Thanks to CNC machining technology, we now have a more efficient and effective automated milling process. And for industrial milling applications, end mills are one of the most important components to understand.
- So, what is an end mill?
End mills are precision cutting tools used for industrial milling processes. They are widely used for contouring, profiling, counter-boring, slotting, and reaming. Different types of end mills are applied for different types of materials and jobs. Moreover, most end mills can cut both horizontally and laterally.
To apply the right types of end mills for the right uses and materials, it is critical to understand the variations in end mills’ flute counts. Whereas there are many flute counts available for end mills, lots of users find it difficult to decide between 2-flute and 3-flute end mills.
“The main differences between 2-flute and 3-flute end mills are – in their chip-carrying capacity and strength. 2-flute end mills have a greater chip-carrying capacity, but their strength is suitable for only non-ferrous materials. On the other hand, 3-flute end mills have a lower chip-carrying capacity, but they are strong enough for harder non-ferrous materials.”
Now that you have a brief idea about 2-flute vs. 3-flute end mills, let’s dig deeper so that you can better understand them and make the right choice.
What Are Flutes?
Flutes are one of the most important factors when it comes to choosing an end mill. They are the spiraled grooves on end mills that perform the cutting action. When you use an end mill, the chips are formed around these flutes. The number of flutes on an end mill is its flute count.
Why Is Flute Count Important?
Flute count is important to determine which end mill you should pick based on the material of the workpiece you have. The higher the flute count, the larger the end mill’s core. And the larger the core, the more cutting strength the end mill has. Therefore, end mills with lower flute counts are used for softer materials, and end mills with higher flute counts are used for heavy-duty jobs.
However, end mills with higher flute counts cannot cut as deep as end mills with low flute counts. Hence, they offer a smoother finish on workpieces. End mills with higher flute counts are also great for faster cutting actions on metal as they have low chip-carrying capacity. On the other hand, end mills with lower flute counts are required for roughing operations. Based on your applications and materials, you will need to choose the right flute count.
Most Common Flute Counts
The most commonly used flute counts available on the market are 2-flute and 4-flute. But you can also find end mills with 3, 5, 6, and 7-flutes. Recently, 3-flute end mills have gained momentum thanks to their compatibility with stronger non-ferrous materials. End mills with 5, 6, and 7 flutes are applied for stronger metals and special operations.
About 2-Flute End Mills
For end mills, 2-flute is the lowest flute count available. A 2-flute end mill has two blades that make one straight cutting edge. As they have larger cores, 2-flute end mills are the best for chip evacuation, which makes them the best end mills for rougher cuts.
2-flute end mills are commonly used for softer materials such as wood, aluminum, and non-ferrous metals. Moreover, they are perfect for creating grooves and slots. 2-flute end mills are also called plunge mills and slot drills. They are available in square, ball, and corner radius end geometry.
About 3-Flute End Mills
3-flute end mills are not as common as 2-flute end mills, but they are also gaining popularity. A 3-flute end mill has three blades on its cutting end. Although 3-flute end mills have less chip-carrying capacity than 2-flute mills, they still allow for decent chip evacuation. Moreover, with a larger core, 3-flute end mills offer stronger cutting actions.
3-flute end mills are most commonly used for aluminum machining. They are perfect for grooving operations as well. Thanks to their balanced strength and chip-carrying capacity, 3-flute end mills can deal with strong non-ferrous metals like copper. They are also well known for producing less vibration than 2-flute end mills.
2-Flute vs 3-Flute End Mills: Which One Should You Pick?
Before making a choice, let’s take a quick look at the differences between 2-flute and 3-flute end mills.
|Characteristics||2-Flute End Mills||3-Flute End Mills|
|Materials||Wood, aluminum, and less demanding non-ferrous metals||All kinds of non-ferrous metals|
|Operations||Grooving and slotting||Grooving|
|Availability||More widely available||Less available|
Both 2-flute and 3-flute end mills are perfect for working with softer materials and non-ferrous metals. 2-flute end mills will suffice for most grooving and slotting operations that require a rough finish. However, if your workpiece material is a tad bit stronger for a 2-flute end mill and requires a smoother finish, a 3-flute end mill will give you the optimal result.