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A vertical machine centre is one of the most common types of machine tools used for various automatic production processes. It differs from other constructions because its main spindle lies on the vertical axis. It is a highly automatic machine, characteristically due to its tool magazine, automatic tool changer, tool storage unit and its numerically controlled rotating work table. The single column and console design are the most common types of horizontal machining centres. However, the highly rigid gantry construction is best suited for vertical positioning of the work spindle. This is most commonly found on vertical machine centers. Universal machining centres allow for flexibility, as the main spindle’s position can be adjusted.
History of the Vertical Machining Centers
Historically, the vertical position of the spindle was a typical feature of the single spindle drilling machine. The machining centre was then developed based on this design, through the integration of additional machining processes and the introduction of numerical control. On a drilling machine, the vertical position of the main spindle ensures that the force of the feed operates in the same direction as the weight of the workpiece. This means that the clamp only has to absorb the rotational force of the tool. This is a significant advantage particularly for multi-faceted machining centers that also undertake milling work.
Vertical Machining Centers & Areas of Applications
The horizontal machining centre is usually better suited than the corresponding machine tool with a vertical work spindle, for the majority of common processing tasks. Typical areas of application for vertical machine centers include the production of castings, moulds, stamps, matrices and other similar components. What is important is that these large and heavy workpieces are processed in one direction. The gantry design is particularly suited to process these types of workpieces; there are two different designs available.
The long table design contains a translational movement axis. This construction requires a machine bed, which is double the length of the table. With the gantry design, the tool storage contains all the movement axes and the bed does not have to be longer than the longest section of the workpiece. The gantry design is particularly stable because of its cross-beam and double column design. This allows for a high cutting capacity, which as a consequence, inflicts a high demand upon the frame.
Vertical Machining Centres as a Tools Changing Device
An essential component of the vertical machining centre is its automatic tool changing device. This requires a suitable tool storage system and it is usually necessary to code the tools so that they can be identified by the machines. Disc, chain or shelf magazines can be implemented as a tool storage, depending on the number of tools required. The typical storage capacity of a shelf magazine is double that of a disc magazine. There is usually a limited amount of space available for labelling the tools. Optical labelling systems like barcodes are usually not suitable because they are susceptible to dirt. Non-volatile semi conductor memory provides a high resistance with smaller sizes, particularly in conjunction with non-contact data transmission. Vertical machining centres commonly use steep taper tools, where the data is stored in the groove or clamp bolt. These electronic data storage units are not only used to store a large amount of data, but they also contain a code. These are used for identification purposes, as well as storing specific data relating to the tool, like its running life or corrective action.
Another important characteristic for automatic production using vertical machining centres is the independent tool feed, which is usually undertaken using a pallet system. Both the tools and the pallets need to be identified by the vertical machining centre. Unlike the tools, there is enough space available on the pallets for barcodes and similar coding systems.
Sheet metal machining centres are also available within the category of vertical machining centers. They are most commonly used to process thin workpieces with large surface areas. These are best processed using an arrangement of tools found on vertical machining centres. However, the tools used are significantly different than those previously described and a work spindle is not available for, for example, laser cutting. A rotating punch can be used as an analogy for a punching tool, which is a typical tool for a sheet metal machining centres.
Vertical Machining Center Manufacturers
The most well-known manufacturers of vertical machining centres include CHIRON, DIXI, DMG MORI SEIKI (formerly DECKEL, MAHO and GILDEMEISTER), HECKERT, HERMLE, HÜLLER-HILLE, HURCO, MAKINO, OKUMA and SHW.