A VMC (vertical machining center) is essentially a CNC vertical milling machine on steroids. Many CNC mills are just manual milling machines that have been converted to CNC control. They work nicely, but have a number of drawbacks when it comes to real world CNC milling: manual tool changes, lack of chip collection, lack of coolant containment, and backlash issues (which a manual machinist normally compensates for).
These problems are solved with a VMC, which will usually have an automatic tool changer, and an enclosure to contain coolant and wash chips down into a collection pan. They are, however, very expensive, very big, and very heavy. Building one from scratch is a massive undertaking, but one which [Chris DePrisco] was brave enough to take on.
He started his DIY VMC project months ago, and has steadily been progressing to this point: actually running the machine. He has machined all of the parts himself from steel, and the design appears to be very solid. The spindle is currently a fairly low-power unit from eBay, but the design allows for future upgrades to the spindle (and other components).
We’ve seen DIY CNC mill builds in the past, but most can only handle wood, plastics, and maybe soft metal like aluminum. [Chris’s] build is incredibly substantial, and should be able to mill everything up to and including steel — he just demoed aluminum milling this week. The project isn’t quite complete yet, but only a matter of time until he’s got a finished VMC he built himself.