The heart and soul of our machine shop are our machining centers. These are the workhorses that cut each product to the finest detail, producing a series of identical parts. In simple terms: materials–aluminum, stainless steel, plastics, or whatever it may be– enter the machine, select tools, mill, turn, and drill into the materials to make the required shapes, and out pops a finished part. Our machining centers can cut threads, bore holes, and create unique shapes. These machines make what our customers want and allow us to truly live your parts.
We now have both Vertical Machining Centers (VMC) and Horizontal Machining Centers (HMC). We’re excited to have grown to the point that we need the capability and qualities that come from both. We didn’t start off that way.
How It Started
NWMW started its CNC machining operations in the early 90s with a Vertical Machining Center (VMC) with a manual 4th-Axis. The 4-Axis already set us apart because most VMCs have only 3-Axis. The 4th-Axis allows us to decrease the number of operations, or holds. We wanted to launch with the most flexible machines available. The goal was to produce a wide variety of pieces, to meet the needs of many industries. Producing more than short-run jobs of 1 to 20 pieces was challenging, but for those short-run and prototype jobs we were incredibly adept, and with that machine still around, and now joined by many more, we remain so.
In a VMC the spindle axis—the part that holds and rotates the cutting tool—and the table are both set vertically where the spindle reaches the material mounted on the worktable from above. This setup is ideal for boring, drilling, thread cutting, face cutting, and profile milling. The table on a VMC is large and can fit large or awkward parts.
One part that needs six operations – one for each side, will require an operator to manually move the material that many times. That takes time as well as skill and patience! So while the VMC can handle any part, it just isn’t as efficient or cost-effective for large quantities. But, we haven’t pushed this machine aside. Our VMC department is what allows us to say yes when it may seem like an impossible delivery date or feature to hit.
How It’s Going
As we have grown and our customer base has grown, we recognized a little more automation, efficiency, and mass production capabilities were needed to keep up with demand. So along came our Horizontal Machining Centers (HMC). It’s called horizontal because the spindle axis here is set, you guessed it, horizontally.
Unlike the VMC, this can reach multiple sides of each part with exacting precision enabling us to cut more complex pieces in one hold. To be exact our HMC’s are FULL 4th, meaning we can not only index to any degree we can be engaged in a cut while the part moves.
Our precision picks up as well simply due to the large size of the HMC. It is more solid and rigid than the VMC. That means there is less vibration when things are humming along so there’s less chance of a tool chatter or lost accuracy. We pride ourselves on that precision to ensure your parts are truly identical part to part.
Our customers also benefit as the pace of our production picks up. We boast that your parts are made to order within a turnaround time down to just 1 to 2 weeks. Remember that exhausted operator who was turning materials constantly to allow cutting on every side with the VMC? Well, he now has some breathing room because with this machine multiple sides of one part can be reached in one hold. Now that operator barely has to touch the material at all. The HMC also has two tables instead of one so different cuts can be ongoing at the same time. There is no downtime for loading.
With the ability to do higher volume projects, quicker, and with less downtime, we removed labor costs and were able to pass that through to our customers. You can now get more complex, complicated, and precision parts, in higher quantities, with a bit less labor cost. Talk about a win-win.
Send us your prints and requirements and let’s talk about how our HMCs and VMCs, the centers of our universe, can work for you.