Milling Tool Selection Guide

Posted on Dec 10, 2020

Milling Tool

Milling tools are used for milling operations. Selecting the right milling tool will make your machining process much faster and smoother. Learn more.

Milling tools, or milling cutters, are cutting tools used in milling machines or machining centers to perform a variety of milling operations. They are either installed on a manually controlled milling machine or a CNC (computer numerical control) unit. With the rapid development of technology, modern milling tools are high-performance cutters with longer tool life, which translate to increased productivity in manufacturing processes and a more desirable cost structure.

That said, selecting the right milling tools is just as important as selecting the milling machine with which they pair. Certain factors must be taken into consideration when buying these tools for the desired processes. In other words, users should choose between a universal tool and specialized tool depending on the requirement of the operation to maximize tool potential. For instance, if you have a fairly versatile production setup, a milling tool that is capable of processing a variety of different materials in one unit may be your best option. See the subsequent sections below as to how to go about selecting the right milling tool. 

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Performance of Milling Tool

To meet the ongoing demands of high quality products in the modern days, performance of production is without a doubt the primary factor to a successful business. This means that the tools used in the relative machining processes need to provide optimal speeds and accuracies. However, with higher processing speed comes higher temperature, which often leads to premature tool wear. Such high temperature can cause oxidation, and selecting a mill tool with coating that increases both toughness and hardness becomes more important than ever.

The edge preparation of the cutters also plays a major role in the performance of the milling process. A well-honed, round-off cutting edge can prevent cracks and chips, significantly slowing down wear and abrasion. Therefore, do keep both the coating and edge preparation in mind if your milling tools are required to machine a vast, different type of materials.

Materials for Milling Tools

Following the above, selecting the right tool material to match your machining requirements is very important, as they are often associated with the life and cost of tools as well. For example, high speed steel cutters, despite being the least expensive amongst the counterparts, tend not to last very long. Cobalt-bearing high speed steel cutters can run faster than standard high speed steels, but will cost you a little bit more. And cemented carbide tools, which are predominantly more expensive than steel cutters, can run even faster and last longer – the long-term value more often than not offsets the upfront cost. 

With that being said, the type of milling cutter you choose still largely depends on the lines of operations intended. In most cases, high speed steel cutters are more than adequate to cover a wide range of applications. But don’t let that stop you from making the progression from a high speed steel cutter to a carbide cutter if you are looking to optimize your production objectives. On a side note, using high speed spindles can wear your high speed steel cutters very quickly.  

Milling Tools for Side Milling

For those who intend to side mill components or mill slots using universal milling machines, a cutting tool with four cutting edges will be the best choice. This type of milling tools are also ideal for tasks that require the surface of the component to be milled flat. Some high-performance, four-edge models even eliminates the need for tool changing, thereby reducing processing time when machining a steel-welded construction.

Milling Tools for Full Slots

For milling deeper, full slots, a knuckle form cutting tool works wonders. Because of the knuckle form design, it creates much less cutting pressure, which allows the component to be exposed to less stress. The short chip evacuation also enhances the reliability as well. Milling tools that need to perform deeper cuts need to be equipped with a higher number of teeth to ensure process efficiency. On the premise that the feed per tooth can remain the same during the manufacturing process, a five-teeth milling cutter should be adequate. 

Roughing and Finishing

Modern, high-performance milling cutters can produce such a smooth surface that there is no need for the subsequent finishing cut, leaving roughing the only necessary procedure for the final machining process. So if you are looking to streamline the workflow, consider a milling cutter that can eliminate chatter marks when machining a fragile component. Conversely, certain machining processes such as additive manufacturing or modern casting only requires a finishing cut to be performed for the final machining of functional faces, which is often achieved using a seven-edge finishing cutter. A seven-edge end mill is able to produce a substantially higher rate of advance provided that each tooth has constant feed rate.  

Moreover, factors like the geometry, coatings, carbide substrate, and edge preparation can all affect the quality of finishing cut performed by a milling cutter. These attributes are in fact directly associated with tool life and machining performance. Furthermore, as we touched base above, the number of cutting edges on a milling tool and the shape of end face can both attribute to the quality of machining results. We are not suggesting to always opt for top-of-the-line cutting tools because they to tend to be more expensive. However, advanced milling tools can drastically shorten the non-productive and processing times, and significantly enhance productivity by reducing the frequency of tool changing. 

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