Milling machines are power tools that are designed to machine metal, wood and various other types of solid materials. They create designs and patterns in various materials by removing excess material from the item that has been chosen to be milled to create a finished product. Milling machines can be used for various complicated cutting operations, such as clot cutting, threading, rabbeting, routing, planning and drilling. These machines are also used for diesinking, a process that involves shaping a steel block so that it can be used as the foundation for various functions, such as coining and molding plastics.
Whether you are a professional or you are a DIYer, if you are looking into buying a milling machine, you will find that there are a lot of options available to you. With so many options, finding the best milling machine to suit your needs can be a bit tricky. To help you weed through all of the different options, we have put together this handy buyer’s guide. In it, you will find a wealth of useful information that you can use to help you find the best milling machine for your needs. This guide highlights the different types of milling machines, the factors that should be taken into consideration when choosing one, the features that they can offer and the best milling machine brands.
Types of Milling Machines
In order to find the best milling machine for your needs, the first thing you need to do is understand the different types that are available. There are five main types of milling machines, which include:
- The knee type milling machine
- The plain vertical and horizontal milling machine
- The universal horizontal milling machine
- The RAM type milling machine
- The universal RAM type milling machine
- The swivel cutter head RAM type milling machine
To determine which type of milling machine will best suit your needs, keep on reading to learn about the difference between each type and the benefits that they offer.
The Knee Type Milling Machine
The knee type milling machine is comprised of a vertically adjustable worktable, which rests on a saddle that is supported by the knee. The knee is a large casting that rides vertically on the column of the milling machine. It can be clamped down to the column in a position where the milling head and the milling machine spindle are adjusted properly in the vertical position for correct operation.
Plain Vertical and Horizontal Milling Machines
Milling machines that offer a standard work surface can be oriented either vertically or horizontally. The tooling assembly of the plan vertical or horizontal milling machines is usually affixed on a turret and a swivel, which is typically positioned parallel to the workspace. The turret and the swivel enable the tool to move freely around the piece that is being worked on, which allows for tighter tolerances.
Universal Horizontal Milling Machine
The main difference between a universal horizontal milling machine and a plain horizontal milling machine is the table swivel housing. The universal horizontal milling machine allows the table to move out 45 degrees from the standard horizontal position. As such, it is easier to move the item that is being worked on, which allows for easier helical or angular milling operations.
The RAM Type and Universal RAM Type Milling Machines
A RAM type milling machine enables the tooling to position itself at a greater range of space within regard to the piece that is being worked on. The RAM type milling machine features a spindle on a moveable housing. This can move within a set horizontal plane. The universal RAM type milling machine boasts a swivel housing, which increases the range of cutting movements that the machine can make.
The Swivel Cutter Head RAM Type Milling Machine
Milling machines that offer a swivel cutter can rotate from either a completely horizontal or a completely vertical position. The worktable on this type of milling machine also moves, which gives the user greater flexibility, as it allows for a very flexible degree of motion and orientation.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Milling Machine
Of course, you want to make sure that you choose the best milling machine to suit your specific needs. In order to do that, there are certain factors that you are going to want to take into consideration so that you can make the best decision. Some of the factors that you should take into consideration when choosing a milling machine include the size, the power and the items that you will be cutting, among other things. By taking these factors into consideration, you will be able to choose the best milling machine for you.
To learn more about the factors that we consider to be the most important when choosing a milling machine, please keep on reading.
The size of the milling machine is a very important factor that you are going to definitely want to take into consideration. The size of the space that you have to store the milling machine will directly impact the size of the machine that you can accommodate. Also, the size of the machine will directly impact its capabilities. Generally, larger milling machines have the ability to create more force, which means that they can be used to drill through heavier materials with greater ease.
Spindle Motor Horsepower
The horsepower of the spindle motor is also an important factor to consider when choosing a milling machine. The more horsepower the spindle motor has, the more powerful the milling machine will be, which will allow you to use the machine with more materials, thus improving its flexibility.
When it comes to milling machines, there are three basic control types, which include:
- Manual control
- Mechanically automated control
- Digital control
A manually powered milling machine is controlled by the force of you, the operator. A mechanically operated, or a numeric, milling machine is powered by numeric controls, which are used to operate it. A digital milling machine is powered by either CAD or CAM software.
The Material Being Milled
You also want to take into consideration the material that you will be milling. Heavier materials, such as steel, will require more power, so you want to make sure that you have the right amount of power to mill through the material.
Milling machines vary significantly in price. Smaller machines that boast minimal power are the least expensive, while larger machines that offer more power and more features will have a higher price tag. When setting a budget, make sure that you keep in mind the above mentioned factors so that you can set aside enough money to purchase one that will meet your specific needs.
Features Milling Machines Offer
Milling machines can come equipped with a number of features. These features are intended to make using the milling machine easier, and to improve the functionality of the machine. As mentioned above, the more features that the milling machine offers, the more expensive it will be. It is important to understand these features so that you can determine which ones you want or need.
Here is a look at some of the top features that milling machines offer.
A vise allows you to securely affix the material you are working on to the milling machine. With some milling machines, you will need to purchase the vise separate from the machine, but some come equipped with one. If you want to save money in the long run, look for a milling machine that comes with a vise.
Milling machines that feature larger controls are ideal, as they make it easier to operate the machine. Not only will you be able to see the controls with better ease, but you will have an easier time adjusting them.
Interchangeable Heads and Cutting Tools
To improve the versatility of the milling machine, look for one that comes equipped with interchangeable heads and cutting tools. The more heads and cutting tools that the machine comes with, the more materials it will be able to cut through and the more cuts it will be able to make.
If you want to protect your investment, look for a milling machine that comes equipped with a warranty. Should anything happen to the machine during the span of the warranty, you could have it repaired or replaced, or you may even be able to have your money reimbursed. Make sure that you read the fine prints of the warranty so that you fully understand what is covered.
The Best Milling Machine Brands
When you start shopping for a milling machine, you will find that there are several manufacturers that produce this tool. While having a lot of options is great, it can make it difficult to determine which manufacturer produces the best milling machine. We have done some extensive research, have compared user reviews and have tested out several milling machines from several manufacturers, and we have determined that the following brands are the best of the best.
Grizzly Industrial Inc
Grizzly Industrial Inc produces some of the highest quality milling machines on the market. Their machines use the latest technologies and the highest quality materials to create durable milling machines that offer a lot of flexibility and can be used to create various projects.
Abene is another highly regarded producer of high quality milling machines. This company makes several types of milling machines that boast various useful features. They are easy to use and the produce high quality results.
Fooke is a highly regarded German manufacturer that engineers exceptional milling machines. Their machines offer a range of features and provide outstanding results. We liked how durable the Fooke milling machines were and how easy they were to operate.