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In Focus: The Turret Milling Machine

In the second part of our ‘In Focus’ series, we will be taking a closer look at the Turret Milling Machine, examining how it works, and why it is so indispensable to the toolmaking process.

Milling Machines

A milling machine is a machine tool that is used to remove material from a solid workpiece, such as wood or metal.

A widely used tool within subtractive manufacturing, milling machines are extremely versatile and can be employed either on flat or irregular surfaces. They can perform several different machining tasks, including cutting, drilling, shaping, and contouring.

Turret Milling Machines

A milling machine features a cutter that rotates around a spindle axis.

Milling machines are often grouped into one of two categories – vertical or horizontal. These categories are defined by the direction in which the spindle moves.

A standard milling machine can move in a variety of ways, including parallel and perpendicular to the workpiece.

A turret milling machine is an example of a vertical milling machine. With this type of machine, the cutting edge is vertically held on top of the workpiece.

Let’s look at the Turret Milling Machine in more detail….

Turret Milling Machine Cutting Aluminium

What is a Turret Milling Machine?

The turret milling machine, also known as a universal milling machine, is a light, general-purpose, cutting machine with two functions of vertical and horizontal milling. It is small, highly flexible, and has a compact structure.

Turret milling machines have a moderately large range of motion and are often employed when tackling small-to-medium jobs.

Turret mills are dextrous, technically versatile machines, with the ability to precisely cut different kinds of shapes and objects.

This dexterity is the reason why they have been used to produce a wide range of products.

Turret milling machines feature a spindle which doesn’t move. The table moves around the spindle axis in both parallel and perpendicular directions.

With standard milling machines, the spindle rotates on its axis and the cutters are held within it.

But that’s not the only thing that makes a turret milling machine unique.

Turret milling machines also have a quill, which allows the cutter to move up and down during the machining process. The quill gives the cutter a greater degree of freedom when it is cutting the workpiece. The presence of the quill means that the milling cutter can be raised and lowered in a vertical direction when the workpiece is being machined.

The quill allows the machinist to achieve different depths in the machining of the workpiece, resulting in the creation of more complex and varied parts.

The turret milling machine is a very resourceful milling machine with a comprehensive suite of options depending on what type of cutting function is required. The spindle can be aligned and realigned in different positions to achieve whatever effect is required. This enhanced functionality gives the turret mill an edge over more standard milling machines.

Turret milling machines are highly effective and are renowned for high performance. They are also robust and reliable and usually require a very low degree of ongoing maintenance.

Some of the latest models of turret milling machines have computer numerical control technology. These are known as CNC turret machines. Using this technology, the machinist inputs operational data into the machine and the machine is then programmed to remove material based upon this instruction. This allows for operational cost savings as the machine doesn’t have to be continually managed, allowing for increased employee productivity.

Toolmaker Operating Turret Milling Machine

Advantages and Disadvantages of the Turret Milling Machine


  • Precision and accuracy
  • High efficiency
  • Can be used on a wide variety of materials, such as metal, plastic and wood
  • Has a variety of functions, including shearing, drilling, planing, cutting, shaping, diesinking and contouring
  • Smooth finishes can be achieved
  • CNC turrets with computer controls can manufacture multiple units of identical products
  • Requires less pre-cutting work
  • Durability of cutting process
  • Can bear heavy workload
  • Different operational modes available, including manual, automated, and CNC mode
  • More versatile than standard milling machines
  • Supports a variety of industrial applications, including automotive parts, consumer products, and aerospace components


  • High electricity consumption for CNC turret machines
  • Efficiency of use depends upon the skill of the operator
  • Turret milling machines without computer facilities have to be manually operated, which can have negative implications for workload and the time/cost of the operator
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