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5 Main Types of Milling Processes

Table of Contents

Milling is a crucial CNC process that utilizes multi-edge cutters to remove material so as to create objects of different forms precisely. Milling processes, which are essential in manufacturing, may be categorized based on the orientation of the cutter such as face milling, end milling, thread milling, angle milling, shoulder milling and other types each having its own capabilities and specialized applications.

CNC machining

Overview of Types of Milling Processes

Milling is one of the key operations in machining practiced today that involves various activities where experts shape workpieces by eliminating the materials from them pieces.The classification by milling often splits along the lines of horizontal and vertical positioning of the cutter for forming basis approaches enabling them to shape workpieces into numerous designs.

The milling operations mainly discussed in this article are the following:

  • Face Milling
  • End Milling
  • Thread Milling
  • Angle Milling
  • Shoulder Milling

1. Face Milling: Techniques and Applications

face milling

Face milling is a critical technique in modern manufacturing known for its ability to produce perfectly flat surfaces. A face mill has an axis perpendicular to the workpiece rapidly removing material in a series of cuts producing smooth surface. This production operation is necessary for high precision sectors like aerospace and automotive where there are wide areas needed to be milled equaly.

Applications of Face Milling are diverse and can be broken down into several key areas:

1.Making Flat Surfaces: Most frequently used approach for face-milling especially when making mating surfaces requiring a flat finish.

2.Heavy Stock Removal: Due to design factors with regards to this type of cutter it allows rapid removal or large quantities of material mostly done as an initial step when cast or forged parts need machining.

3.Finishing: The final finishing pass on a part can be accomplished by face milling using appropriate tooling to obtain very fine finishes thereby eliminating any further grinding or machining requirement.

4.Die and Mold Making: Accuracy and surface finish become more important in die & mold making. One use here is facing off with fly cutting to bring the die or mold to final dimensions and surface finish.

5.Aerospace and Automotive: Face milling is used in these areas for creating large flat surfaces on body parts and frames where accuracy and strength are critical.

Despite its commendable surface quality and fast production rate, there are a few challenges worth noting. Another disadvantage of face-milling is tooling cost which is often expensive especially when specialized or small-scale machining tasks are involved. Nonetheless, it remains indispensable semiconductor manufacturing process for those manufacturers who value efficiency and precision in their machining activities.

2. End Milling

end milling

Process of end milling is a CNC machining method that can function by cutting at the tip and circumferential surface of an end mill cutter. Unlike face milling, which operates on the face of the tool, end milling involves using the cutter’s tip to cut or shape a workpiece. The process can be used to make slots, pockets as well as complex contours.

Some examples of applications in End Milling are:

1.Slotting: This is one of the most common uses for end mill where slots are created with different shapes and sizes.

2.Pocketing: It also works very well when hollowing out sections within a work piece to come up with pockets or recesses.

3.Profiling: Profiling operations also utilize this process where cutting edges at the periphery define the outer shape of part being made.

4.Contouring: The ability of End Milling to move along intricate paths allows it to produce highly complicated contours and delicate details in workpieces.

5.Drilling and Plunging: Though drilling is not its primary purpose, end mills can easily plunge into materials just enough to create a starting hole for any other milling operation.

3. Thread Milling

thread milling

Thread Milling refers to the procedure through which threads are produced inside a hole or around the outside part of a cylinder by specialized machines. This involves employing thread millers—a type of rotating multi-point cutters—to construct an accurate thread pattern on/circularly about blank specimens under investigation. Thread milling is adaptable in regard to producing internal or external threads, straight or tapered threads, and even multiple threads on one tool having various diameters.

As this helical line rises or falls with every single rotation through 360 degrees, full thread forms within one turn only accomplished by moving thread mill up/down accordingly . Different from tapping when you need specific size holes drilled in your work pieces; therefore thread milling has more flexibility because one tool could be used to create threads of various diameters and pitches. Additionally, this process allows for adjustments to be made in terms of tolerances, thread fit, and material variations.

Types of threads that can be milled

Thread Milling is a precise and versatile process employed in CNC machining to develop threaded parts. It is renowned for its accuracy, as well as the capability to form a wide range of thread shapes comprising:


Internal Threads: Thread mills are capable of producing accurate and polished internal threads that are typically used in nuts, bores and other internal threading applications.

External Threads: Moreover, thread milling creates exact external threads on bolts, shafts as well as other cylindrical components.

Straight Threads: The ordinary kind of threads used in most fastening applications that possess similar diameters throughout their length.

