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CNC Milling

Milling is a time-tested process for shaping a workpiece by cutting away material. Computerized numeric control (CNC) milling takes the technique to a higher level by implementing technology instead of relying on human labor.

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What Is CNC Milling?

CNC machine milling combines rotating multi-point cutting tools with computerized controls to remove materials and create a custom-designed product. While CNC milling is frequently used to shape wood workpieces, it's also compatible with plastics, metals, composites and ceramics. The process works with various types of milling equipment, including lathes, grinders, routers, drills and 3D printers that generate three-dimensional solid objects based on digital files. 

Overview of the CNC Milling Process

The computerized nature of CNC milling requires several process variations from traditional milling applications. 

Creating a Model

The initial step involves developing a workpiece's 2D or 3D computer-aided design (CAD). This process requires inputting the product's geometric data into a specially designed software program to create a shape or series of shapes. 

Converting CAD to CNC

When using a 3D design, it's typically necessary to convert it into a format that the applicable CNC machine can recognize. The program can then dictate the specific actions the machine must perform to achieve the desired results for the milled workpiece. 

Setting Up the Machine

The next step after programming the machine is preparing it for the CNC milling process. The operator attaches the workpiece to the work surface or holding device and affixes the appropriate milling tools for the application. In some cases, the machinist may want to perform a "dry run" of the program to ensure it functions correctly and will produce the desired outcome. 

Conducting the Milling Operation

After completing the setup, the operator is ready to initiate the milling process. As the tool cuts into the workpiece, the CNC machine will either feed the part into the rotating tool, move the tool across the piece or move the tool and the part in a complementary manner. 


Types of CNC Milling Machines

CNC machines are available in multiple configurations. 

Vertical Mill

This machine consists of a table that serves as a work surface and a spindle with an attached arm. The table and arm are vertically oriented — the table typically moves up and down during the milling process, though this motion may vary depending on the machine type. For instance, a vertical turret machine features a stationary spindle and a table that moves along the x- or y-axis. A bed vertical mill's table moves along the x-axis, and a spindle travels along the arm's length on the y-axis. 

Horizontal Mill

A horizontally oriented milling machine operates much like its vertical counterpart. The major difference is that the spindle is in the horizontal position. These machines are better suited for working with heavier or longer workpieces, although they aren't as versatile or adaptable to specific applications. They also utilize thicker, shorter cutting tools, enabling them to cut slots or grooves into the part if necessary. 

Knee Mill

The knee on a milling machine is an adjustable component affixed to the column and supports the work table. A knee-type model features a vertically adjustable table and a fixed spindle. The operator has the flexibility to raise or lower the knee to adapt the table to the machine tool's position. A knee mill machine is available in bench-type and floor-mounted options. 


This milling machine type consists of a spindle attached to a movable housing that enables the tool to move along the x- and y-axes. Choose from swivel cutter head milling and floor-mounted universal horizontal options. 


A planer-type CNC milling machine features a worktable affixed along the y and z axes and spindles capable of moving along all three axes (x, y and z). It can also support up to four machine tools simultaneously, making it an excellent choice for milling complex parts or workpieces. 

Choose R.R.I.C. for New and Used Milling Machines

R.R.I.C. Associates offers an extensive CNC milling machine inventory to meet any user requirement and operating environment. As a family-owned and -operated business with decades of CNC equipment expertise, you can trust us to offer a tremendous selection of high-quality products at affordable prices backed by top-notch service. We also provide reliable consulting and technical support to maximize your equipment ownership experience.

Explore All Your CNC Machine Options Today

Check out our current CNC milling machine inventory online today. You can also call us at 800-774-2462 or contact us online to request additional product information and a no-obligation quote. 

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