CNC Milling Machine

How much do you know about the CNC milling machine? We will take a closer look at the technology, what it is and what types of machines and tools exist.

Computer numerical control (CNC) is programmed code that represents instructions for precise movements that machines perform. Indirectly, this code defines how to automatically create, produce or transform a virtual object into a real one.

Based on this definition, the CNC machine has to work with a computer equipped with software that converts the numerical code into Cartesian coordinates. As a result, the machine can work with high precision, just like a robot.

The CNC machine transforms the raw material into a finished model by various methods, adding (adding) or removing (subtracting) material. The techniques available depend on the type of machine. A 3D printer or CNC milling machine are excellent examples of respectively additive and subtractive CNC machines.

Milling is the process of cutting and drilling a material (such as wood or metal). A milling machine, whether operated manually or with a CNC, uses a rotating cylindrical tool called a milling cutter. It is held in a spindle and can be of a different shape and size.

The main difference between a milling machine and any other drill is the ability to cut at different angles and move along different axes. For this reason, there are several types of milling machines, which are denoted by the number of axes of movement:

  • 2-axis milling machines can cut holes and slots in the X and Z axes. In other words, this machine only cuts vertically and horizontally (but only in one direction).
  • 3-axis milling machines add a Y axis. This is the most common variety of milling machines. You can cut vertically and in any direction, but an object like a ball will have to be cut in half at a time. This is because even with three axes, you cannot cut from below.
  • 4-axis milling machines are more complex because they add the ability to rotate the x-axis, similar to a lathe.
  • 5-axis milling machines incorporate rotation in both the x- and y-axes. This is the most complete milling machine you can have. It allows you to shape bones, aerospace structures, car models, medical products, and pretty much anything else you can imagine.

Milling is the process of cutting and drilling a material (such as wood or metal). A milling machine, whether operated manually or with a CNC, uses a rotating cylindrical tool called a milling cutter. It is held in a spindle and can be of a different shape and size.

CNC milling machines can have any number of axes (2 to 5) but are computer operated. No manual operation is required.


Types of Milling Machines

Now we know a CNC mill is any computer-controlled milling machine. However, in addition to the axis classification, there are still several types of milling machines, both manual and CNC:

Vertical milling machine

This 3-axis milling machine consists of a table that acts as a work surface below the arm to which the spindle is attached. The table and arm are connected to a vertical column, and the spindle is vertical. In general, the table moves up and down along the Z axis to make contact with the arm that is fixed. However, how the table and spindle move relative to each other depends on the type of vertical cutter. In a vertical turret milling machine, the spindle is stationary and the table moves along the x and y axes. In a vertical moulder with bed, the table can only be moved along the x axis, while the spindle can move along the arm length in the y direction.

Horizontal Mill

This cnc miller machine is similar to a vertical milling machine except that the spindle is positioned horizontally instead of vertically. While horizontal mills are generally believed to be less versatile than vertical mills, they are better suited for longer or heavy work pieces. The universal horizontal cutter has the additional possibility of turning the table around the Z axis (which makes it a 4-axis milling machine).

Knee mill

Any type of mill in which the table moves up and down the column in accordance with an adjustable knee.


For each machine, you can find different sets of tools that perform different cuts. Some larger, more industrial machines can even change tools on the fly.

Different tools are designed for different materials, and it is important to choose the perfect tool for the job. Failure to do so could result in unwanted damage to material, tool, or both.

Let's compare wood and steel: if you choose a steel tool that is too strong to cut wood, you may lose the workpiece. In the meantime, if you use wood tools for steel, you will definitely break the tool and the machine.

As mentioned earlier, the most basic tool is the cutter, which is somewhat reminiscent of a drill bit, but has teeth designed to remove material other than by drilling. Cutters can vary in shape and size, as well as the orientation and spacing of the teeth.

Digital technology and a CNC mill machine can solve many problems, but these problems cannot be easily solved using existing methods. This technology handles the workflow in a more effective and efficient way.

For example, if there is no CNC milling machine, the process of cutting the metal of automotive parts and even aerospace parts will have greater risks. With the support of computer programs, people can access and create high-definition designs that can be easily converted to Cartesian coordinates. This process even helps reduce the cost of prototyping!

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