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Notable Capabilities of Milling Machines

notable capabilities of milling machines

What Are Milling Machines & How Do They Work?

Throughout time, milling is the most common and versatile of the numerous machining processes that are available. It covers a multitude of operations scaling from individual parts to large, heavy-duty gang milling. CNC Milling machines machine wood, metal, and other solid materials. The milling process is completed through the dynamic motions of a rotating, multi-edge cutter and multi-axis movement of the workpiece. These machines are often automated to allow for uninterrupted production. They can be positioned in either vertical or horizontal orientation.

Milling machines are often equipped with numerous tooling heads. Which remove material through the actions of grinding or completing minuscule cuts. To name a few, some of the most common tool heads include cutters, rounding mills, fluted mills, and ball end mills. With the help of computer programming, these tool heads can change during operation depending on the needed task and workpiece.


The most basic tool head used on a milling machine is a cutter. Depending on the workpiece, material removal is accomplished by using a cutter with numerous sets of teeth.  This allows the cutter to spin rapidly, or advance the material through the cutter at a very slow rate. Oftentimes, milling machines will use some combination of these approaches. The feed rate, or speed at which a workpiece advances through the cutter, can vary significantly due to these combinations.

Types of Milling Machines & Their Functionalities

There are several types of milling machines, all of which serve a unique purpose and possess their own distinctive functionalities. Listed below are a few of the most common milling machines and a brief description of how each one operates differently from the last.

Plain Vertical and Horizontal

  • Standard machines can be positioned vertically or horizontally. Tooling of these machines is commonly fastened to a turret and swivel that are positioned parallel to the work surface. This gives the tool the ability to move freely over the workspace and enforce tight tolerances.

Universal Horizontal Machines

  • In comparison to the plain horizontal milling machine, universal horizontal machines provide table swivel housing that allows the work table to swing up to 45 degrees in either direction from its standard position. This swivel housing allows for easier angular and helical milling operations. Various attachments, such as indexing fixtures, rotary tables, and other special fixtures can also be fitted to the universal machine.

Ram-Type Milling Machines

  • Ram-type machines are beneficial because they allow for tooling to be positioned for a greater range of space regarding the workpiece. This type of machine is characterized by a spindle that is mounted to a movable housing that can move within a set horizontal plane.

Swivel Cutter Head Ram-Type Milling Machines

  • The advantage to using a swivel cutter is that this machine can rotate from a completely vertical spindle position to a completely horizontal spindle position. They can also be fixed at any desired angle between vertical and horizontal orientation. These types of milling machines have a movable worktable, providing the user with a generous degree of motion and orientation. Numerous swivel cutters also include automatic or hand-driven settings to increase operation options.

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