What is the Milling Process?

The milling process uses rotating tools to remove material. While some tools such as drills, taps, and reamers can only plunge straight into the part, the most common cutter used on a mill is called an endmill. This tool not only cuts on the tip, but it can cut on the sides, allowing complex features to be machined. There are several standard shapes, including square end, ball end, tip radius, and tapered endmills, with common sizes ranging from .005 (.127mm) to 4 (101.6mm) or larger. There are also special cutters for cutting keyways, chamfers, counterbores, and for thread milling just to name a few.

A standard mill has 3 axis control. The X and Y axis move horizontally, and the Z axis moves vertically. Each axis can be controlled individually, such as for drilling or tapping where only the Z axis moves. They can also be moved simultaneously to make free-form contours, such as mold or die components. A common addition to a 3 axis mill is a 4th axis rotary indexer. This allows machining from many more angles on a part, or machining of the full perimeter of a cylindrical part.

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