Tapered Threads: These types of threads reduce in diameter along their length and could be machined by special thread mills; they are common with pipe fittings.

Right-hand Threads: This is the most popular type where the direction of tightening is clockwise.

Left-hand Threads: They are not commonly used since they tighten counter-clockwise especially when it comes to preventing rotation or force causing right-handed threads from loss due to loose rotation direction or force applied.

Fine and Coarse Threads – Depending on how closely packed or widely separated the threads need to be for any given application, either fine (closely spaced) or coarse (widely spaced) threads can be cut using thread mills.

Multi-start Threads -It contains two or more intertwined parallel running ribbons which mean it has faster thread engagement.

Please note that these are just some common thread types, and more special thread types may be involved in actual applications.For more thread information, please refer to IFI-8 Standards Assembly.

Advantages of Thread Milling over traditional threading methods

Versatility: One tool can produce different thread sizes and types, saving the need for many taps or dies.

Quality and Strength: usually thread milling yields threads that are superior in quality in terms of strength, dimensional accuracy and surface finish.

No Breakage Risk: Unlike taps, thread mills do not break inside the workpiece as they have less chance to snap off hence because of their design that diffuses the load so it does not concentrate on one spot during machining.

Adjustability: With thread milling, it is easy to adjust for different tolerances thus offering better control over final thread dimensions.

Burr-Free: The milling method used typically leaves a clean smooth surface on threads thus eliminating any secondary finishing requirements.

Threading to the Bottom: On the other hand, thread mills don’t need extra clearance at the end; they can be used to make threads nearer to blind hole bottoms whereas taps would require a certain amount of clearance at this point.

Improved Tool Life: Compared with taps, thread mills last longer because of their distributed cutting load among several teeth blades which can be reshaped or replaced when dull.

Better for Difficult Materials: In hard or brittle materials where tapping is too aggressive as threat milling provides a less severe cutting action thereby decreasing the likelihood of damaging them.

4 . Angle Milling

angle milling

Among the various aspects of CNC machining, angle milling is a very accurate approach for producing specific chamfers and particular angled features on components. Chamfers and complex angular profiles can be accomplished through this process because it’s vital for parts having slanted surfaces or angular cuts like brackets and gears.

Its ability to generate aerodynamic shapes as well as those which require assembly at specific angles puts it in high demand especially in the aerospace and automotive industries. It is known that Angle Milling has high precision that is quite necessary when dealing with complicated designs which need excellent craftsmanship.

This mill stands out by reducing manual interventions and possible errors associated with complex angular machining. Advanced computer numerical control (CNC) technology ensures faster production times without affecting the accuracy of the cuts. Opting for Angle Milling guarantees an intricate finish with unparalleled detail on the end product.

5 . Shoulder Milling

shoulder milling

Shouldering milling is a crucial operation in the different forms of milling, which creates correct angular edges on components that are assembled. It’s widely used in industries such as automotive and aerospace for making features like gear slots with CNC machining that provides high precision and repeatability.

In this method, diversity is its strong point; it can work on many materials thus producing intricate profiles of parts that have strict engineering specifications. Shoulder Milling is still important in production as it provides sharp clean edges for excellent product finishing.

Comparison of different types of milling processes

Each milling process has its unique attributes that make it more suitable for specific manufacturing scenarios.

Feature End Milling Face Milling Thread Milling Angle Milling Shoulder Milling
Cutting Action Tip and periphery Face of the cutter Helical cutting edge Cutter positioned at an angle Periphery cutting with a square shoulder finish
Applications Slots, pockets, complex contours, and fine details Flat surfaces, high-quality finishes, heavy stock Precise threads, internal and external Chamfers, bevels, tapered features Step features, square-edged slots, and fine edges
Material Removal Moderate to high High Low to moderate, depending on thread size Moderate Moderate to high
Finish Varies from rough to fine, depending on the tool Typically very fine and smooth Clean, precise threads Clean angular cuts, usually requires finishing Precise, straight edges with a good surface finish
Flexibility Highly versatile for various shapes Limited to planar surfaces Specialized for threads only Limited to angled features Good for 90-degree edges and complex profiles
Set Up Complex due to multi-directional cutting Simpler setup as mostly planar cutting Specialized setup for threads Requires precise angle setup Complex due to the need for precise edge alignment


The article has shown us this far that milling is big and complex. It includes a lot of different styles of milling with each one having its own application as well as advantages. From classical Face Milling and End Milling to exactness of Thread Milling or adaptability of Shoulder Milling, modern manufacturing relies on them for creating parts in different industries.

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