A CNC Mill–short for Computer Numerical Control–is an automated machine that processes manually-entered data or CAM (Computer Aided Machining) code. For example, if you need to make a square with a circle cut out, you would measure the dimensions of the square and circle that needs to be cut out. You would enter the measurements manually into the CNC programming interface, or, if you were generating them with a CAM package, you may load the completed program into the machine. With operator initiation, it would then automate the cutting process to complete your part.
The structure of the machine is rather simple, but the value of milling in manufacturing is extensive and often the most efficient way to create products. So how does it execute its programmed orders? The mill is a table or flat surface, to which a part is secured by clamps, also known as a jig. The CNC Mill works on the part by moving in three directions known as the x, y, and z axes. The table moves (1) forward and backward (y-axis), (2) left and right (x-axis), , and the spindle moves (3) up and down as necessary (z-axis). The CNC Mill can drill new holes, thread existing holes, machine pockets, contours, chamfers, and more. It essentially carves out the material you do not want like a sculptor.
A common question is “What is the difference between turning and milling?” It’s rather simple. Turning is a process of machining a metal part where the part is in a rotary motion and the drilling or cutting tool is stationery. This is somewhat the reverse of the Milling method where the drilling or cutting tool is powered and moving in conjunction with the table top to shape the desired material. In general, lathes are used for processing round parts, while mills are used for processing flat parts.
CNC Milling is a very useful, very popular method for making parts–usually out of steel–that go into end products like winches. There are many applications of milling, and its machining process of using rotary cutters to remove material from a workpiece by advancing the cutter. Its popularity is truly warranted for its efficiency, accuracy, and versatility. CNC Milling can truly expedite a job while improving consistency and quality.