Robotic Milling 101: Selecting the right solution for your manufacturing needs

August 17, 2023
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What are Milling robots and how do they work?

Milling robots are automated milling systems that use robotic arms to perform milling tasks like cutting, shaping, and drilling materials. They typically consist of an Articulated robotic arm, a milling end-effector or "end mill" attached to the arm and a control system that guides the movement of the arm.

These machines are commonly used for applications like trimming, cutting, deburring, and polishing of parts. The end-effector, or "end-of-arm tooling”, attached to the robotic arm comes in many shapes and sizes for different purposes. 

Choosing the right Milling robot depends on your needs and budget. Consider the workpiece size and material, accuracy and repeatability required, payload capacity, number of axes of motion, and installation space. When working close to humans, a Collaborative robot is frequently the favored selection owing to its inherent collision detection capabilities, which significantly enhance safety in scenarios involving interactions between humans and robots, they also have lower payloads. Traditional Industrial robots can handle higher payloads but typically require expert programming. 

The benefits of automating with Milling robots

Automating your milling processes with robots has some major benefits. For one, Milling robots can operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week without breaks, increasing productivity and reducing lead times. They also provide consistent quality since they perform the same precise movements every time. Automating your milling processes can provide benefits such as:

  • Eliminating risks of worker injury from operating heavy machinery or exposure to hazardous fumes. They can work in environments unsafe for humans, like those with extreme heat or where toxic chemicals are present.
  • Highly flexible systems can be reprogrammed to perform various milling tasks as needed. Robots can easily switch between different milling tools and be deployed to multiple milling stations. This adaptability means you have a system in place for milling anything from prototypes to high-volume production runs.
  • Lower costs thanks to reduced waste, higher throughput, and less need for employee overhead. Milling robots are an investment that can pay off substantially, especially if you have a high-demand production environment.

By automating your milling processes, you ensure consistent productivity and quality. Your workers can focus on higher-level tasks while the robots handle mundane, repetitive jobs.

Common applications of Milling robots

Milling robots are versatile machines used for cutting, drilling, and shaping metal, plastic, and wood. They are automated robotic arms outfitted with milling end-effectors. Milling robots are used in many manufacturing applications where precise, repetitive milling is required. Some of the most common uses include:

  • Assembly line tasks: Where Milling robots drill holes, cut parts to size, sand or polish components, and manipulate parts — all with a high degree of speed, precision, and repeatability. Robotic milling helps streamline assembly line workflows.
  • Prototyping: Where Milling robots can quickly and accurately mill initial prototypes. Their precision and speed allow for fast design iterations to accelerate the prototyping process.
  • Customized/low-volume production: For highly customized or low-volume production runs, Milling robots offer the flexibility and re-programmability required for a cost-effective solution. They can easily switch between different milling tasks and parts, perfect for a high-mix shop.

Milling robots provide an automated, reprogrammable solution for milling and manufacturing. By handling repetitive, labor-intensive milling tasks, they help improve productivity, quality, and consistency. 

Milling robot end-effectors and why they matter

If you want your Milling robot to do its job, it needs the proper end-of-arm tooling. When evaluating end-effectors for Milling robots, consider the types of materials, tolerances, and production volumes. 

High-frequency spindle (HSK)

The ideal choice for efficiently machining aluminum and plastics at high speeds is a high-frequency spindle. Capable of reaching speeds of up to 60,000 RPM, the HSK spindle excels in rapid material removal. To ensure optimal performance, safety, and compatibility between the precision spindle and the robotic system, a customized mount and interface are essential components when integrating the HSK spindle with your robot.

Milling spindles

The most common type of end-effector for Milling robots is the milling spindle. Spindles are rotary tools that can hold drills, end mills, sanding disks, and reamers. Milling spindles allow robots to perform drilling, cutting, grinding, and sanding operations. Spindles are available with different power ratings and speeds, between 3,000 to 40,000 RPM, to suit various materials and milling tasks.

Tool changers

For maximum flexibility, some Milling robots use tool changers that allow the robot to automatically switch between multiple end-effectors. Tool changers contain a rack to hold multiple end-effectors, such as drills, saws, and sanding disks. The robot can automatically release one end-effector and grab another from the tool changer to perform different tasks.

Choosing the right end-effectors for your Milling robot depends on your specific milling and automation needs. Discuss your application with experts to determine the best options for gripping, cutting, grinding, sanding, and manipulating parts.

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How to choose the right Milling robot for your factory

When choosing a Milling robot for your factory, there are a few key factors to consider:

Number of axes

The number of axes indicates the directions and ranges of motion of the robot. A Five-Axis or Six-Axis robot offers more flexibility and dexterity for milling complex 3D surfaces. A Three-axis or Four-axis robot typically only mills flat or prismatic parts. Consider the complexity of your parts to determine how many axes you need.

Type of milling

There are two predominant types: material removal milling, involving the elimination of surplus material to sculpt a desired form, and surface milling, dedicated to generating even flat surfaces. Robots capable of material removal milling generally necessitate a rotating cutter as their end-effector, while surface milling can often be accomplished with a basic grinding disk. Certain robots are versatile enough to proficiently execute both milling techniques.

Payload capacity

Payload capacity refers to the maximum weight a robot can handle. Choose a robot with a payload that exceeds the weight of your heaviest workpiece plus the end-effector and any required fixtures. A robot with too low of a payload won’t be able to mill your parts. 

Accuracy and repeatability

For precise milling, look for a robot with high accuracy, indicating how close the robot can reach a programmed point. Repeatability refers to the robot's ability to return to the same point, important for consistent results. Higher accuracy and repeatability come at a higher cost, so only invest in what your application requires.

By evaluating these key factors, you can find a Milling robot with optimal performance, precision, and price for your specific manufacturing application. 

Robotic Milling applications in various industries

Robotic Milling has applications across many major industries that have benefited from automating their milling processes.


The automotive industry relies heavily on robotic milling for precision components. Milling robots are used to machine engine blocks, transmission housings, brake rotors, and other critical parts. The high volume of units produced makes robotic milling a necessity. Automating milling reduces costs and increases consistency and quality.


Aerospace manufacturing demands extremely tight tolerances and high precision. Milling robots are suited to produce fuselage sections, wing components, and turbine blades. Their accuracy and repeatability are essential for aerospace parts. Robotic milling helps improve safety and reduces waste in this hazardous industry.

Consumer goods

Many consumer products also benefit from robotic milling. Electronic devices, appliances, recreational equipment, and more rely on milled parts. The high-volume nature of consumer goods makes robotic milling a necessity. Robotic Milling also helps manufacturers keep up with demand and bring new products to market faster.

Whether for critical components or high-volume parts, robotic Milling has become essential for efficient and precise manufacturing across industries. Factories of all kinds can benefit from automating their milling processes.

Next steps

Milling robots can revolutionize your factory floor and boost productivity, efficiency, and quality. Now that you understand the different types of Milling robots, end-effectors, and applications, you're ready to shop around and find a robot that suits your specific production requirements. 

Talk to vendors, get demos, and don't be afraid to ask lots of questions. The investment in automation will be well worth it when you're producing parts with speed, precision, and at a lower cost. 

Interested in bringing a Milling robot 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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