CNC Milling – What Is It?

The CNC in CNC milling stands for ‘computer numerical controlled’. So, CNC milling is actually a variation of CNC machining.

milling-1151323_960_720Milling is a machining process that is similar to drilling and cutting. In fact, the milling machine can perform a lot of the same actions as a drilling and cutting machine. A milling machine also uses a cylindrical rotating cutting tool, like a drilling machine.

There the difference comes in, is that the milling machine’s cutter can move along many different axis. This means it is able to create a variety of holes, slots, and shapes. Another difference to a drilling machine is that the workpiece in the drilling machine moves only along a single axis, whereas the milling tool’s workpiece can move in a variety of different directions.

There are different types of CNC machines, but the CNC milling machines are most popular to use. Different CNC Milling machines come with a different number of axes.

The axis are given letters to identify them. The X and Y axes are the horizontal axes – they stay on a flat plane and go side-to-side and forward-and-back. The Z-axis is the vertical (up-and-down) movement, and W is used for diagonal movement and is along a vertical plane.

Some milling machines will only have 3 axis, while some will go up to 5 axis. A 5-axis milling machine is very advanced and requires CAM programming. The CAM programming is required because the geometries involved are very complex.

The CNC milling machines have the ability to create shapes that are not possible with manual tooling methods. CNC milling machines can be used to create prototypes, or for short-run production. They are best used for complex parts or the creation of one-of-a-kind precision components.

Metal is most often used in a CNC mill, though almost any type of material can be cut or drilled, can be used in a CNC mill.