Ultimate Guide on Types of Milling Machines

What are the types of Milling Machines?

What exactly is a milling machine? It is simple. The milling machine, simply called a mill, is a tool used to mill. Although, these machines vary widely, and they are also combined into machining centers. Well, now that we have that out of the way, what are the types of milling that we have?

The CNC milling can be grouped in to various subtypes, and this is based on some factors like, the type of tool that is being used, the characteristic that is being milled, and the motion of the cutting tool along the surface of the work piece. The types (or subtypes) are:

  1. Face Milling: This is one of the most popular types of milling, and it involves a cutting tool that has a rotational axis that is perpendicular to the surface of the work piece. Face milling is done to get a flat surface, or sometimes, a precisely shaped shallow groove.
  2. Shoulder Milling: Here, a spinning cutting tool moves along the edge of a work piece, and this gives an L-shaped shoulder of a specific width. Most times, this shoulder milling is done so as to get a 90-degree angle between two outward-facing surfaces.
  3. Profile Milling: Profile milling is basically when a spinning cutting tool cuts a path along either a slanted or a vertical surface. Profile milling can done in various ways; you can do it by using a cutting tool that spins around an axis that is either perpendicular or parallel to the surface of the work piece. With profile milling, you would need to move around adjacent, non-planar surfaces.
  4. Slot Milling: This forms a channel in the work piece, and this is usually done through the use of a disc-shaped cutting tool. But slot milling can be also be done with a cutting tool that rotates along an axis that is perpendicular to the work piece.
  5. Chamfer Milling: This type of milling is done with a cutting tool called a chamfer, where the parts of the tool that work with the work piece are kept at a specific angle. And what you get is an angled surface, usually, this replaces a 90-degree edge or a surrounding hole.
  6. Thread Milling: If you need to machine threads into a hole, or you want to do that onto the outside of a surface, then that is what is called thread milling. This is an alternative to tapping. And it uses a cutting tool that spins and moves along the surface that you are threading. Threading creates threads on the surface, with various diameters, as opposed to tapping.

We also have benchtop milling machines.

What are the parts of a Milling Machine?

The Base

This is the grey iron casting that can be found from top to bottom, serving as a support to the machine; and in some cases, it works as the tank that cuts fluids.

The Column

This is a large supporting frame that connected, vertically, to the base of the machine. It connects the base of the machine to other parts of the machine. It comprises of a heavy casting with inner spaces that is used to store the driving motor. This is also what holds the turret.

The Turret

The turret allows the milling head to rotate along the center of the column.

The Saddle

This is usually placed between the knee and the table. There is a screw that can be found near the top of the knee that is connected to the saddle, aiding movement either by hand or by power. It also allows the work piece to travel within the Y-axis of the table.

The Table

The table has a T-shaped slot on its surface where you can place the work piece, and it can be easily secured by something called a vice. The work piece can also be directly clamped on the table. The t-shaped slot also allows the work piece travel along the X-axis of the table


The knee supports two frames: the table and the saddle. It holds and, also controls the feed mechanism of the machine, providing the Z-axis vertical motion, leaving the cutter positioned above the work piece.

Must Read: Best Benchtop Milling Machine Review For The Money

The Spindle

This is a large tube that can be found on the upper part of the column, getting its power from the head, and in turn, sending it to the arbor.

The Arbor

The arbor serves as the extension of the spindle, helping to mount and rotate the cutter.

Over Hanging Arm/Head

What this does is, it supplies electrical power from the motor to the mechanical power of the spindle.

The Front Brace

This the part of the milling machine that gives support between the knee and the over arm to make sure that there is some rigidity to the arbor and the knife.


CNC milling machines produce certain elements by removing parts of a material. They are made to create practical tools, and not just artistic ones. In the past, people did their milling manually. But today, with advancements in technology, milling has now become controlled by computers.

Besides the regular milling features, there are other CNC milling features that can make a CNC milling machine more efficient, they are:

Best Milling Machine Review 2019

  1. Automatic Tool Changer: Usually, CNC machines would need different tools that would be used to serve different functions. This automatic tool changer feature allows the CNC milling machine to perform a variety of functions in just one operation. The machine operator does not need to change the tool for the machine to execute another operation.
  2. CAD/CAM Software: CAD/CAM stand for Computer-aided design or Computer-aided manufacturing. What this software does is that it controls the machining tools it can create precise components or products.
  3. Cut-off Capability: Besides its ability to mill, a CNC milling machine should also be able to cut or saw large materials. The CNC milling machine’s cutting off capability helps to produce uniformly sized components or products.
  4. Display Unit: This gives various specifications of the machine, and it especially gives the graphic stimulation of the tools and other necessary information that is pertinent to the operation.
  5. Pallet Changer: Instead of having to manually remove and replace work pieces to the CNC milling machine, what the pallet changer does is that it removes, automatically, and, also replaces them, and this helps save you more time.
  6. Rotary Table: What this does is it helps to rotate the work piece, giving you better positioning, and an accurate machining. Milling operations are not always fixed, they are quite volatile. They vary, and this usually depends on their specific designs.
  7. Spindle Coolant System: This facet serves as both a coolant and a lubricant at the same time. It not only prevents the tool from overheating, it also prevents the material from doing so. And doing this prevents the machine from getting damaged.

These listed features can help to make your milling operations more efficient. If you want a milling machine that comes with all these interesting features, then you would need to get the high-end CNC milling machines because they are the ones that possess them; and the chances of you finding them in high-end machines is high if the machine was made to produce massive outputs within a short period of time.

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