Both CNC horizontal and vertical machining centers are used by today’s engineers and manufacturers to create incredibly precise components from a full range of plastics, ceramics, composites, metals, castings, and specialty alloys.

What Is Horizontal CNC Milling?

Horizontal CNC milling refers to CNC milling operations that utilize horizontal milling machines. As suggested by the name, the machines have horizontally oriented tooling — with rotating cylindrical cutters that can move along up to five axes to create the shapes, slots, details, and holes of a three-dimensional part. This design makes them suitable for both end milling and plain milling; the former uses tools with teeth on the periphery and face, while the latter uses tools with teeth only on the periphery.

Compared to vertical CNC milling machines, horizontal CNC milling machines offer the following advantages:

  • They can produce complex components in fewer operations.
  • They have faster processing speeds (up to three to four times faster).
  • They offer longer tooling lives and better surface finishes.

They are ideal for creating the following:

  • Large or heavy parts with sizeable surface areas, such as aerospace/aircraft components
  • Specialty or irregular parts, such as cams, gears, and helicoids
  • Parts that require machining on multiple sides

Horizontal machining is especially ideal for applications that demand slots, grooves, pocketing, or facing. Regardless of a machine’s function, a horizontal spindle orientation allows manufacturers to work quickly and efficiently, especially with projects that create large amounts of chips. The horizontal layout allows the chips — an inevitable result of high-speed milling — to simply fall away or be easily removed.

Custom Machining Capabilities

CNC Horizontal Machining: Tools and Variations

This style of assembly works well for more than just CNC mills. Additional horizontally oriented CNC tools include:

  • CNC Horizontal Lathes — Especially effective for complicated programs that would overwhelm a manual lathe, CNC horizontal lathes make fast, precise cuts while a workpiece is being rotated on a horizontal axis.
  • CNC Horizontal Machining Centers — This modern style of milling machine comes supported with a full system of additional features, such as automatic tool changers, carousels and magazines, coolant and cutting fluid systems, and specialty enclosures.
  • CNC Horizontal Boring Machines or Boring Mills — There are three main varieties of this tool: table, planer, and floor. The table is the most universal, though all serve the same purpose of boring holes into a workpiece horizontally.

Industries and Products

Horizontal machining is particularly effective for heavy parts, as well as those that need to be worked on multiple sides. In addition to more efficient management of chips, horizontal set-ups typically offer shorter processing times due to the operators’ ability to swap pallets. They also tend to be associated with lower prices due to reduced labor and machining time overall.

CNC milling and machining is especially valuable to the production of large parts that demand significant floor space, such as aircraft and aerospace panels or components. It also supports projects for:

  • Commercial applications
  • Building and maintenance
  • Electronics
  • Medicine
  • Security
  • Recreation
  • Transportation
  • Automotive
  • Industrial and O.E.M.

Prototyping and custom design are also popular applications of CNC horizontal cutters due to their efficiency, flexibility, and increasingly affordable tooling costs.

Contact the Horizontal CNC Milling Experts at Ardel Today

  • For more information about horizontal CNC milling, contact Ardel Engineering today. To partner with Ardel Engineering on your next machining project, request a quote.


For more information on precision CNC milling, the unique benefits of CNC horizontal milling machines, or the best CNC milling solution for your next project, visit some of these informative pages: