Drill presses generally feature laterally static tool bit and workpiece placement and rely on the vertical movement of the entire press head to complete drilling operations. Milling machines differ in that the tool bit and workpiece may be advanced across each other's axis during milling. Both machining types may be manually operated, semi-automated, or fully automated as is the case in CNC machines.


The tool and workpiece mechanisms on CNC machines are remotely controlled and driven by a computerized system utilizing CAD files to move them around during machining operations. Vertical CNC machining jobs usually start with the creation of a detailed part drawing produced by one of the CAD programs. This drawing contains all relevant information about the part, such as dimensions and profiles, and serves as the base for a program which includes all the information the machine needs to complete the job. This program includes information such as start and end points, different tools used, tool speeds, machining sequences and, of course, all the physical dimensions of the part.

Once on the vertical CNC machining computer, the raw stock is loaded and the machining started. During the cutting operation, the computer directs the machine mechanisms to move both the tool bit and workpiece around to complete the job exactly as laid out in the program. The vertical CNC machining process is suitable for completing a wide range of operations including contour milling, face milling, slot and keyway cutting, template drilling, reaming, and boring. The obvious benefits of vertical CNC machining include accuracy and consistency across extended part runs and minimal operator intervention requirements.


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