Comparing Horizontal mills vs. vertical mills

The most common differences between horizontal mills vs. vertical mills

Milling machines come in two main designs with either vertical and horizontal spindle location. In the vertical milling machine, the tool spindle is located above the working table. A horizontal mill has its spindle located beside the work table, normally opposite the machine operator. The differences between the two designs affect the type of milling that can be done as well as the quality of the cutting processes. Vertical Mills come in two styles – Bed Mill and Turret Mill. Horizontal Mills also come in two variations – Plain and Universal.

Vertical CNC mills, pros & cons

Vertical mills are quite popular and are a more traditional design of milling machines going back in time. Some of the advantages and disadvantages to Vertical Mills are:


  • In general, Vertical Mills cost less to purchase than Horizontal Mills.
  • Most machines have a smaller footprint taking up less room on the production floor.
  • The surface finish produced on a Vertical Mill is not as good as the surfaces produced on a Horizontal Mill.
  • The production capacity is lower for Vertical mills than for Horizontal Mills.
  • The overall horsepower is lower for Vertical Mills.
  • Vertical Mills weigh less than Horizontal Mills.
  • Most tools wear out faster on a Vertical Mill.
  • Because of its design, the Vertical Mill has more difficulty removing cutting chips than Horizontal Mills.

Horizontal CNC mills, pros & cons

Horizontal mills are designed to accomplish the removal of material under more heavy-duty conditions. When comparing the two designs, think of a Horizontal Mill as more of a racehorse and a Vertical Mill as a rented pony. Horizontal Mills function under tougher conditions with more precise results and much faster output. Compared to Vertical Mills, Horizontal Mills have some distinct advantages like:

  • The surface finish produced on a Horizontal Mill is much better than that machined on a Vertical Mill.
  • The production capacity is much higher for Horizontal Mills.
  • The overall horsepower is greater for Horizontal Mills over Vertical Mills.
  • Most tools wear much longer on a Horizontal Mill than on a Vertical Mill.
  • Horizontal Mills remove cutting debris much more easily and efficiently than Vertical Mills.

Which is best, Horizontal or Vertical mills?

While all milling machines are designed to perform a variety of functions, the real criteria that decide which machine to use is unique to the production floor it works on. If a manufacturer needs a lot of workpieces with heavy material removal and a clean, neat surface then the Horizontal Mill is the way to go.

For versatility and a less-demanding work environment, a Vertical Mill can do the job and do it for less money than a Horizontal Mill. The decision all boils down to what the machine needs to do, how often it will do the task, how many workpieces must be produced, and in what time frame.

For many purchasers, the best option is to contact an equipment dealer or service center to discuss the needed specifications and capabilities to determine which style of milling machine will best meet production needs now and in the future.

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