Robotic Milling vs CNC Milling

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Milling is a common machining process used to cut and shape workpieces. In the past, CNC machines have been the main method for performing milling operations. However, CNC machines have their limitations which has led to the automation of milling applications with industrial robots. Manufacturers are discovering that automating with the Yaskawa MH24 and other milling robots provides several advantages over traditional CNC machinery. Below is a look at some of the key differences between robotic and CNC milling.


CNC machines carry large price tags. The startup cost for a CNC machine can be 30% to 70% more than that of an industrial robot arm. Articulated robots are the more affordable option. Not only do they have a lower upfront cost but the cost of operating and maintaining robot manipulators is also less than CNC machines. In addition, robots save manufacturers money in the long run with their efficiency. Used robots are an even more cost-effective option for milling automation. The FANUC M-710ic/70 is a used robot that is ideal for performing milling applications.


Robotic manipulators allow for greater manufacturing flexibility. Factory robots can not only automate milling applications but other processes as well. The ABB 2600-20 can be programmed to perform multiple applications within a manufacturing operation, streamlining productions. Should manufacturing needs change, manufacturing robot arms can be repurposed for other applications, saving manufacturers time and money. Instead of decommissioning and replacing equipment, robots can be redeployed for a new project. CNC machines are inflexible as they are built for a specific task and unable to accommodate changes. If future needs change, a CNC machine cannot be adapted to meet the new production requirements.

Range of Motion

CNC machines are typically designed with three to four degrees of freedom while robots can have six or more degrees of freedom. More degrees of freedom allow for a better range of motion which is needed when milling complex parts. Six-axis robots can access parts from any angle allowing for intricate part shapes. CNC machines are limited to milling basic parts.

Human Involvement

CNC machines will still require human involvement for positioning parts, retrieving parts, and operating machinery. Automating milling with robots allows for complete autonomy as robots can perform all aspects of the process on their own. Eliminating human involvement prevents errors, speeds up cycle times, increases productivity, and lowers costs.


Precision is one area that CNC machines can outperform industrial robots. The rigid construction of CNC machines allows for pinpoint precision which can be needed for parts with strict tolerances.

Work Envelope

Most CNC machines feature a small work envelope which limits the size of parts they can mill. Robots feature a wide range of work envelopes from small to extremely large. This allows the FANUC M-710ic/20L and other robots to be able to mill a variety of part sizes.


In addition to being able to mill a variety of part sizes, robots can also work with a variety of material types. Robots can mill both hard and soft materials. The rigid design of CNC machines only makes them accurate for milling harder materials.

Robots Done Right is the place to start when it comes to used robots. Contact us if you are interested in buying or selling a used robot.