The nickel-based superalloy GH80A is a typical difficult-to-cut material. It has been used in a good many kinds of aeronautical key structures because of its high yield stress and anti-fatigue performance at high temperature. But selection of cutting parameters in actual machining process mainly depends on experience and lacks of scientific utterance. In this paper, finite element method (FEM) was introduced to study the chip formation process when machining nickel-based superalloy GH80A. By the way of lagrangian finite element approach and material failure, adiabatic shear band (ASB) and periodic fracture were simulated with the help of former researchers’ studies on the material constitutive relation. Both the mechanism of adiabatic shearing phenomenon at primary shear zone and periodic crack in the free surface were analyzed, chip formations under different cutting parameters were got and compared carefully. The root cause of saw-tooth chip formation under different cutting speeds was discussed.