Find the Right Ball End Mill Material for Your Application

A lot goes into getting the desired results out of the milling process. When using ball end mills it is vital to make sure you are using the right number of flutes, coatings and, of course, material for your specific process. With the large variety of ball end mill options available, how do you know which configuration suites your application best? Examining the different material options along with their intended applications can help you in choosing the correct ball end mills for your needs.


There are three basic materials that are suitable for most milling applications. Each material has its own advantages, and there is some crossover between them. Knowing the basics about each material will help when looking for the ideal ball end mill for a particular application. The three basic materials are:

  • High Speed Steel
  • Cobalt
  • Carbide

Know the Basics about Each Material

High Speed Steel

High Speed Steel (HSS) ball end mills are a popular option for cutting lower grade materials. These mills have greater flexibility, allowing them to withstand the vibrations caused by older milling machines. For manufacturers using older equipment, or who don't require a super-fine finish, HSS mills may be the way to go. HSS mills work well on:

  • Copper
  • Alloy Steel
  • Cast Iron
  • Magnesium


Cobalt can also handle the vibrations caused by older milling equipment. They have greater heat resistance, making them preferable for tougher materials or for faster cutting speeds. These mills also offer higher abrasion resistance than HSS ball end mills. Some materials that Cobalt end mills work well on are:

  • Nickel
  • Titanium
  • Stainless Steel
  • High Speed Alloys


Carbide is one of the toughest materials available for end mills. It's long lasting, fast cutting, and resistant to abrasive materials. Due to its brittle nature, Carbide isn't suitable for older milling equipment--the vibrations can cause chipping and breaking. With the right equipment, Carbide is the way to go for high production and a long life cycle. Carbide is well suited for materials such as:

  • Hardened Steel
  • Alloy Steel
  • Brass
  • Copper
  • Other Abrasive Alloys

Choosing a Material

Each material has its own benefits and liabilities. Deciding which one to use will depend on:

  • The equipment available
  • The material that is being machined
  • Desired production speed
  • Budget

Understanding how all of these factors can affect the usefulness and lifespan of a particular mill makes it easier to choose the right mill for the job. It's better to have the right bit for each application, rather than trying to make one bit do the work of many.

Once you have decided on a ball end mill material, it is very important to consider which coating is best to apply. Click here to learn about the different ball end mill coatings available and which one you should to go with.

Still having trouble determining which ball end mill is right for you? Contact us or give us a call at 800-435-2948 and one of our trained experts will happy to assist you.