Milling Machines a Buying Guide
Milling machines are used to cut metal and other materials, usually for industrial applications such as gears and any metal devices, parts, or tools that cannot be cast.
Anyone who is looking for a milling machine or parts for a milling machine can search for a range of choices, including vertical and horizontal cutting, mini and full size, and special cutting edges for creating multiple different edges, bezels, and grooves.
- Most buyers should set a budget, deciding on which materials the milling machine must cut, as well as the size and weight of the machine.
- Last but not least, checking location and cost of shipping can also be important as some machines are very heavy and the shipping fees can be hefty.
Types of Milling Machines
There are two basic types of milling machines, including vertical and horizontal cutters.
While there are no basic advantages to either, they are each suitable for slightly different types of cutting. Therefore, a choice should be made based on what the buyer plans to do with the milling machine.
The following information outlines the two basic types of mills, their subcategories, and other various classifications that can be used to find an appropriate mill based on:
- control method
- power source
The vertical milling machine is a newer form of the milling machine and works using a die sinking method.
This method involves transforming a block of metal using a mold, and as can be inferred from the name, the machine works using vertical planes for cutting. Vertical mills come in three basic subcategories:
The turret mill is considered to be a versatile type of vertical mill because the machine is very useful for small designs.
A turret mill uses a stationary spindle with moving table and can sometimes be used similarly to a drill press. This means that turret mills actually have two cutting methods. However, turret mills are mostly only useful for smaller machines as the quill that allows the raising and lowering of the cutter can be difficult to reach, and quite heavy on a larger machine.
While usually considered as inferior to the turret mill, bed mills are useful for many industries. The bed mill features a similar design to the turret mill but rather than allowing the table to move perpendicular and parallel to the spindle, the table can only move in a perpendicular motion.
While limiting the design capabilities of the mill, bed mills are still useful for anyone who does not need the parallel cutting.
Mill drills are very common, smaller versions of vertical mills.
These machines are lighter, cheaper, and smaller than other types of mills, which makes them excellent choices for smaller shops and hobby shops that do not require a full industrial sized machine. Mill drills are also popular with amateur hobbyists due to the fact that they are relatively inexpensive compared to other machines.
Horizontal milling machines are the older of the two designs and are most often recommended to anyone with long or large projects. It’s Used horizontal blades to cut the material and are excellent for creating spirals, grooves, and bezels, such as on nuts, washers, screws, bolts, and more. Horizontal mills are frequently used to produce piping and gears but have many applications. Generally, horizontal mills are suitable for anyone working with multiple sided pieces.
Milling Machine Size
Milling machines come in multiple sizes but are most often labeled as micro, mini, desktop, bench top, floor standing, large, very large, and gigantic.
These terms are used for small to large machines, but there are no industry standards associated with the size of the machine relative to the term used to define it. Most buyers can check the actual measurements of the machine asking the seller if measurements are not listed.
Milling Machine Control
There are three basic control types for milling machines and most are clearly labeled.
- manual machine means that it is controlled purely by a human operator;
- numeric or mechanically automated means that the machine uses numeric controls to operate;
- digital means that the milling machine is operated via CAD or CAM software.
Other control options include how the axes are controlled, such as pallet changing or non-pallet changing, or even full auto changing.
Setting a Budget for the Milling Machine
Choosing a milling machine starts with the price because, depending on the buyer’s budget, the machine can range from something small that is intended for toy and hobby shops to something very large and industrial.
Usually, it is a good idea to research market norms for the machine desired and then look for it on eBay with a good idea of what a quality machine costs. It is important to understand the price range in order to avoid buying something of lower quality simply because it is cheap.
A good budget should include a number of saws, power, features, and capabilities as well as what it is reasonable to pay for that machine.
Types and Purposes of Milling Machines
Basic types of milling machines include vertical and horizontal, but the following chart can be used to find distinct types of mills intended for specific purposes. Searching for the exact type of mill on internet does bring up better results than simply looking for a ‘milling machine’, so anyone who needs a specific mill should read up on their options.
|Type of Milling Machine||Purpose|
|Bed Mill||Multipurpose; bed sits on the floor and the spindle moves up and down|
|Box Mill||Hobby mill with head moving rather than spindle or table|
|C-Frame Mill||Industrial mill; uses fixed spindle and can tool multiple parts at once|
|Floor Mill||Large mill with customizable tables pendant spindles for custom and different projects|
|Gantry Mill||Uses fixed rails for the head|
|Horizontal Boring Mill||Used for precision parts and jigs|
|Jig Borer||Designed predominantly for boring holes|
|Knee Mill||Features vertically adjustable knee|
|Ram Type Mill||Horizontal or vertical mill|
One major consideration is that most if not all mills can be upgraded with additional parts. Both horizontal and vertical mills feature adjustments to change the mill to the opposite type of mill, while a range of different heads and cutting tools can be used to adjust the capabilities of the mill.
There are many considerations to purchasing a mill so it is important to do research on:
- capabilities needed before purchasing
Most amateur and beginners should look for CN or CDC mills, which can be controlled with computers rather than manually.
These are readily available on Alfa Metal Machinery and can be found by simply adding ‘CNC’ to the search terms.
Purchasing a milling machine is a big decision that should involve careful thought and consideration.
Even miniature milling machines can be quite expensive and their techniques, capabilities, and features can vary from one machine to the next. Buyers must consider what they want to do with the milling machine, the size, and the cutting techniques, as well as the many different types of milling machines available.
Choosing a size should be based on the space available as well as the products that are going to be made on the mill.
Finding and choosing a milling machine is as simple as deciding on a budget, choosing between a new or used machine, and then searching for the desired machine. Reading the full description, asking the seller any important questions, and checking the location and cost of shipping should all be done before making a purchase.