Milling is the most common form of machining, a material removal process, which can create a variety of features on a part by cutting away the unwanted material. The milling process requires a milling machine, workpiece, fixture, and cutter. The workpiece is a piece of pre-shaped material that is secured to the fixture, which itself is attached to a platform inside the milling machine. The cutter is a cutting tool with sharp teeth that is also secured in the milling machine and rotates at high speeds. By feeding the workpiece into the rotating cutter, material is cut away from this workpiece in the form of small chips to create the desired shape. Milling is typically used to produce parts that are not axially symmetric and have many features, such as holes, slots, pockets, and even three dimensional surface contours. Parts that are fabricated completely through milling often include components that are used in limited quantities, perhaps for prototypes, such as custom designed fasteners or brackets. Another application of milling is the fabrication of tooling for other processes. For example, three-dimensional molds are typically milled. Milling is also commonly used as a secondary process to add or refine features on parts that were manufactured using a different process. Due to the high tolerances and surface finishes that milling can offer, it is ideal for adding precision features to a part whose basic shape has already been formed.
The time required to produce a given quantity of parts includes the initial setup time and the cycle time for each part. The setup time is composed of the time to setup the milling machine, plan the tool movements (whether performed manually or by machine), and install the fixture device into the milling machine. The cycle time can be divided into the following four times:
Following the milling process cycle, there is no post processing that is required. However, secondary processes may be used to improve the surface finish of the part if it is required. The scrap material, in the form of small material chips cut from the workpiece, is propelled away from the workpiece by the motion of the cutter and the spraying of lubricant. Therefore, no process cycle step is required to remove the scrap material, which can be collected and discarded after the production. Cutting parameters In milling, the speed and motion of the cutting tool is specified through several parameters. These parameters are selected for each operation based upon the workpiece material, tool material, tool size, and more.
During the process cycle, a variety of operations may be performed to the workpiece to yield the desired part shape. The following operations are each defined by the type of cutter used and the path of that cutter to remove material from the workpiece.
Milling machines can be found in a variety of sizes and designs, yet they still possess the same main components that enable the workpiece to be moved in three directions relative to the tool. These components include the following:
The above components of the milling machine can be oriented either vertically or horizontally, creating two very distinct forms of milling machine. A horizontal milling machine uses a cutter that is mounted on a horizontal shaft, called an arbor, above the workpiece. For this reason, horizontal milling is sometimes referred to as arbor milling. The arbor is supported on one side by an overarm, which is connected to the column, and on the other side by the spindle. The spindle is driven by a motor and therefore rotates the arbor. During milling, the cutter rotates along a horizontal axis and the side of the cutter removes material from the workpiece. A vertical milling machine, on the other hand, orients the cutter vertically. The cutter is secured inside a piece called a collet, which is then attached to the vertically oriented spindle. The spindle is located inside the milling head, which is attached to the column. The milling operations performed on a vertical milling machine remove material by using both the bottom and sides of the cutter. Milling machines can also be classified by the type of control that is used. A manual milling machine requires the operator to control the motion of the cutter during the milling operation. The operator adjusts the position of the cutter by using hand cranks that move the table, saddle, and knee. Milling machines are also able to be computer controlled, in which case they are referred to as a computer numerical control (CNC) milling machine. CNC milling machines move the workpiece and cutter based on commands that are preprogrammed and offer very high precision. The programs that are written are often called G-codes or NC-codes. Many CNC milling machines also contain another axis of motion besides the standard X-Y-Z motion. The angle of the spindle and cutter can be changed, allowing for even more complex shapes to be milled.
