What is a Milling Machine?

A milling machine is a free-standing machine tool that uses rotary cutters to remove material from a larger workpiece.

With the removal of materials happening in-line with the tool axis known as milling, this is where the milling machine gets its name, although milling machines can also drill, bore and cut depending on attachments.

Used for flat surfaces, milling machines are similar to lathes in their work capacity, but differ very slightly. Where lathes rotate the workpiece around a fixed tool, a milling machine holds the work piece in place with a rotating tool, removing material from the workpiece.

Interested in finding out more and how essential milling machines are to your machining process?

Keep on reading.

Why Use a Milling Machine?

What a milling machine might lack in some places, it more than makes up in others. It might not be as diverse or essential as a lathe for instance, but it offers a comprehensive and alternative machining option for skilled engineers.

Using both multi-tooth and single point cutting tools, a milling machine has the capability of producing far more intricate shapes than other machine tools, offering another avenue of possibility for customers.

Its design, focusing on a fixed workpiece and rotating tool, means that a milling machine is a perfect tool for both small and large batches – particularly as multiple cutters can be attached.

Like all machine tools, having them in place helps improve workpiece quality and accuracy of manual methods.

So, if you’re looking for a hard-working machine tool, that perhaps lacks the glitz and glamour of some of the more well-known names in an engineer’s workshop, a milling machine is an essential addition.


Main Features of A Milling Machine

Like a lathe, a milling machine is quite a complex looking machine tool at first glance. Despite this, it can be broken down into the following core components:

·       Column & Base

The main casting or frame that supports the core components, the column and base keep the milling machine sturdy and free standing.

·        Knee

Housing the gearing and other mechanical elements, the knee is an additional casting that supports the table of the milling machine.

·       Table & Saddle

The position where the workpiece is fastened in place, the table sits on top of the saddle and can be moved horizontally or vertically.

·       Spindle

Holding the cutting tool of the milling machine, the spindle is powered by the machine’s drive and gears and rotates the tool.


Milling Machine Safety

A milling machine can be a potentially dangerous machine and therefore requires a number of safety protocols before using, listed but not limited to the options below:

·       Sharpen Cutting Blades

Blunt tools are just as dangerous as sharp ones, if not worse. Because they won’t get through the workpiece as well as sharpened tools, they can create more friction and more swarf, creating a hazard to the operator.

·       Training is Essential

It should go without saying that operating machine tools required significant training which has to be maintained regularly. However, if junior employees are using the machine, it is vital that they are being overseen by experienced engineers.

·       Wear Correct PPE

When using a milling machine, PPE should always be worn. This includes the likes of goggles and gloves, helping protect against sharp debris and loose swarf.

·       Secure The Workpiece.

The milling machine cutter rotates at incredibly high speeds to cut its way through certain material. With that being said, it’s critical to have the workpiece secured tightly and accurately in place. This helps prevents potentially catastrophic damage being caused to the machine and operator.



Although you might think that your lathe can do the work of a milling machine, having a machine shop that can offer its services opens up additional channels.

They provide an alternative solution that offers benefits such as batch production as well as boring and drilling options.

Like all machine tools, when it comes to precision engineering there are important safety factors to consider, but it’s a guaranteed route to improve your machining results.

If you’re interested in finding out more, or you want to talk to our expert team and get in touch today.

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