Milling Machines: 3 Different Types And How They Work Explained

Jan 17th 2019

Machine tools are a vital part of many industries. They are responsible for forming the foundations of homes we live in, crafting the tools we use, and creating items that are commonplace in our lives; in short, we wouldn't be the advanced society we are without the power and precision behind machine shop supplies. Milling machines fall under the machine tool category.

At their very core, milling machines are designed to shape materials (usually wood, metal, or other solid substances). With the help of computer-aided design (CAD) programs, they can be positioned in either vertical or horizontal orientation to carve out materials based on a pre-existing design. Their versatility when it comes to movement allows them to function dynamically: many can perform multi-axis machining with ease. Here are three types of milling machines you might encounter in a machine shop.

  • Vertical and Horizontal: If you're working with a standard work surface (like a block of metal or wood), you can use a classic vertical and horizontal milling machine. The tooling assembly is affixed on a turret and swivel, usually parallel to the workspace; this allows the tool to move freely around the workpiece to enforce tight tolerances.

  • Universal Horizontal: This milling machine differs from the one previously mentioned in that it has a table swivel housing which allows the tableto move out 45 degrees from the standard horizontal positioning. As such, angular and helical milling operations are easier to achieve.

  • Ram-Type: Ram-type machines allow the tooling to position itself on a greater range of space. There is a spindle on a movable housing which can move within a set horizontal plane; the universal version of this milling machine includes swivel housing that increases cutting range movements.

Milling machines don't operate without the assistance of other machining tools. For example, Kurt milling machine vises (like the Kurt D688) are required to hold the material in place. Machinist blocks stabilize the piece worked on, ensuring that the operation is safe and secure. For full protection, coat your Kurt D688 vise with a corrosion preventive material (like WD-40); once you get a handle on the process, milling machines become as easy to operate as a dishwasher.