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To be able to work cost-effectively and efficiently when applying different machining strategies, you need a tool type that is optimally adapted to the application. We explain the various milling strategies for which radial, face and shoulder milling systems are especially suited and the secondary applications for which they can also be used.

A face milling cutteris used to produce flat surfaces. Alternatively, it can usually also be used to mill slots or chamfers on workpiece edges; some face milling cutters can even be used for circular, axial or angled plunging into the solid material.

Flat surfaces can also be produced with copy or shoulder milling cutters. Certain button insert or shoulder milling systems can be used to perform secondary applications of a face milling system.

Secondary application of face milling cutter:
Slot and chamfer milling

Secondary applications of face, copy and shoulder milling cutters (system-dependent): axial plunging, circular plunge milling, angled ramping

Exceptions confirm the rule: Not every milling system intended for a specific machining strategy, will inevitably work for this application. Button insert milling cutters for instance are not suitable for thin-walled workpieces, shoulder mills are not suitable for long tool overhangs. The reason for this is the different characteristics of the systems.

The following illustration shows the distribution of the cutting forces for the relevant milling systems. The red vector arrows at the bottom represent the radial or axial cutting forces; the green arrows are the resulting force vectors:

During milling, the radial forces must always be compensated by the milling system itself; the axial forces on the other hand are directed into the milling spindle and absorbed by the machine.

On the face milling system, the radial and axial cutting forces generated are distributed relatively evenly by the 45 degree setting angle. These balanced conditions mean the tools are less susceptible to vibrations, which is why for example longer tool overhangs are possible than with shoulder milling systems. This milling cutter type is ideally suited to machining hard steels or brittle grey cast iron, since edge breakages from the workpiece are avoided due to the smaller face cutting edges and the, usually favourable exit angle of the cutting edge from the material.

The shoulder mill mainly produces radial forces which take effect in the feed direction. The flat surface of the workpiece to be machined is therefore not subjected to excessive cutting pressure. This can be beneficial when machining thin-walled workpieces or in the case of unstable situations. The main application for the shoulder mill is and remains the machining of contours, right-angled steps or workpiece shoulders that require a 90 degree angle.

In summary:
The more the cutting forces take effect in the axial direction during (face) milling, the higher the feed that may be selected.
The more the cutting forces take effect in the radial direction, the lower the feed that should be selected.

Rule of thumb for fz start values in mm when milling:

Face milling approx. 0.15

 Button insert milling approx. 0.25

Shoulder milling approx. 0.1

The main application for the shoulder mill is the machining of contours, right-angled steps or workpiece shoulders that require a 90 degree angle. It can however, depending on requirements, also be used to machine flat surfaces. Since the shoulder mill mainly uses radial forces which take effect in the feed direction, the flat surface of the workpiece to be machined is not subjected to excessive cutting pressure. This can be beneficial when machining thin-walled workpieces or in the case of unstable situations.

Button insert milling cutters are mainly used for machining flat 3D contours. The button insert milling system generates minimal radial cutting forces with maximum axial forces. The majority of the cutting force is directed via the milling spindle into the machine. The stability is optimal since the lateral deflection of the tool is low. As a result, there is relatively little vibration when button insert milling.

Due to their design, button insert milling cutter have the biggest corner radius, and so have the most stable cutting edge of the milling systems referred to here. Positive button insert milling cutters in particular are ideally suited to many applications, including angled ramping, the milling of freeform surfaces, axial plunging or circular pocket milling, thanks to their end clearance. What's more, a relatively soft cut and high stability mean that these milling systems can also be used on machines with reduced spindle output. Due to the relatively long contact surface on the cutting edge in relation to the cutting depth, button inserts produce considerably thinner chips compared to the other two milling systems.

Copy milling systems direct the majority of the cutting forces directly to the machine spindle and are therefore ideal for high table feeds. They are also well-suited to the machining of titanium and other heat-resistant alloys. The large amount of heat generated when milling this material is readily absorbed by the thin chips and removed from the machining area together with the chips. This results in less overheating of the tool and workpiece.

Exceptions confirm the rule: Not every milling system intended for a specific machining strategy, will inevitably work for this application. Button insert milling cutters for instance are not suitable for thin-walled workpieces, shoulder mills are not suitable for long tool overhangs. The reason for this is the different characteristics of the systems.

The following illustration shows the distribution of the cutting forces for the relevant milling systems. The red vector arrows at the bottom represent the radial or axial cutting forces; the green arrows are the resulting force vectors:

Cutting force distribution when face milling

Button insert milling

Shoulder milling

Compared to face and shoulder milling systems, button insert tools do not generally have a uniform and clearly defined number of cutting edges per indexable insert. With button inserts, this is either based on the depth of cut or cutting depth in the material or based on the number of indexes on the undersides of the indexable inserts.