The tooling that is required for milling is a sharp cutter that will be rotated by the spindle. The cutter is a cylindrical tool with sharp teeth spaced around the exterior. The spaces between the teeth are called flutes and allow the material chips to move away from the workpiece. The teeth may be straight along the side of the cutter, but are more commonly arranged in a helix. The helix angle reduces the load on the teeth by distributing the forces. Also, the number of teeth on a cutter varies. A larger number of teeth will provide a better surface finish. The cutters that can be used for milling operations are highly diverse, thus allowing for the formation of a variety of features. While these cutters differ greatly in diameter, length, and by the shape of the cut they will form, they also differ based upon their orientation, whether they will be used horizontally or vertically. A cutter that will be used in a horizontal milling machine will have the teeth extend along the entire length of the tool. The interior of the tool will be hollow so that it can be mounted onto the arbor. With this basic form, there are still many different types of cutters that can be used in horizontal milling, including those listed below.
Another operation known as a straddle milling is also possible with a horizontal milling machine. This form of milling refers to the use of multiple cutters attached to the arbor and used simultaneously. Straddle milling can be used to form a complex feature with a single cut. For vertical milling machines, the cutters take a very different form. The cutter teeth cover only a portion of the tool, while the remaining length is a smooth surface, called the shank. The shank is the section of the cutter that is secured inside the collet, for attachment to the spindle. Also, many vertical cutters are designed to cut using both the sides and the bottom of the cutter. Listed below are several common vertical cutters.
All cutters that are used in milling can be found in a variety of materials, which will determine the cutter's properties and the workpiece materials for which it is best suited. These properties include the cutter's hardness, toughness, and resistance to wear. The most common cutter materials that are used include the following:
The material of the cutter is chosen based upon a number of factors, including the material of the workpiece, cost, and tool life. Tool life is an important characteristic that is considered when selecting a cutter, as it greatly affects the manufacturing costs. A short tool life will not only require additional tools to be purchased, but will also require time to change the tool each time it becomes too worn. The cutters listed above often have the teeth coated with a different material to provide additional wear resistance, thus extending the life of the tool. Tool wear can also be reduced by spraying a lubricant and/or coolant on the cutter and workpiece during milling. This fluid is used to reduce the temperature of the cutter, which can get quite hot during milling, and reduce the friction at the interface between the cutter and the workpiece, thus increasing the tool life. Also, by spraying a fluid during milling, higher feed rates can be used, the surface finish can be improved, and the material chips can be pushed away. Typical cutting fluids include mineral, synthetic, and water soluble oils.
In milling, the raw form of the material is a piece of stock from which the workpieces are cut. This stock is available in a variety of shapes such as flat sheets, solid bars (rectangular, cylindrical, hexagonal, etc.), hollow tubes (rectangular, cylindrical, etc.), and shaped beams (I-beams, L-beams, T-beams, etc.). Custom extrusions or existing parts such as castings or forgings are also sometimes used.
When selecting a material, several factors must be considered, including the cost, strength, resistance to wear, and machinability. The machinability of a material is difficult to quantify, but can be said to posses the following characteristics:
The material cost is determined by the quantity of material stock that is required and the unit price of that stock. The amount of stock is determined by the workpiece size, stock size, method of cutting the stock, and the production quantity. The unit price of the material stock is affected by the material and the workpiece shape. Also, any cost attributed to cutting the workpieces from the stock also contributes to the total material cost.
The production cost is a result of the total production time and the hourly rate. The production time includes the setup time, load time, cut time, idle time, and tool replacement time. Decreasing any of these time components will reduce cost. The setup time and load time are dependent upon the skill of the operator. The cut time, however, is dependent upon many factors that affect the cut length and feed rate. The cut length can be shortened by optimizing the number of operations that are required and reducing the feature size if possible. The feed rate is affected by the operation type, workpiece material, tool material, tool size, and various cutting parameters such as the axial depth of cut. Lastly, the tool replacement time is a direct result of the number of tool replacements which is discussed regarding the tooling cost.
The tooling cost for machining is determined by the total number of cutting tools required and the unit price for each tool. The quantity of tools depends upon the number of unique tools required by the various operations to be performed and the amount of wear that each of those tools experience. If the tool wear exceeds the lifetime of a tool, then a replacement tool must be purchased. The lifetime of a tool is dependant upon the tool material, cutting parameters such as cutting speed, and the total cut time. The unit price of a tool is affected by the tool type, size, and material.