Date: 24 May 2023

On-Site Milling Machine Applications

Milling machines are designed to effectively cut, shape and drill various machine parts with the required precision needed for industrial applications. These essential tools are required for industrial facilities, offshore platforms and marine vessels to maintain safety and productivity. Read on to discover where and why these tools are needed.

What Are Milling Machines Used For?

Milling machines are metalworking tools that are highly effective at manipulating the material to desired specifications. They will be used for material shaping, cutting, and finishing operations on metal components. Milling machines are equipped with various tools, such as drill bits, milling cutters, slot drills and counterboring tools, for various operations.

These tools are primarily used in sectors requiring absolute precision with machined parts. This reliable accuracy is applied at either the components' initial manufacturing or later during maintenance stages.

How Do Milling Machines Work?

Milling machines use various rotary cutters to remove unwanted material from the machine pieces. Milling differs because the designated tools will have several cutting points compared to a standard drilling operation.

Milling machines will stay perpendicular to the object's axis, and the cutting is localised to the cutters on the tool's edge. At high speeds, these tools will remove extrusions on the surface, known as swarf, returning the metal to its original smoother surface. The unique nature of these milling tools also enables engineers to repair the edges of a workpiece or create indentations such as slots, pockets or grooves. 

Two main aspects must be monitored when using milling machines: the feed rate and cutting speed.

Feed Rate

The feed rate relates to the speed of the machine during a milling operation; a slower rate will increase accuracy and a better surface finish, and a higher rate will be faster, impacting the tool’s longevity. The feed rate is determined by a combination of factors, including the machined material, the cutting tool's type and size, the cut depth, and the desired surface finish. In general, a smaller cutting tool or a deeper depth of cut will require a lower feed rate, while a larger cutting tool or a shallower cut will require a higher feed rate.

Cutting Speed

The cutting speed refers to the speed of the tool rather than the movements of the whole machine. Similar to the feed rate, this will have to be dictated to suit the context of the current operation. It can be pre-calculated on-site to suit the specific work, with this formula:

Cutting Speed (SFPM or m/min) = (pi x tool diameter x spindle speed) / 12 (for SFPM) or 1000 (for m/min)

Different Types of Portable Milling Machines

An on-site milling machine has the added convenience of being used at the machine's location instead of at a remote facility with a static milling machine. However, no single milling machine is used for every application; they must be customised to suit specific milling needs with different slides, feeds, multiple axis, and feeds. 

Magnetic base milling machines: These machines use a strong magnetic base to hold the machine on the workpiece. They are commonly used for drilling, tapping, and milling operations.

Portable milling machines: These machines are designed for heavy-duty milling operations on large components, such as turbines, generators, and ship propellers. They are often used in oil and gas, power generation, and shipbuilding.

Keyway Milling Machines: These are often small portable machines that are designed specifically for machining keyways in shafts and other components with extreme precision.

Gantry Milling Machines: Gantry milling machines are configured to sit around the outside of a workpiece with a bridging slide across from each gantry rail. They allow for milling of large surfaces in a singular set-up.

Examples of Milling Machine Applications

  • Orbital Milling machines are used in marine repair, including hull, propeller and rudder repair. On-site milling is particularly important for this sector due to the mobile nature of the vessels.
  • Transportation such as rail use milling machines extensively to repair or refurbish components to maintain safety such as the wheels.

Benefits of On-Site Milling

Relying on remote component repairs always involves long delays as the parts must be removed, transported, repaired and returned. This creates significant downtime for your machines as well as logistical concerns related to your part’s safety when travelling.

Choosing In-Situ (on-site) milling provides managers with maintenance and emergency repairs at your location without any additional complications.

At In-Situ Machining Solutions, our expert team of engineers are trained with a broad range of highly effective on-site machining equipment, including in-situ milling. A range of specialist interchangeable milling equipment can be prepared to meet the specific requirements of each job, meaning a cost-effective engineering solution can be found to support our clients whilst minimising downtime. Contact us to discover which of our other services will help you improve productivity at your business.

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