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What is a milling machine?

In simple terms, milling machines are manufacturing tools used to shape solid materials – such as metal, wood, fiberglass and even plastic.

Using a variety of cutting tools, milling machines carve out materials with a rotating cutter while moving vertically or horizontally. These versatile machines transform raw materials into useful everyday items, from custom car parts to wooden boats and anything in between. Milling machines are an essential tool in any machine shop.

A milling machine “is a drill press on steroids that was also born of aliens and superheroes,” according to the former host of MythBusters, Adam Savage. In a video on Savage's YouTube channel, Tested, he points out that if civilization fell, it could be rebuilt with a milling machine and a lathe – and he’s not wrong!


Types of milling machines

shipping CNC milling machines

Milling machines have been around since the early 1800’s and have evolved from manual machines to sophisticated computer-controlled CNC machines. Conventional milling machines, which are still used today, have both manual and electric components. Computer number controlled (CNC) machines use computer programs to create accurate and precise pre-existing designs.

Traditional milling machine and CNC milling machines typically have the same components – a milling head, motor-driven spindle, saddle and milling table. Both CNC milling machines and conventional milling machines are categorized by the degree of motion and the orientation of the workpiece (raw material). Some of the most common types of milling machines are:

  • Vertical mills – Vertical cutting tool spindle
  • Horizontal mills – Horizontal cutting tool spindle
  • Plain vertical and horizontal - Work surface is vertical or horizontal, the cutting tool spindle is attached to the turret and swivel, which are parallel to the worktable
  • Universal horizontal – Has a swivel housing to allow for easier angular operations
  • Knee-style mills – A vertically adjustable knee moves the worktable up or down
  • Ram-style mills – Uses a swivel cutting head mounted on a sliding ram


How to ship a milling machine using freight shipping

Whether you found a great deal on a milling machine on Craigslist, just sold one on eBay, or are relocating your machine-shop, we can help you move down the street or across the country.

FreightCenter can help ship your milling machines with:

  • Flat and covered transport – To secure and protect your machine
  • Loading of machinery – Lifting and loading machine at point of origin
  • Delivery to site – Transporting your machine safely and at the best rate
  • Storage and bonded warehousing – FreightCenter can assist in facilitating this add-on service

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Shipping conventional milling machines

If you are shipping a conventional milling machine, it is important to properly prepare it for shipping to prevent any damage from occurring.

  1. Consider breaking the machine down – Smaller parts might be easier to ship; however, the milling machine parts could weight anywhere between 200-700 pounds. (Before taking your machine apart, be sure you can put it back together!)
  2. Find or make a pallet – Find a pallet or build one by using these step-by-step instructions.
  3. Remove handles and cranks – Remove parts and place them in a wooden box bolted to the pallet.
  4. Lower the knee & rotate the head – If possible, this can help protect these parts.
  5. Bolt your machine to the pallet – Prevent the risk of your machine falling off the pallet with this critical step.  
  6. Shrink wrap the entire pallet – Make sure to wrap the entire package to help secure the machine to the pallet.


PRO TIP: Crate your freight & save some money! Transporting unpackaged machinery can be very costly. Box, crate or palletize your freight shipment to save up to 50% or more on shipping costs. Need help packaging your furniture, office systems or machinery? Talk to your FreightCenter Agent about professional packaging options at an additional cost.

Shipping CNC milling machines

Due to the size, weight, and sophistication of CNC milling machines, special freight shipping considerations and over-size shipping will likely be required. FreightCenter can point you in the right direction of choosing a provider that can meet those needs.

cnc machines milling machine pallet assembly

Possible accommodations for these massive but delicate machines:

  • Forklift loading and unloading, step decks or drop deck trailers
  • Specialized equipment or handlers:
    • Lowboys and cranes, compact forklifts
    • Flat and covered transport
    • Air ride and tarped trailers
  • Moving parts and electrical components must be protected and stabilized
    • Blanket-wrap – Wrapping thick blankets around your machine to cover and cushion it during shipment to prevent damage
    • Banding straps – Help secure the machine to the pallet
  • Loading and offloading must be considered
  • Machine positioning, assembly, and installation

While milling machines come in different shapes and sizes, all require special care during transportation. Whether your machine is 500 or 5000 pounds, moving it can be difficult without the proper equipment, truck, and experience. We’ll help you determine if your milling machine will need to be shipped using less-than-truckload (LTL) or truckload freight (TL).

Make sure to provide us with the following information for accurate quotes:

  • What type of milling machine are you shipping?
  • Is delivery or pickup in a residential area?
  • Will a lift gate be needed at either location?
  • How much does your freight weigh?

Miscalculating the weight for items of this size can result in monetary consequences, such as billing adjustments, which can easily be avoided by ensuring you measure everything properly before shipping.

With hundreds of vetted carriers servicing local, regional, national, and cross-border markets, FreightCenter can find the logistics best suited for your machine transport needs. Let us help get your milling machine safely to its destination. For questions, answers, and custom freight quotes, speak to one of our agents answer by calling us at (800) 716-7608.

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