The versatile Leadwell 5-axis vertical machining center

November 4, 2019

Is sculpture a science or an art?

What about the works inside a Rolex Oyster?

The mathematical precision and engineering prowess behind art installations like The Urchins or architecture like the world’s smallest computer chip point to a marriage of the two.

Whether you are Michaelangelo or a CNC operator, your function is to take a block of raw material and find the very precise shape within. Whether that is a statue of David or a high-performance part of the International Space Station is simply a matter of discovery.

Learn about the versatility of a vertical machining center ahead.


CNC is a computer-controlled fabrication process. It uses advanced milling tools, water or a high-density light beam (laser) to cut or grind parts out of a metal workpiece. The process is guided by a specialized computer program.

This fabrication process is cost-efficient and high quality. Machining is a subtractive process, where you start with a large block and remove what is necessary. It is the opposite of 3D printing, which is an additive process, where you add detail layer by layer.

The first CNC machines were similar to lathes and had an XY table with a cutter mounted on a horizontal above the table. These horizontal machines work best on flat surfaces and make shallow cuts.

A vertical machine places the spindle at 90 degrees to the horizontal. The cutters are held on the spindle and cut across the top of the workspace. Even more advanced is the 5-axis CNC machine.


Three dimensions are easy to visualize on a work table. Add in the ability to rotate a cutter around the axis of another. Those are the two additional axes.

In a vertical machining center, the X and Y-axes are represented on the work table, with the Z-axis at the vertical.  The A-axis rotates around the X-axis, B rotates around Y, and C around Z. Although there are 6 axes, there are very few machines that cut on all 6 axes, as there is little additional benefit.

The geometry of the part you cut, determines how many axes you need for efficiency.


There are vertical machining centers with six or more axes. Although the math behind these geometries is difficult, the explanation is simple.

Machines may have more than one turning spindle, with more than one turret. The combinations can give you a 7, 9 or even 11-axis machine.

A complicated component, like a precision hydraulic valve, might be done on a 3- axis machine, surface machining each layer, but that is hardly efficient. A 5-axis machine allows the part to be machined in a spiral.


Leadwell’s line of CNC Vertical Machining Centers, are time tested mills for the American market. These heavy-duty cutters feature precision, stability, and speed. Any machine shop would be proud to add these machines to their floor.

For example, the Leadwell V-40i Trunnion CNC Vertical Machining Center, features a 13.8″ diameter integrated Tilting Rotary Table. It has a large work area that holds a load of up to 440 lbs. 0-45 degrees. For tilts 60-90 degrees the table hold up to 200 lbs.

The V-40iT features a 40″ X-axis and 25″ Y-axis travel with 21″ Z-axis travel for even the largest precision machined parts.  There are cross-roller linear guideways on the axes. It features zero clearance and full carrying capacity in all directions.


The V-40iT uses a FANUC 12,000 rpm dual wound motor on the spindles. This heavy-duty motor produces 30 HP for suitable for high torque machining. This ensures consistent clean cuts.

The spindles are Royal® cartridge type.  Oversize Belleville washers with high retention force hold tools in place. This reduces vibration and increases accuracy.

The dual contact #40 Taper I.D. grind is an added bonus. Six high precision angular contact bearings that allow heavy cutting. They help create a superior part finish. A draw bar mechanism and a large diameter quill contribute to high spindle ridgity.

The V-40iT handles up to 1,000psi high-pressure coolant systems.  Leadwell spindles accommodate BT-40 or Cat-40 tool holders and dual contact tool holders.


For precision turning, the rigid base and column work in concert with the cross -roller linear guides to provide outstanding stability.

The C Axis rotation speed is up to 22.2 RPM. The tilting A-axis rotation speed is up to 13.3 RPM. The maximum cutting feed rate is an impressive 800 IPM.

Leadwell uses pre-tensioned double nut ball screws on all axes. This maintains the dimensional accuracies necessary for 5 axis machining. The vertical machining center uses a  Ball Bar Testing system that checks linear accuracy and the machine geometry.

These tests ensure that the machine meets the highest three-dimensional squareness and accuracy requirements. The machine is laser calibrated for full travel accuracy.


All of Leadwell products are standardized with Fanuc controls. This means operators need not learn or relearn with each change of station.

This machine features the Fanuc OiMD control with a large 10” LCD. It comes standard with 20 or 40 Block Look Ahead with the Fanuc 30iA5 offered as a high-performance option.

The standard configuration equips the V-40iT with a high-speed automatic tool changer with a maximum tool diameter of 4.3 inches without adjacent tools. The capacity is 24 tools. A 30 and 40 tool ATC are also options.

The base design flushes chips away with a coolant wash down and dual screw-type chip augers inside the machine for easy chip disposal.  Outside of the V-40iT, the front type chip conveyor removes a high volume of chips through a barrel high exit.

A full enclosure guards the front and a complete ergonomic flat panel the back if the V-40iT design.


All Metals Fabricating offers Dallas- area clients in the oil and gas industries, aerospace, telecommunications and more precision machining and parts manufacture.  Tools for aluminum, steel, stainless steel, copper, brass and plastics are available.

Multi-sided parts, no matter the size, are no challenge for the well-stocked machine floor and experienced machinists. Let our experts help determine if a vertical machining center is the most efficient and cost-effective way to create your part.

Contact our experts today.