CNC Vs. VMC Machine: What’s The Difference?

Computer Numerical Control (CNC) and Vertical Machining Center (VMC) are major machinery used extensively in various fields of operation mainly milling or even the creation of different products. They help to get the work done with much more efficiency than laboring through the hard manual route. Of course, human operators need to handle these, but they do make industrialization much easier.

However, there have been numerous concerns about people mixing between these two. Hence we thought of looking into each of these machines and clarifying the differences that these possess. Let’s check it out.

What is Computer Numerical Control (CNC)?

Computer Numerical Control (CNC) uses computer programs to automate the control and use of machine tools. This makes use of a computer to send instructions to the machine allowing the machine to conduct operations like cutting tools to the required dimensions for any product.

The programs that are used to run the CNC systems are known as G-code and are generally a set of instructions that monitor the machine to run the cutting tool at the desired speed and coordinates. These instructions are generally created by the use of software like CAD/CAM and are based on the 3D model of the product.

The use of CNC machines allows the production of the products or parts to the same precision and dimension that is required cutting down the normal loss during production and allowing to complete higher batch sizes than when done via manual input. It can help function a variety of programs or operations like milling, drilling or even turning which for a manual task would take ages to deliver. They are used in various cases like routers, milling machines, plasma cutters, and more, and used extensively in the manufacturing, automobile, and aerospace industries.

Major Features of Computer Numerical Control (CNC) Machines

  • It can refer to any machine that is controlled via a computer like milling, lathing, and even 3D printers at times.
  • It helps to create various complex parts and products that are difficult for manual labor.
  • It can be customized to feature different axes as per the use and the requirement of the user.

What is a Vertical Machining Center (VMC)?

vmc machine

Vertical Machining Center (VMC) is a common type of CNC machine that is specifically used for milling operations. There are various CNC machines as we discussed above of which VMC is a preferred one for milling-specific requirements.

The reason is that VMC machines have a vertically oriented spindle axis, unlike other milling machines which are horizontally oriented. This helps in delivering efficient cutting and creating compactly designed products.

VMC machines help in performing a wide range of operations like drilling, boring, and cutting metals, and other coarse materials with ease. It also has a smaller footprint that makes it easy to work in tight areas. The machines come with all 3 axes of motion which helps in performing complex operations with ease. And that’s not all, it also allows for additional versatility if you want where you can build it up to perform up to 5 axes.

VMC machines are widely used for major aerospace, medical, automobile, and other precision parts or prototype building.

Major Features of Vertical Machining Center (VMC) Machines

  • VMC machines are specifically a type of milling machine that has a vertically oriented spindle axis.
  • The machine is used to cut through metal and other hard coarse materials and can work easily in tight spaces.
  • It comes with 3 axes generally but can be built to have 5 axes for more complex operations.

What is the difference between CNC and VMC Machines?

CNC machines used in milling operations generally come with only three axes while the VMC machines can possess anywhere from three axes to five axes depending on the complexity of the operation. Other CNC machines come with more than three axes but they are not that much used in the milling machines.

The CNC machining center comes with an automatic switching device making it a great use. It can perform continuous processing in multiple complex works. This is what often makes it different from the VMC machines as CNC milling machines come with the ability to exchange machining tools automatically rather than setting it up manually. All you need to do is install different tools in the tool magazine and set the functionality upon which the machine will automatically change the tool as per the required operation. CNC is also mainly used for turning the inner and outer diameter while the VMC machines are used for milling the end and the face.


CNC milling machines and VMC machines both have different sets of features and usability making them suitable for various complex tasks as required. The machines vary according to the performance, use area, and even price levels. But that is a given thing as depending on the use and task in hand, the need for the type of machine is generally picked upon.

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