Face Cutter Basics

Posted on Jun 21, 2021

Face Cutter

Face milling (or facing) is a machining technique that cuts away a thin layer of materials away from a workpiece. The purpose of a face milling process is not to change the shape/form of the workpiece, but to create a fine surface finish. This technique is performed by a face cutter and best for processing workpieces with large flat surfaces.

Each type of milling process is performed with a particular style of milling cutter. Face cutters (or face milling cutters) are designed specifically for facing processes. The rakes and pockets on the face cutters are made to successfully scratch tiny chips away without leaving any footprint.

In this article, we will put our focus on the face milling process and the construction of a face cutter. We will also explore why face cutters are so popular across different industries.

What is Face Milling?

As mentioned above, face milling aims at removing a thin layer from a workpiece to provide a fine surface finish. It is an important process because tight tolerances and dimensional accuracy are two fundamental requirements in modern precision machining. Face milling is vital as it determines how precise the work is. So how does face milling work?


Face Milling (Glacern Machine Tools)

Face milling is performed by a milling machine or a machining center. Face cutters are the key component to carry out this process. When facing a workpiece, the face cutter approaches the material horizontally. The cutting path goes from one side of the workpiece to the other and back until the entire surface is processed. This way of machining is due to the design of the face milling cutters. Now let's take a look at how a face cutter cuts.


How does the Face Cutter Cut?

A face cutter distinguishes itself from other types of cutting bits by the design of its cutting end. Normally, a cutting bit has a sharp tip end with teeth and flutes along the radial axis of the shank to create holes in an object. However, a face mill (as well as most milling cutters) does not have a sharp tip.

Face cutters have cutting edges along the sides of a disc-like end. With such a configuration, a face cutter cannot create a hole in a workpiece. Instead, it only cuts in the horizontal direction to create a smooth surface on the workpiece. Besides the cutting mechanism, the design of the cutting edges is also different.


Fig. Face Cutter Rakes and Inserts

Rakes and Inserts

The cutting edges of a face cutter consist of rakes and pockets (as opposed to the teeth and flutes on a drill bit). While a regular drill bit cuts with the teeth, a face cutter cannot cut with only the rakes. It is the inserts on each rake that perform the actual cutting motion.

Inserts in machining commonly refer to the tiny pieces of cutting tips that are used in turning processes. It is a stationary cutting tool that advances toward a rotating workpiece. In face milling, the inserts are screwed onto the rakes of a face cutter to cut. Inserts are made of a number of materials and are usually coated to further enhance their performance. Below are the most common materials.

  • Carbide
  • Carbide-based alloys
  • Ceramic
  • Cobalt
  • Diamond PCD
  • High-speed Steel

Face Cutter Angles

The most common designs of the face cutter angle are 45 degrees and 90 degrees. The 45-degree cutters are the general-purpose facing cutters. Using the 45-degree cutters, the axial and radial forces are balanced during operation. On the other hand, the 90-degree cutters apply a less axial force to the workpiece when milling. They are ideal for processing thin materials.

:: Read More: Face Milling: Tools and Tips

Why Use Inserts?

To put it straight, inserts are used to process hard-to-machine materials such as hardened steel, superalloy, and bimetal, etc. These materials are frequently used in industries such as aerospace/aviation, automotive, military, and elsewhere. As machinists find it hard to machine these materials with typical cutting tools, they often opt for milling inserts.

Another reason is that milling inserts can be replaced once the cutting edge gets dull. Inserts have many geometries. The ones used for face milling are mostly square or rectangular. When one edge dulls, it can be adjusted with an unused edge and put into practice again. It eliminates the need of sharpening the cutting teeth periodically or replacing the entire cutting bit.

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