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MICRO-MILLING The Finer Side of Milling meets Pavement Preservation

Micro milling is providing an innovative way for contractors and agencies to rehabilitate
asphalt pavements. Micro-milling uses a milling drum with more teeth and a tighter lacing
pattern to create a smoother surface than the traditional milling process. This smoother
surface can be opened to traffic with no further treatment. Micro-milling also provides a better
bonding surface for overlays and more recently, thin surface treatments for Pavement
Preservation such as Micro Surface, RAP Slurries, Chip and Cape Seals. Now you can get
the improved profile, ride ability and the economic benefit of a low cost surface.

A micro-milling drum with 3 times (est.) more bits than a standard drum (Courtesy of
Keystone Engineering)

Milling Types
A few categories of milling exist that are defined by the teeth on the cutting drum used:

Standard milling Teeth are spaced 5/8 apart


Fine milling Teeth are spaced 5/16 apart, or approximately twice as many bits

Micro-milling Teeth are spaced 2/10 apart, or approximately three times


as many bits

Process and Equipment


Micro milling is performed using essentially the same process as traditional milling, but with a
micro-mill drum in place of the standard drum. The smoothness of a finished surface relies
heavily on factors such as milling machine speed, how teeth are located on the cutting drum,
and the speed (RPMs) of the cutting drum. Depending on specifications, operators may need
to proceed at the lower range of traditional milling speeds to meet smoothness requirements,
and pay closer attention to milling controls. As a result, because of the higher cost
associated with micro milling, it should only be used when the extra smoothness and other
benefits have a positive impact on the final outcome of the project.

Finished Surface
Because of the spacing and number of teeth on the milling drum, micro-milled surfaces are
distinct from their traditionally milled counterparts. An important measure of the surface
characteristics of a milled pavement is the ridge to valley depth, or RVD. This is the
difference in height between the lowest and highest points of the milled surface. While typical
milling drums create an RVD of around 8 millimeters, values for micro-milled surfaces are as
low as 3-4 millimeters. This creates an excellent surface for overlays as well as safer driving
service for the general public travelling on the milled surface. Traditional milled surfaces are
generally considered safe to open to traffic in the short term before overlays are applied but
are an extremely rough driving surface. In contrast, micro-milled surfaces provide a smoother
ride and are a safer medium to long-term alternative. In many cases, the micro-milled
surface provides better resistance to skids and hydroplaning than the original pavement.

Surface Treatments
Micro milling can also be used to improve the finished surface of an overlay, and allows more
freedom with overlay selection. Because the tighter tooth spacing will produce a smaller
ridge to valley depth, the micro-milled pavement provides a smoother paving surface. When
traditional milling is used, the subsequent overlay must be sufficiently thick to prevent the
transmission of ruts and valleys through to the surface of the pavement. As a result, the
smoother surfaces created by micro milling can facilitate the use of thinner lifts, saving
materials and money.
Micro milling is also particularly suited for pavement preservation projects which incorporate
very this surface treatments. These treatments are not typically placed on traditional milled
surfaces for two reasons. First, the roughness of the milled surface can reflect through the
new preservation treatment. Second, the ruts in the milled surface can trap water that drains
through the surface mix, causing premature damage. In addition, micro milling allows for the
removal of thinner pavement layers, allowing for removal of only the porous surface course.
In general, the smoother surfaces created by micro milling allow for a more uniform surface
treatment application increasing the effectiveness.

Recycled Asphalt Pavement


Like traditional milling, micro milling produces material, which can be recycled into new
asphalt pavements and/ or RAP aggregates. However, RAP produced by micro milling is
generally smaller in size and more uniform. This means that the RAP from these projects will
require less crushing than usual, reducing the costs to meet specifications.

A close up of a micro-milled surface (Courtesy of Keystone Engineering)

Redefining Milling
Micro milling represents an attractive alternative to conventional milling under the right
circumstances, and is a fresh approach to surface preparation and increasingly surface
preservation. Because this process is relatively new, the long-term performance of micromilling solutions lacks a wealth of data and experience. However, testing of surface
treatments placed on micro-milled surfaces has shown favorable results. In addition, projects
incorporating micro milling have been able to achieve significant cost savings and also
reduce safety risks in the construction zone. As techniques are refined and industry
knowledge improves, micro milling is definitely something to keep an eye on.