How to choose the best milling robot for your factory

August 10, 2023
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Types of Milling robots and their capabilities

When choosing a Milling robot for your factory, you've got options. Let's break down the types available and what they can do.

Industrial Milling robots

These heavy-duty robots are designed for high-volume milling. They can handle large workpieces and perform rough milling operations like facing, slotting, and pocketing. Their sturdy construction means they can take intense vibrations and forces. However, they typically have lower precision and flexibility. 

High-precision Milling robots

For intricate milling work that requires high accuracy, a precision Milling robot is ideal. They have higher resolution encoders and tighter tolerances, allowing milling to very tight specs. Their lighter weight makes them good for finishing operations. But their lower power means they can only handle smaller workpieces. 

Collaborative Milling robots

These lightweight robots are designed to work alongside humans. They have built-in safety mechanisms so they can operate without cages. They’re best for small precision milling jobs in work cells where space is limited. 

When evaluating your options, consider the workpiece size, required precision, production volume, work cell space, and safety requirements. With the range of Milling robots now available, you can find one optimized for your specific milling tasks. 

Essential end-effectors for Milling robots

If you want your Milling robot to do its job, it needs the proper end-effector. The term ‘end-effector’ refers to the tool attached to a robot and will determine what type of milling task your robot can perform. Let's look at the main options:

The milling spindle is one of the most common end-effectors. It holds interchangeable milling cutters — such as end mills, drills, and reamers — to cut, shape, and drill materials. Most Milling robots offer spindle speeds between 3,000 to 40,000 RPM for different needs. Slower speeds for hard metals and faster for soft materials.

A high-frequency spindle (HSK) is best suited for high-speed machining of aluminum and plastics. It reaches up to 60,000 RPM to quickly remove material. HSK spindles require a custom mount and interface to work with your robot to ensure optimal performance, safety, and compatibility between the precision spindle and the robotic system.

A milling cutter, or router, is used to cut grooves, slots, and profiles. These cutters spin at high speeds to shape the material. Larger cutters need more powerful spindles and robot arms to handle the forces.

A laser cutting head uses a high-power laser to melt and cut sheet metal or plastics. No physical contact is needed, so no spindle is required. Lasers can cut intricate shapes with tight tolerances. Additional safety measures for your employees are needed for this high-voltage laser equipment.

When evaluating Milling robots, consider the types of materials, tolerances, and production volumes. For high-volume automotive parts, a large Six-Axis robot with a 100 kg payload and at least 2m reach would be best. A robot with a 15 kg payload and 1m reach may suit smaller parts or short runs. 

Key considerations when evaluating Milling robots

When choosing a Milling robot for your factory, there are a few key things to consider. The type of milling tasks you need to perform will determine what kind of robot and end-effector, or end-of-arm tooling, is right for you.

Types of milling

The two most common types are material removal milling, where you cut away excess material to create a shape, and surface milling, where you create flat surfaces. Robots that can handle material removal milling will typically require a rotating cutter as an end-effector, while surface milling may only need a simple grinding disk. Some robots can perform both types.

End-effector and tooling

For milling, you’ll want an Articulated robot arm with at least five or six axes of movement so it has a large range of motion. Rotary cutters, belt sanders, and Dremel tools are common end-effectors for milling. Consider the size of parts you need to mill to determine the appropriate end-effector size. This tool and the associated cabling will also count towards your robot’s payload capacity. 

Programming software

Look at the available control and programming options for the Milling robots you’re considering. Easier to program robots will have intuitive touchscreen interfaces and may not require a high level of robotics expertise to operate, which means faster setup and product changeovers.

Safety features

Since milling can produce dust and debris, look for a robot with built-in safety features such as emergency stops, protective covers or enclosures, and dust/chip extraction ports. Some robots can also integrate with factory safety systems. However, there are risks of contact with moving parts so a collaborative robot is often the safest option when working around humans since they have built in sensors that can detect collisions. 

Comparing the available options based on your milling tasks, space requirements, and budget will help you find the perfect Milling robot to automate your factory operations.

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Top industrial Milling robot manufacturers

When choosing an Industrial robot for milling tasks in your factory, you have several major manufacturers to consider. Each offers a range of robot models with different capabilities, end-effectors, and price points. The right robot for your needs depends on the specific milling operations you want to automate.


ABB is a leading Swiss robotics company and offers several models well-suited for milling. Their Painting, Machining, and Surface Handling models are designed for tasks like grinding, polishing, sanding, and cutting. They offer a range of end-effectors for various milling tools. ABB’s IRC5 controller is easy to program but still provides sophisticated control of robot movement. 


FANUC is a large Japanese robotics company and a leader in CNC systems and controls. Their Milling robots include the M-1iA and M-20iA models which can handle a variety of milling, cutting, and machining tasks. FANUC robots are known for speed, precision, and durability. They offer their own CNC and robot controllers which provide intuitive programming interfaces. 


KUKA is a German robotics company that makes innovative Industrial robots, including polishing robots. KUKA polishing robots are known for their precision and durability. They are used for polishing and surface finishing of metal parts, mainly in the automotive sector where their huge-capacity robots are most useful.

Standard Bots

Standard Bots is a US-based robotics manufacturer. Their RO1 Six-Axis robot is well-suited to most polishing applications and the company is well-known for its competitive pricing, advanced programming, and vision systems.

Do some research on different models, capabilities, and costs to determine which manufacturer best meets your factory’s needs and budget for an industrial Milling robot.

FAQs about implementing Milling robots

With various options available, it can be tricky to determine what’s right for your needs. Here are some of the most common questions about Milling robots to help you in your search.

What types of milling can robots perform?

Robotic Milling machines can handle a range of milling tasks like cutting, shaping, drilling, and carving. The specific abilities depend on the robot model and end-effector used. Many Industrial robots are versatile enough to perform multiple types of milling in a single system.

What end-effectors do I need?

End-effectors, or end-of-arm tools, enable the robot to perform specific tasks. For milling, common end-effectors include milling spindles, grippers to handle materials, and rotary tables to manipulate parts. You’ll need to determine what types of milling you want to automate in order to select suitable end-effectors.

What factors should I consider when evaluating options?

Key things to consider include:

  • Payload - The robot's maximum load capacity which determines what end-effectors and parts it can handle.
  • Reach and dexterity - How much of an area the robot can access and how precisely it can move. Important for complex milling tasks.
  • Programming - How difficult the robot is to program and integrate into your processes. Easier programming means faster setup and implementation.
  • Cost - Upfront costs as well as ongoing maintenance and operating expenses. Compare options to determine the best value for your needs.

Next steps

So there you have it, a quick overview of what you need to know when shopping for a Milling robot. These advanced machines can seriously boost your productivity and quality, but only if you choose one suited to your needs. 

Think about what kinds of milling tasks you want to automate and the materials you work with. Then consider how much space you have, your budget, and how much programming ability you want in a robot. 

Interested in bringing robotic machine tending to your own business? RO1 by Standard Bots is a great choice for machine shops large and small:

  1. Affordable: RO1 is the most affordable robotic arm in its class, starting at almost half the price of incumbent competitors. 
  2. Powerful: RO1 is faster and more precise than competitors, despite having the highest payload capacity in its class at 18 kg.
  3. Integrated: RO1 comes equipped with built-in relays to control almost any machine on the market, including plug-and-play support for Haas CNC milling machines.

Speak to our solutions team today to organize a free, 30-day onsite trial and get expert advice on everything you need to deploy your first robot.

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